Saturday, June 03, 2006

Starting my boardgaming recap

Hoo boy, I've got a lot of notes to catch up on. I'll work backwards, ending with most recent.

Quite some time ago, I played a series of games as a foursome: Myself and Cat, plus John and Jennifer. Cat's not a big gamer, and John has been out of the gaming scene for a while and prefers more strategic games, and Jennifer is a non-gamer. How do you choose a series of games to fit this group? I had to pick games that wouldn't be too heavy nor too light for the group, plus be involving enough to be fun, plus not take so long as to waste the afternoon. Luckily, Great Hall has a good number of open demo games.

First, I selected Blokus (BGG, BUY ME!) as a quick four-player game with not-too-heavy strategy. The demo copy was missing a piece, but also had an extra one- we were able to make do and improvise. I'm pretty sure I made a hash of the scoring rules, but I don't think it mattered. We played such that the person with the fewest remaining pieces won, instead of trying to keep track of "going out" strategically. I'm sure that the next time I play I'll endeavor to play properly. We wound up playing twice and the scores were relatively close. A success, enjoyed by all players- I feel confident everyone would play it again.

Moving from spatial visualization to linguistics, I brought out Syzygy (BGG, BUY ME!), which I really wanted to play with Cat, as I know she likes word games. Syzygy is like speed boardless Scrabble. It's fun, though bloodless, as you can't effect the other players in any way- you can only make your words faster. With this game, I really think that there is a class of games that are really competitive puzzles: the famous Ricochet Robots plays this way, and I hear Set is the same way. Clearly, these are games with win conditions, but without meaningful decisions, are they much richer than simply racing to complete jigsaws? Syzygy is entertaining, but I don't think that I know enough word geeks to truly bring this one out time and time again. The game also ends a bit suddenly, simply as a function of running out of tiles. The rankings were much further here, but we had a lot of fun looking at each others words as a tiny postmortem.

Lastly, moving away from the left side of the brain, we played Amazing Labyrinth (BGG, BUY ME!), a simple maze game that's worth playing once or twice. Its lack of words or complicated rules makes it a good choice for little ones, but at the same time lessens its hold over the adult set. There's an unusual amount of analysis paralysis present here, especially for such a simple game. I've only played this one once before, and I'm not likely to bring it out again, nostaligas excepting. I do wish I liked it more, as I like both mazes games with tiles. I don't recall who won, but I know it wasn't me.

Looking back, this game session sort of resembled some kind of intelligence test, hitting the various kinds of intelligences beyond book knowledge. I know that I chose simpler games to help feel out unknown and unfamiliar gaming preferences. What does this say about "simple" games? What learning patterns are they trying to reinforce? How can we use this in our future game designs?

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