Saturday, February 16, 2008

Some Games I Like But You Don't

There's a class of games which I have an inexplicable affection for where that affection is rarely shared by my geekbuddies. They have the following characteristics:

  • Euro-games, which are...
  • high in luck
  • short in play time
  • low complexity
  • usually highly tactical.
To me, these games offer all players a chance whilst allowing cunning players to slightly improve their chances. If the best player doesn't win, so what? That's often the case even in a game into which more effort is invested. Here are some examples:

Africa - Knizia seems to able to produce work at all levels of complexity and quality. In Africa the continent is covered with discoveries which the explorers will make. Whoever manages to organise those discoveries into the most points wins. You're mostly at the mercy oof the tokens you turn over, but there are sometimes chances to score a few more points, and it's those chances you need to take to improve your chance of winning.

Celtica - Kramer and Kiesling's much maligned light offering does have charm other than the artwork. It's mostly a game of avoiding Viking encampments by managing your hand well enough that someone else has to take the heat before you do. It's a case of holding your breath longer than anyone else, but there are subtle choices you can make which improve your chances.

Tsuro - At first glance this seems to be an extremely chaotic game, and with increasing numbers of players there is increasing player chaos. However, with a bit of experience you realise that there are things you can do. In one three player game I laid my tiles such that other players had few chances too enter my side of the board, and furthermore I had an escape route back to some empty space - i.e. I was building two tracks at once. With more players you just need to play so that the other players are confined to a smaller space than you are and then hoope for the best.

Castle Merchants - I only played this once but I liked thinking about how I could build terrain to suit my cards and goals. The use of the blocking tiles might well be where the game is won or lost, but I need more experience.

Dragon Parade - With other players competing to control the dragon this can be a chaotic game. You need to examine the cards in your card, compare them too what other players are doing, and place your bets according to where you think the dragon is most likely to end up. Sometimes you win.

These games don't count because I classify them as abstract Euros (and hence are not so high in luck): Through the Desert, Alexandros, Trias, Cartagena.

These don't count because they're more strategic: Rheinlander, St Petersburg.

These don't count because they're longer and more complex: Tikal, Reef Encounter.

I think this class of game doesn't get much love because they're chaotic. Killer Bunnies is denounced as being a crap shooot, but (hang on, maybe you haven't played it... players win bunny cards during the game, at the end one of them is chosen as the winning bunny, like in a lottery) the player who accumulated the most bunnies gave himself the best chance and was most likely to win. If you played well is it really such a big deal that you didn't win?


Maria said...

I don't not like them, I just haven't had the chance to get to know them well yet. I don't know, perhaps they've got charming personalities beneath that veneer.

R. N. Dominick said...

Africa is one of my favorite games, and I'm constantly surprised at how ill-regarded it is on the Geek. The game is just fine for what it is, even if you do have to kind of tease the correct rules out of the rulebook. A whim purchase I've never regretted.