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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bells and Whistles

Note to our rabid readers – Chris Brooks will be appearing in this spot tomorrow. We’re currently in Ashland meeting with Funagain staff, and Chris did the driving yesterday when he could have been blogging. I’m so grateful!

Do you prefer learning new games frequently - but only playing each
game once or twice - or playing a smaller set of games several times each?

On the main question, I fall more to the side of “learn many.” But what I play more often than once or twice appears to be based on the following conditions:

1 What my family will play – we play a lot of Mah Jongg, Can’t Stop, Liar’s Dice, Havoc (surpise!), Settlers, lately playing more Tichu, Frank’s Zoo, Mall of Horror and Pick Picnick.
2 What the game groups I go to will play – there’s a new “meetup group” in town that will play older stuff like Carcassonne, Puerto Rico and Settlers, which is great to introduce new players into the genre.
3 What Spielbyweb, BSW or other services have online (the easiest way for me to repeat play), especially Tichu where practice really makes the game more fun. I learned Bus this way. I play backgammon non stop online, but rarely in person.
4 What our RipCity gamers will play, often at planned events like a Die Macher day or a Roads and Boats day.
5 What’s being offered at game conventions. Often I can choose to play deeper game favorites like Power Grid, Age of Renaissance, Manifest Destiny, etc.

I also have a special case – prototype games I design have to get played a LOT, so that’s my main “play many times” sort of game. Currently we’re playing Indiana Jones (code name), Isla Nova, BadgeBadgerBadger and Sphinx of Black Quartz.

So as I was thinking about this more, it occurred to me that there were some related questions as well that have to do with how much time a given game takes:

1. What games benefit from practice, and so need to be played several times to get the most out of them?
2. Which games return my investment in time? A game that doesn’t really appeal to me may not be worth the time it would take to “play well.”
3. Which games are easy, generally “fillers” so they come out often (Can’t Stop, Diamante, For Sale)

I’m pleased that our main group invests time in games like Die Macher that you have to play more than once. We have been trying to play more than once a year (!) Roads and Boats is on the list too of games you should play more than once a year. We have a standing “third Saturday of the month” game day for longer games, but lately have also discussed anyone interested can name the game and name the day and seel players.

I think we once tried a “game of the month” – which I think could come back as an idea. The concept was that we’d pick a game (1-2 hours type) and offer it at each weekly session for a month. Those that want to get really good can play it weekly, others can choose since we nomally have at least two games going at once.

This is a good idea for deeper games like Power Grid (or Funkenschlag before that) where
1 I get good vibes even playing the first time
2 The game has enough depth and more than one victory path
3 The game rewards trying different strategies, if not with victory at least with knowledge of how those other paths work.

And here’s my list of games I like that benefit from practice:
* Tichu
* Mu und Mehr
* Sticheln
* Power Grid and Funkenschlag before that
* El Grande
* Wallenstein
* Liberté
* Roads and Boats
* Indonesia
* Antike
* Princes of Florence
* Manifest Destiny
* Caylus
* 18xx (though I’ve never played!)
* Dune (never played)

And there are other big games that I don’t play because I don’t want to invest the time to learn to play well. But then my limited experience generally means I will do poorly in the game, or I will do well but have no idea what I did that made it so.

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