Friday, June 26, 2009

Does Winning a Game Make You Like It?

I don't like console games. The kid got a GameCube last week and has been playing Medal of Honor or something on it. I tried to play with him but (a) I'm really bad it, and (b) I have no ambition to be better. I don't want to play any more. A similar thing happened on the PS3 as well but I can't even remember the name of the game. I've also noticed the same problem with board games - Bucket Brigade / Honeybears was really dull, Niagara annoys me to the point of hysteria, I enthusiastically dislike El Grande... yet I really enjoy many abstracts and word games which are ranked down around 4000 at BGG.

What I'm wondering is, do I dislike games because I suck at them, or do I suck at them because I dislike them? I don't know if I can tell. I suck at Chess and Go as well, but they get some degree of respect from me. I can't locate any highly-ranked game that I dislike despite having won at it, except maybe Railway Tycoon... and that loses most points because it was too long. To be fair, though, and game I don't like I don't get experience at and so I'm not in a position to win.

I'd like to better understand why I don't like some games, but I can't think of insightful experiments.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Should You Play Games With John?

I recently created a Facebook quiz along the lines of "How well do you know me?". In general those quizzes are pretty stupid, but they need not be - they're just general purpose multiple choice quizzes. With sufficient effort you could implement university assessment on Facebook! Anyway, my questions were along the line of:

1) All the best games involve:
a) trains
b) zombies
c) pirates
d) dice
e) black and white

to which there is exactly one answer that matches me, but I'm not going to say what it is.

Sadly I made a mistake on Question 5 - I reordered the answers and forgot to change which was the correct one. I'm not able to go back and edit the quiz. In this discussion I'm going to change the marks to reflect the answers I intended. Congratulations to CyberKev and Scrabblette who know me well enough to tell me I had a mistake.

Top of the class is, of course, Scrabblette, with 90%. She got the question about Kramer wrong. Knowing Scrabblette she would have looked on the extended stats site to find my most-played Kramer game and picked that one.

In second place, and scoring very highly for someone who doesn't even live with me, is Pateke on 80%. Pateke did live around here for a while and we played games like St Petersburg and Hansa, but sadly he left to travel the world. I miss you dude! We were meant to game together!

Next, on 60%, is my brother-in-law who is now working in Iraq and is not often available to game. For someone who can't remember which one is DVONN and which one is Gobblet, that's a good score.

Ack... I'd better wrap this up as it's time to go to work. Other notable scores were CyberKev with 50% (just as well, since we game together about once a week whether we're compatible or not); both of my sisters on 40%, and Kalyani on 10%. I find down around 30% are the people who have a significantly different idea of fun to what I do. Actually, I suspect they're right and I'm wrong.

For more details, go here :

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I haven't been doing a lot of gaming over the last few months, due to a sense of ennui or existential angst or general slackness or something. And the anime thing which I mentioned earlier. But I think also I'm changing what I want from gaming, or maybe what I'm getting from it. Scrabblette has mentioned that when you do something as intensely as I do gaming it becomes like work, and that's definitely the case. I've been doing this for 5 years and 3000+ plays, and I've potentially taught people how to play 1000 of those times. That's definitely a lot of effort.

One thing I've definitely been feeling is that I'm less interested in playing new games, less interested in acquiring new games, and more interested in playing the old ones. My efforts to decrease my collection have been stymied by (a) reluctance to simply dump games, and trading doesn't really decrease the number of games you have, and (b) Scrabblette still assesses my collection on whether a game is good or not, not on whether I need to own it or not, so she resists many of my attempts to get rid of things. When I went gaming last night I stuck St Pete and Puerto Rico and Upwords in the game box. They're all old favourites, and that's what I want to play.

This morning I have been revising my ratings on BGG in line with how I feel at the moment. Although there have been no huge revisions, there have been a significant number of small ones, so I feel that rather than my tastes having seismically shifted, they've just tilted a little. Let's review some of the changes.

Torres - from a 10 down to a 9. Yes, it's a great (intense) game, but I don't always feel enthusiastic about it and doubt that I will want to play it forever.

Trias - from a 9 down to an 8. I used to rate this 10, but I don't think I've won in the last few years. That in itself is not enough to get it demoted, but dammit, I KNOW what I'm doing, and I often come last. I don't even think it's because people pick on me. I don't think the game rewards experience, and if it rewards skill I'm damned if I know what the skills of the game are. My current hypothesis is that the strategy is illusionary.

Axiom - from a 9 to a 10. I really love this freaky game and I can see there's a lot of play left in it. It's easy to teach and it messes with your head. I just need an opponent. Other than Mikey, 'cause he beat me.

Milleranagrams / Snatch - both gained a point. These are very similar speed anagramming games, which, as mentioned in my previous post, I rock at. For putting me in the zone they get high ratings.

Thebes - from an 8 to a 7. I find myself not so keen to play this, and when I do I see the winner being determined by the luck of the tile draw rather than strategy. I don't mind some luck in my games, but that amount of luck in a game that requires that amount of thought seems unfair. I would dump my copy if I was allowed.

Memoir '44 Expansions - several dropped a point. I've realised one of the great things about Memoir is that it's simple, and the expansions make it not simple. Yes, they're fun, but they're not as good as the original.

That's enough of that sort of talk! My feelings of boredom / yearning / unfulfilled desire remain strong, so I expect I will continue to tilt in the coming months. I can be sure I'm not tilting towards Ameritrash like some other BGGers have - if anything I'm tilting towards word games and abstractness. Maybe I'm getting old or something.


There are a few games that I find very intense, i.e. when I'm playing them I get extremely involved and find myself on edge. Examples include Pick Two, Taj Mahal, St Petersburg and Domaine. These are great games, no doubt, but I don't find the same thing with other (allegedly) great games such as El Grande or Cosmic Encounter. I don't know what the difference is, I guess it's something in the mechanics intrigues me and sucks me in.

Anyway, the problem is that I find some of those games, in particular Taj Mahal, to be so intense that it's exhausting. In a given evening, I can only play one game of Taj, and sometimes I look at it on the shelf and think "No, I can't face it this evening." Having to teach the game first, which is almost always the case, makes it even more work. As a consequence, I will often put something easy to teach like Metro or Qwirkle in the game box instead of Taj.

So what should my rating for Taj be? A game that is totally awesome but I can't always play? I'll always play Metro, so should I rate it higher than Taj even though it's clearly a lesser game? I've bumped my rating for Taj up to a 9 nevertheless, as I feel I should rate the game on how I feel about it in the right situation, i.e. when my blood sugar levels are right and I've had plenty of sleep.

By the way, playing Pick Two with me is intense for everybody. In case you haven't played, there's a large pool of letter tiles. Each player starts with 8, and needs to arrange their tiles into a valid crossword formation. When someone achieves that they say "pick two" and everybody takes 2 more tiles, and they rearrange their crossword to add them. When someone has achieved that, then they say "pick two". And you keep going until the tiles run out, and score (negatively) for the tiles you didn't fit into your crossword. Speed word games are my forte, and I like to keep the pressure on, so my opponents find it hard work. Some people admit there's no point playing against me... but I don't care because I am in the zone when I play and that's a great feeling.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Over My Dead Body

I was asked the other evening, during a game of the painfully tedious Cavum, whether I'd ever played Through the Ages. No, I haven't, and I don't intend to, but I decided to do some investigation to solidify my reasons. The first thing I discovered was that I totally had it confused with Age of Empires III, an Ameritrash game I have no interest in whatsoever. So, I had even more reason to do the research.

The first place to look is the number of players and playing time. It's 2-4 players, which sounds reasonable. A minimum of 2 players suggests to me that it's not a negotiation game, which is good news to me. A maximum of 4 means that I'll only be waiting for 3 other players between my turns. However the playing time is 4 hours. This rings an alarm bell - what the hell is happening for 4 hours? I don't like long games, so at this point I'm looking for clues that I'll dislike Through the Ages for the same reason as I'll dislike other long games, so I go to the last pages of the user comments.

Miklos Kuti says "3 player game, from start to finish with rules explanation took 7 hours". OK, I've already decided I will never ever play this game. Chris Farrell (who is not me) says "This is a totally linear game in which all you can do when it's not your turn is sit around and wait. There is no player interaction to speak of. And that downtime can get extreme, especially late when players have many actions." Chris Darden says : "It's like Race for the Galaxy except not as elegant, the turns take 10x longer, and you can target specific people to hurt their progress. Not only can you target people, but the opportunity exists to dogpile on people (with person after person attacking the same player on the same turn). This will not only take the leader down a notch, but knock him out for a good, long time."

Oh good, so there's screwage as well! There's nothing that makes me more miserable than concentrating on a game for hours to then be screwed over by some jealous arsehole. Maybe next time they make their bed I could come shit in it... it is completely beyond me what's fun about a game like that. So, the only way I'll be playing Through the Ages is posthumously. I guess that means CyberKev will have to organise the time and place...