Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Deep Games With Straightforward Rules

One of the greatest dilemmas I face in gaming is finding games simple enough to introduce to casual/non-gamers yet deep enough to keep myself entertained.

My gamer friends constitute a small group and unfortunately can be counted on one hand. Thus I face the situation rather regularly of having to play games with inexperienced gamers who would likely not play again in the near future.

While the typical gateway games such as Carcassone or Ticket to Ride are often recommended in these situations, I find them too light for my own tastes and have little interest in playing them, much less introduce them especially if I be joining in. Simple card games such as No Thanks! and Saboteur I'm happy to introduce but only if I have no intention of joining in and are leaving them to their own devices once I finish teaching the game. 

As you may have guessed, I don't own the prior category of games and have one or two of the latter category to entertain friends when there are large groups over at my place.

Games that I do possess that seem to fit my criteria are Settlers of Catan and Stone Age. I suppose they do fit the category of gateway games but contain sufficient depth to keep me interested. Nonetheless, they are not exactly games that non-gamers come to terms with quickly on their first play. 

For example, while Settlers have often been touted as the de facto gateway game, the rules can be quite a handful (even after I have become quite seasoned at explaining them) and new players cannot grasp the various alternative uses of their resources as quickly. They often require suggestions from experienced players on how to utilize their available resource cards efficiently lest they end up hoarding and left to the mercy of the robber.

I suspect Stone Age will ironically be the better alternative in such situations despite being often viewed as a heavier game. The rules appear rather straightforward in my mind although so far I have only introduced it to experienced gamers. 

*Makes a mental note to reach for it next time I find myself in such a situation*

I don't foresee any problems with new gamers grasping the mechanics although they may not do as well as they are unlikely to recognize the importance of certain civilization and building cards on their first play. Nonetheless, I suspect the experience will likely be more enjoyable for them as compared to Settlers though both are still excellent choices.

Ideally, I'm looking for games with the same weight as the above 2 games yet with more straightforward rules or games with a similar level of rules but provide deeper game play.

The best game arguably I have come across that fits what I'm looking for is the Princes of Florence. It is a game I personally enjoy tremendously and rank amongst my top 5 games. Yet, new gamers I have introduced it to have without fail enjoyed it on their first play and commented they would be keen to try it again. They are also able to be relatively competitive on their first play with a little advice on the relative value of the auction items in the first round. I suppose the minimal player interaction allows them to have a real go without being further disadvantaged by superior gameplay by seasoned gamers.

I made a post on BGG asking for suggestions and so far the ones that intrigue me are Chicago Express and Ages of Empire III: The Age of Discovery. An added boon are their short play times which would be an added plus since new gamers are unlikely to attempt games over an hour long. Unfortunately both games are relatively more expensive (closer to US$40 at various online retailers) and I'm unlikely to take the plunge unless I've personally tried them.

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