Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Games I Have Chosen Not To Buy or Which Sit On My Shelf

My wife often accuses me of being a game snob - and with good reason. I turn my nose up at a lot of games.

Too many, in fact.

The logical assumption would be that the games I'm sneering at are non-Hobby games. After all, don't all hardcore tabletop gamers turn their noses up at Monopoly and Clue and Risk?

In point of fact: I enjoy all three of these games. Particularly Castle Risk, which I find to be a faster-playing better variant of Risk.

I'm a Eurogamer. I make no bones about that. But I both own and enjoy Fortress America and Axis & Allies, two of the early banner bearers of the Ameritrash movement.

So what leads me to not buy a game (or leave a game on the shelf)?

Poor Luck vs. Skill Balance
I much prefer games where a skilled player will usually defeat a lucky player due to their skillful play. I didn't buy Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot, because it's a lottery game. Yes, the player with the most carrots usually wins, but not always. And it's not due to skillful play - the winner is random.

Note that games that have no skill component whatsoever, such as We Didn't Playtest This At All don't bug me. Because it's 100% random and takes about ten minutes. And is really really fun.

Indeterminate Length
When I sit down to play a game, I like to know how long that game will take (within a reasonable range of time). So I didn't buy Fluxx, because it can take ten minutes or ten hours.

Rules Interfering with Fun
I really like Empires in Arms. I think it's a phenomenal game - the rules (for the most part) make sense, even though there are a lot of them. So I'm not afraid of thick rulebooks.  But Twilight Imperium just didn't do it for me. At all. The fact that there is basically more errata than rulebook doesn't help.

Appropriate Game Length
Again: I enjoy Empires in Arms, even though it's a very very long game. It needs to be, though. It's an EPIC game of Napoleonic Strategy.  But I don't like Anima: Shadow of Omega. Because it's way too long for what it is.

Only for the LOLs
I like humor in games. I enjoy a well-written and snarky rulebook.  Gosu is a great example of a good rulebook. But Muchkin just didn't do it for me. Because - yes - the cards are funny, but it's like reading a jokebook. It's funny once. Until you forget the jokes. I don't usually read joke books twice, and I don't play Munchkin twice. And the game itself was too thin.

Lack of Player Interaction
For me, gaming is essentially a social outlet.  I play games to spend time with people who I otherwise wouldn't have an excuse to hang with regularly.  While I do enjoy a few games that are essentially multiplayer solitaire, for the most part, I like to be able to directly screw over my opponent by cutting him off or robbing him rather than by filling the boat first.  It's one reason I like 7 Wonders: Cities with its debt mechanism; it increases interaction between players (something the base game occasionally lacks). This is why I didn't buy Fits, which is very much multiplayer solitaire.

Meaningful Decisions
I like being able to actually feel like my choices are driving the game forward and steering my fate. Games where the best choice is immediately obvious just don't really do it for me. This lack of true decision-making is why Miskatonic School for Girls sits on the shelf.

Decided Away From The Table
I want things in the game to determine who wins. The good Diplomacy players can make this distinction. Bad ones will remember three games ago when you backstabbed them in Italy.  Not as a matter of "Eric is a backstabbing jerk," but in terms of "Eric stabbed me, and I'm gonna make him pay!" Because "Eric is a backstabbing jerk," is a perfectly legitimate reason to not trust me.

I played a game a few years ago where a visiting husband & wife mopped the floor with the rest of us because they had agreed on the way up to work together until the very end. And then they found one rookie player and convinced him to break his only alliance way too early (costing everyone in that alliance even a shot at winning).  It was not fun. The game was decided before anyone ever showed up to play.

So there you have it: A relatively quick overview of my snobbery.

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