Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Do You Like Games You Don't Understand?

I played Caylus for the first time today, and I was kind of meh. It's an interesting game, but there are too many things to think about and I'm not sure I'd ever do a good job with it. I like the building track, and if Caylus was simply an economic game trying to build the right sets of buildings so that my economy functions more efficiently than yours, I think I'd like that. I find that adding the castle and the royal favours makes Caylus so complicated I'll probably never do a good job with it. I can't grok the long-term consequences of my actions.

I think Princes of Florence is somewhat similar - there are just too many things going on. I'm all at sea when I play that, and consequently I don't enoy it so much. I suspect Goa and Louis XIV are a bit like that as well. Maybe just a bit too complicated. I like games that I can get my head around, even if it's only just, such as Tikal, Tigris and Euphrates, and Elfenland. They're the limit of complexity that I'm comfortable with and consequently a challenge to play. Easier games like San Juan, GIPF and Hare and Tortoise that I understand really well become old favourites that I can play to relax.

What I want to know is, do people often like games which confuse them? Are all the people who rate Caylus highly super-mega-smart? I have a Ph.D. and a genius IQ, but it confuses me. Are Caylus fans the absolute intellectual elite of the planet? If not, what's so good about a game that's confusingly hard? Do people like playing a game where they feel lost? Is there some different sort of intelligence that they have and I don't? I need feedback here, because it just doesn't make sense to me.


Yehuda said...

I suggest reading A Theory of Fun by Raph Koster.

The essential balance is not too hard and not too easy. On the other hand, I enjoy getting trounced in Go as long as I feel that I am learning something in the process.


ekted said...

My favorite games are the ones that I have to work at even when I know them well. If a game becomes "comfortable", it becomes boring. I love Amun-Re, and I've never won. I like the challenge of figuring out the good plays and the silly plays.

Caylus is like Die Macher: there's a lot of mechanics to learn. But once you get past that, it's not so bad.

Maria said...

On Christmas Day my sister taught myself and four other friends how to play a new game called Balderdash (by the way I admit to not knowing most of the games you mention on your blog, friendless). The game went on for ages, mostly because you didn't seem to be moving very many squares each round. Also because the instructions took ages to decipher (for us, anyhow) (which card - how do you pick - but what side do you read from - who goes first - how do you score - how come HE gets two points and I only get one? Why do we have dice if we never throw them?) and possibly because we laughed too much.

We started at three o'clock, and we were surprised it was about six when someone finally won.

It was a relief to get back to two quick rounds of Scrabble! (we're not used to this)

steve said...

For me, it depends upon whether I feel like I'm ever going to be able to access any sense of strategy. Even though I came in last in my only game of Princes of Florence, I had a great time and felt like I was learning as I was playing. However, when I played Maharaja, I felt like I had lost after the first turn and never could anticipate what others would do or what I should do; consequently, I have no desire to play again. But I usually prefer the light to medium-weights and will never in the foreseeable future find it worthwhile to invest the time it takes to get good at many of the heavier games.

PS I always enjoy reading your blog!

Iain Cheyne said...

Games like this seem to be all about exploring the system and the options available.

They are great - if you have the opponents and time to play them repeatedly.

Friendless said...

Although it was only yesterday I forget how long our game of Caylus took. Two or three hours. That's a bit longer than I want to spend repeatedly on one game. I guess Caylus is OK, but maybe it's going to work better with people with more spare time.

Maria, Balderdash was originally released in 1986 and rereleased this year:


I haven't played it and would rather play Twilight Imperium 3 again. If you've got 6 players and want a fun game that lasts less than 3 hours I recommend something like "Apples to Apples" which you can get for about $A50 from Paradise Games in Sydney. No doubt there are other good games but as I don't play party games much I can't think of them right now.

Fellonmyhead said...

Dave Shapiro summed up my feelings when I don't get it in his excellent article Sisyphus Syndrome.

For me the first experience of this was E&T; it took me five plays to get an idea of what I was doing - another three or four plays to actually win a game.

I have to admit I enjoyed E&T a lot more when I finally got it.

Friendless said...

fellonmyhead, that's a brilliant article! The day after playing Caylus I played Go against a novice opponent. I've read a couple of Go books over the years but know that I'm very bad at tactical battles and have never won a game, but the little bit of knowledge I do have was enough to rip my opponent to shreds. Then he beat me at DVONN.

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