Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chris Farrell Is Back!

I have always enjoyed reading Chris's boardgaming insights - it doesn't hurt that his no.1 game is one that I myself rate highly.

He hasn't updated his blog in awhile and it was a pleasant surprise to see him putting in a couple of new entries in the new year. His writing as usual is impeccable. I particularly enjoyed how he described our gripes about games in a recent post:
Every complaint people make about games ultimately boils down to a problem with the decision-making (i.e., too much luck = my decisions don't make enough of a difference; too much downtime = I make decisions too infrequently; brain-burner = the decisions are too hard; the theme is a paste-up = the decisions I make don't seem authentic; and so on).
I can identify particularly with the first two. Most of the games that put me off have either too much randomness or tend to be AP prone. 

Luck is fine as long as it allows you to make meaningful decisions on the basis of what 'fate deals you'. In other words, it allows a degree of luck/risk management. These games force me constantly to decide whether the potential rewards are worth the required risk to be borne. 

For example in Settlers of Catan, I have to decide whether I should bear the risk of hoarding cards or make a purchase by trading directly with the bank. In Ra, an assessment of my relative position will determine if I take the risker option of waiting out my opponents or go for the conservative approach by taking the early auctions. 

Other games that fall in this category are Stone Age and Kingsburg. Despite the presence of dice, a stronger player will more often that not triumph over weaker players. Furthermore, dice rolls tend to average out over the course of the game.

Games that are AP prone are frustrating. The game feels drawn out and people get restless. I don't mind so much if I can ponder my next move while waiting for others but if my next move is highly dependent on the actions of others, the waiting is doubly gruelling. 

One example is Mr. Jack. People claim it moves along quickly but somehow I never feel it moves along quite quickly enough. Despite the interesting mechanics, the tendency for AP is a game-breaker for me and I'm as guilty as the next player for contributing to it. But then again, I've never been able to think that far ahead in Chess so maybe it's just me.

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