Wednesday, September 08, 2010

In Defense of Lighter Fare

A few Wednesdays ago, I noticed someone leaving game night a bit early. So I quickly moved to intercept.
"Leaving so soon?"

"Yeah. Everyone is in games, and I don't feel comfortable playing those ... strategy ones."

Earlier that evening, she had played Ca$h'n Gun$ with me. "You do realize," I reminded her, "That you've already played at least one strategy game this evening."

It led to a lively discussion about what is and is not strategy. Maybe she won't be as scared to try something deeper next time.

I also promised to bring some lighter games the following week.

Lighter doesn't mean "less strategic," or - more importantly - "less fun."

There was a lot of backlash on BoardGameGeek when Dixit won the Spiel des Jahres. The consensus was, "It's just a party game! There's no depth to it!"

I think Wikipedia sums up the SdJ very nicely:
The award is given by a jury of German boardgame critics, who review games released in Germany in the preceding twelve months. The games considered for the award are family-style games; wargames, role-playing games, collectible card games, and other complicated, highly-competitive, or hobbyist games are outside the scope of the award.
Read that again if you need to.  Especially that last sentence.

Lighter games are essential to our hobby.  Seriously.

When you were a kid, was your first game Advanced Squad Leader or was it Candyland?

There are a lot of lighter games that can be used as gateways into deeper board gaming - and some that are just plain fun.  We actually play them a lot on Wednesdays - either to build bridges with the less hardcore or to fill time between other games.

Here are a few of our favorite lighter games:

Blokus is light, it's fun, small children can play it, and it's eye-catching.  And it's non-threatening to non-gamers.  It's an excellent gateway game. Its relatively fast play time makes it decent filler (it's a little too long to be good filler).

No Thanks is filler, but it's filler I can play with just about anyone.  Even the wargamers in our group enjoy this one.  It's cutthroat, vicious, brutal, and clever as hell.

We Didn't Playtest This At All has rapidly become one of my favorite fillers - the games numerous expansions allow you to gradually increase to complexity without the casual gamers noticing.  It's fast-playing a simple and everything Fluxx wants to be. I've never had a game go more than ten minutes. The publisher - Asmadi Games also makes Win, Lose, or Banana which is the best $1 game I own, bar none.

Identik was another of the SdJ nominees this year.  This one isn't a strategic game, but it's fun. It's a drawing game where drawing skill is absolutely not required. It's more important that you be good at describing what you can see - a poor description hurts your score as well as that of your opponents.

Leaping Lemmings is a solid introduction to wargaming, cleverly disguised as a children's game.  I was a P500 purchaser of this one, and do not regret that decision in the slightest.  A few of our wargamers on Wednesdays have looked at it - I'm not sure if they've played it, yet, or not.

Generally, when someone is new at Game Night, we'll play a few of these with them to see how they react.  How people play some of these can give clues about how they'll play some of the other games that look more complicated.  They also weed out poor sports pretty quickly.

And now an unrelated matter:
There will be a Dungeon Twister tournament at SCARAB in January.  It's notable for being the first major North American tournament since the release of Prison.  Geoff Heintzelman is organizing, and it's possible that Sam Miuccio and myself will also be present (the three of us are the LIDT regional coordinators for North America).  It'll be the first time all three of us will be in the same place at the same time, and we hope to get some plotting and scheming done.  It's also possible that we may have other LIDT visitors from France (finances permitting - and I hope they do).  Ludically has graciously granted us some prize support (A copy of Prison and several expansions).  Even if you're not in the South Carolina area, you are welcome to participate.  In fact, I very much hope to see a few of you there.

Next week: Character Generation Project #2: All Flesh Must Be Eaten.


  1. Great article on fillers. This is something I need to improve on for my games group in Durham.

    I also wanted to let everyone know that more details on the Dungeon Twister events at the SCARAB convention are now availabe at

  2. I agree, I realized the lack of lighter games in my collection and actually just spent $100 to try to fix it (Bang, BTTF, Werewolf, Carcassonne, Citadel, For Sale, Zombie Dice)

    I've watched people have a headsplode on even simpler games (Small World isn't too tough) just because the sheer volume of stuff on the board. Baby steps.

    Plus, those games are fun!

  3. Nordiskanc5:51 PM

    While all you "big shots" off the IDTL are together, maybe you can get the ball rolling on those 3/4 player cardboard standups, and even the Prison ones :/

  4. NordiscaNC, you seem to have confused the LIDT with Ludically. :-)

    We're a fan-run organization - yes, we have the approval of the publisher and designer, but the final decisions are in the hands Chris and Jean Charles.

    I've been e-mailing Chris, and Geoff has been talking to the rest of the League (who have been passing the feedback along to Chris).

  5. Nordiskanc1:29 PM

    I know you are not the publisher etc, I just figure maybe they will listen to you guys. You know the Cabinet can always influence the President sort of thinking.

  6. This is just a guess, since I'm not in the inner circle of Ludically and the LIDT -- but I think that all the goodies we (the League) produce need to be approved by Chris and/or Ludically.

    You'll have to trust that I'm banging the drum in the Board section of the league forums. I think that they're probably tired of reading my 3/4 player and Prison standup agenda. But I doing my best to advocate for US players and what I feel is best for the future of DT in the US.

    Hopefully, things will eventually fall our way. For the moment, I think that the best thing we can do to support our cause is to get a great turnout at SCARAB con for the tournament. I really believe that Ludically and the League both need to see that there are American players that love the game and are interested in League play.

    In my mind, this convention is a big test for the future of DT in the US. I hope that we will pass with flying colors. Hopefully, I'm not just feeling self-important... ;)