Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Language Dependence

I'm very lucky in a lot of ways.  That's something I don't say often enough, actually. One of the ways in which I am extremely lucky is that my native language is - in many ways - the global trade language. This means that games I see online that look cool are either going to show up in English at some point or else there will be a fan translation on BoardGameGeek.

A few weeks ago, a gentleman showed up at Game Night who (indirectly) reminded me of how lucky I am.  His English was dramatically better than my Russian, because he was able to communicate. It's the first time we had a non-English-primary speaker around, and it forced me to think about which games to bring out.

His first week of gaming, he arrived as one table was getting started with Concept.  I love the game - and the game itself can be played independent of language. But the cards which contain the clues/goals/targets are  very language-dependent. Especially when this refers to the answers that are phrases or sayings.

He was a good sport, but didn't do very well because of that barrier.

We followed that with our first game of Cutthroat Caverns - which was easier, but still a stretch.

That night, I went home and decided that I was going to grab games that were not language-dependent in play. It's harder than you'd think.

I ended up dragging out Mexica (an old favorite that is apparently being reprinted by Iello later this year), Tokaido, and No Thanks (which is an all-time favorite of the group).

The following week, I had the chance to break out Nations: The Dice Game. It's 100% language-independent (other than the rulebook, of course). And it's simple enough that players won't need to reference the rulebook very often, either.

I went through my collection and looked at my preferences - there's no clear trend, there. I can't cleanly say, "I prefer language-dependent games" or its opposite.

But it's something I'd taken for granted until a few weeks ago. And it's definitely something to keep in mind as I work on games for Asmodee.

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