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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Monday, October 03, 2005


The GoE question of the month is “How do you decide whether a game is worth the money when you buy it?”. My short answer is “N/A”. That is, cost is basically a non-factor in my decision-making when it comes to buying games. Like lots of folks in the Silicon Forest, my family has plenty of disposable income, yet modestly-sized living quarters (with no basement, thanks to the Western Oregon water table). This means that shelf space is the limiting factor, not the money. My wife and I decided long ago that we would allow two of my spending areas to go unchecked; games, and music. (On her end, it’s yarn, and organic foods.) We save money in other areas: transportation (we don’t have a car, and I walk to work); furniture; vacations; books & DVDs (we mainly use the library). There are no bills to deal with for cable TV or cell phones. There is also a noticeable dearth of vanilla skim lattes.

To put things in perspective, consider that I will be traveling to 2 four-day gaming conventions in 2005. Each trip will cost me about $1000. These days, I probably spend less than $500 annually on purchasing games. Within that context, $10-$50 here or there isn’t going to make a significant difference. Also, note that I buy most of my games from my friendly local game store, but that’s a topic for another entry...

However, there are occasions where I will not spend money out of principle. Outside of proven companies like AEG and Wizards of the Coast, I will not spend money on CCG boosters until I read some online testimonies about distribution. I have also been stung once too often by Fantasy Flight Games’ reprints. The worst example was when they reprinted Drakon with slightly different tile backs, then released an expansion that matched the new versions. Those of us who purchased and gave positive input on the first edition – which contributed to the momentum that made a reprint feasible – got screwed. I bought Runebound when it was first released (as I am a big Martin Wallace fan, and future expansions were promised), but then FFG released a second edition just after one dinky expansion, and I am expected to spend $30 on the upgrade. Sorry, I am not going there, and have been extremely reluctant to buy any of their big games at this point, which is sad because long ago I used to buy everything that they released.

I am curious to see how the rest of the gang answers this. In my opinion, several of them are relatively non-discriminating about which games to purchase (which was pretty much how I was a few years ago), and it seems like if one is willing to spend $100 on 3-4 mediocre games that are likely to see little table action, why would you not spend the same amount on something that could become a favorite, not to mention take up less total shelf space?

Doug already typed up an extensive report on our Saturday gaming session, so I will just add a couple of notes here. That was the closest game of Age of Steam I have ever seen, especially as most matches end up as blowouts, with a 1-point margin of victory (although if a single “1” had been rolled during production in the last few turns, that purple cube would have made me a lot more comfortable). I have now played the Scandinavia and Ireland boards twice each, all 3-player matches. In both Ireland matches, one player got squeezed and it soon became a two-man race. In both Scandinavia matches, I focused on building a loop in the Northeast, actually lost a point on the income track in the early game, but had several late big deliveries to come back. I would give Ireland another chance with a fourth player, but Scandinavia is now my 3-player AoS board of choice. I would even try Scandinavia with a fourth player, where I think players shipping goods on each other’s routes will become a much bigger factor.

Our San Juan match was interesting in that no one ever chose the Councillor! All three of us built a Tobacco Storage building in the opening round, so production and trading occurred almost every round. Only when I built the Library as my fifth building did the Prospector get chosen much. I still contend that Market Hall is a totally kick-ass building, especially when other players are pursuing a heavy trading strategy.


  • At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Rita said…

    "There is also a noticeable dearth of vanilla skim lattes."

    What is that I see you drinking at Doug's? Hard for me to tell because it comes in a disposable coffee cup.

  • At 2:16 PM, Blogger dave said…

    I think once a month qualifies as a "dearth". I don't bring my own mug when I go to Doug's because it is inconvenient to bring a dirty cup back on public transportation; I'm sure your gas guzzler has a convenient cup holder. ;->


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