Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bits 5 - Social Games

Social games like Mafia/Werewolf and Resistance have been around for a few years, and they're here to stay.  With further development of these games with activities like 2 Rooms and a Boom, social games are making an impact.  But are they really games?

I think the answer is "it depends on the people."  I know that's not a satisfying answer, but it really is true.  Some people will consider them games, and some people won't.  Personally, I think they're both games, but they're different than games like Catan, Ticket to Ride, or Small World.  Mafia and Resistance both fall into the "group think" mentality, meaning that a group starts having expectations for the way loyal people should behave in the game, and anyone who does something different is under heavy suspicion.  These types of games often require people to have good poker faces, and learn to lie well in game.  I'm not saying that you should learn to lie well to people, but I will say that what happens in these sorts of games needs to stay in the game.

Observation and an ability to read people is crucial in social games.  Everything that someone does or doesn't do can give a little clue about them.  That's the main reason that I love Resistance: Avalon.  It's one gigantic puzzle that everyone is trying to figure out, where most people will get close, but it's hard to get perfect.  There's a lot of discussion, and sometimes it's impossible to know for sure. That's where you just take a guess and go for it.

Social games may not be games in the eyes of some people, but they are often a lot of fun.  I've spent a lot of hours playing Avalon and Mafia/Werewolf, and most of them have been a blast.  That being said, these games aren't for everyone.  You really have to be involved in the game, and when you're not, it's hard to have a good time.

TL:DR - Social games are games. They're not for everyone, but with the right group, they're a blast.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bits 4 - Tournaments

As a Tournament Organizer (TO) for Attack Wing and X-Wing, I have a bit of experience running tournaments, albeit rather small ones.  Still, I think there are some valuable lessons that I've learned both in running and playing these that I think are worth sharing.

First, we'll start with advice for running things.

  • Show up early, plan to leave late.
  • Over prepare, meaning, bring pens, paper, copies of any FAQ's/or be able to look things up.
  • Have a timer of some kind.
  • Be flexible. Random stuff happens and it's best to go with the flow rather than impose your will.
  • Encourage having fun.
  • Try to have some random prizes so that everyone walks away with something.
  • Create an environment that people want to come back to.
Now, some advice for playing in a tournament
  • Do not try to win at all costs.  Gaming is about having fun, not necessarily winning.
  • Listen to and respect your TO/Judge.
  • Respect your opponent, say something like good game or well played afterwards, win or lose.
  • Be grateful that you get to spend some time with fellow gamers who enjoy the same thing you do.
  • Bring something to do in case you get a bye match.
  • Bring extra stuff, you never know when you might lose something, or be able to help someone out who forgot something.
  • Be a gracious winner, and a gracious loser.
  • If you don't win, try to find something positive about the experience.
Hopefully none of these things are groundbreaking, but you'd be surprised how much a little bit of common courtesy helps things flow.  I've had a lot of fun winning and losing tournaments.  The only major issue I've had are with some people who don't know the rules/take far too long on their turns.  While I enjoy winning, I've learned that it isn't everything.  I'd rather have a lot of fun and lose than have no fun and win.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bits 3 - Too Many New Things

I feel jaded against all these new games.  I look at games that came out in 2013, and only a very small handful even interested me.  I think there are great games out there, but there's also a lot of mediocre games.  Case in Point: Firefly.  I enjoyed Firefly (the show and movie), I'd love to have a boardgame based on it, but the Firefly boardgame was nothing special.  It's a good pick-up-and-deliver game, but it's not great.  As such, I'm not buying it.

I think that we as gamers can be overly fixated on what's new and exciting.  I'm trying to be excited over playing the games I own repeatedly.  Repeated plays are where I learn new strategies and can try new things.  A game isn't much good to me if I only play it 2 or 3 times.  I've said that board gaming is a great hobby when it comes to cost because you can buy 5 games and play them each a bunch of times.  Buying a $50 game and playing it twice isn't very good value.

When new new new is pushed down our throats as gamers, good games suffer.  There's something to be said for playing 3 favorite games in a night, rather than 3 new games.  I still enjoy trying new games, but there needs to be a balance with old favorites.

All of that being said, I'm still going to buy new games, just not as many as I have in the past.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bits 2 - 5 Pillars

Many subjects have fundamental ideas that everything builds upon.  Boardgaming has many pillars, but I submit that there are 5 major pillars: Alhambra, Carcassonne, Dominion, Settlers of Catan, and Ticket to Ride.

I'm aware that this list is missing a war-game, a dice game, and a cooperative game.  If you want those, I'd suggest Memoir '44, King of Tokyo, and Pandemic respectively.

Each of these games brings a little something different to the table.  They introduce core concepts that other games build upon, but they are also good games in their own right.

Alhambra - A bit of set collection, understanding where you can score points, even if it isn't first place, and a reward for spacial thinking and planning ahead.

Carcassonne - Very light worker placement, multiple ways to score points, short vs long term investments, as well as learning when to work with other players on a feature and when to cut your losses.

Dominion - Deck building, learning how to maximize potential and minimize "dead" hands, teaches players when to go for more stuff, and when to switch to victory points.

Catan - How to manage resources, trading with other players and the board.

Ticket to Ride - Emphasis on route planning, adapting to unexpected changes (blocking), and balancing what you have versus what you might get.

So there you go, the 5 pillars of boardgames.  Agree or disagree?  Leave a comment.

Bits 1 - Why I don't like Magic

As a means of trying something different, I present to you "Bits" a series of posts aimed at discussing various topics in the world of board gaming.  These are going to be relatively short, likely to include a question, and really, they're aimed at getting some comments going.  Some may be controversial, but that's kinda the point.

Magic the Gathering has a consumer model that I don't care for.  I've never been big on playing CCG's.  I collected Star Trek CCG growing up, but I never played.  In my mind, Magic is a money pit.  Now, it's a very well designed money pit, but that just means that it can take more of your money.  I have a completionist (yes, I know this isn't a real word) mentality. It's the Pokemon syndrome (Gotta Catch 'Em All).  I'd go broke if I played Magic.  I don't want to be broke.  Ergo, I don't play Magic.  I'm sure you have your reasons why I should, or that "I can borrow a deck." Thanks, but no thanks.

I don't fault you for playing, but you won't get me to play.

Monday, February 3, 2014

January 2014 Recap

Welcome to February!

January was a good month of gaming for me.  I got sick, so I missed one of my Friday night game nights, but I still managed to play a bunch of games.  I logged 33 game plays and got to play 3 games I've never played before.  I finally won my first Star Trek Attack Wing tournament in Hilmar, and I'm in the lead with 2 months to go in the Dominion War OP.

I released my annual Top Games list, this year marking my first Top 50. If you haven't taken a look at that, please do.  My sister also published her Top 25 which should give you a different opinion on things.

Just a quick list of what I actually played in January

4 Times
  • Resistance: Avalon
3 Times
  • Escape: Curse of the Temple
  • King of Tokyo
  • Love Letter
  • Star Trek Attack Wing
  • Tricks & Treats
2 Times
  • Article 27
  • Cosmic Encounter
  • Takenoko
1 Time
  • Eight Minute Empire
  • Eminent Domain
  • Forbidden Desert
  • Hanabi
  • Relic Runners
  • Spaceopoly
  • TransAmerica
  • Zooloretto

Game Acquisitions
I received a copy of Tricks & Treats from the publisher, NAZCA Games.  It was an unexpected added bonus from the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction.  I bought the first expansion for Escape, mostly to get the 6th player, but also for some added variety.

Closing Thoughts
I'm not sure where this blog is going to go over the next few months.  I've never wanted writing for this to be a chore.  I write when I have things to say and time to say them.  I still love boardgames, I love playing them with awesome people.  I've met a lot of amazing people through gaming.  All of that being said, I want to enjoy this too, and lately I haven't.  That's why I haven't posted a lot.  You can see that I'm playing a lot of the same games these days, and I can't really review the same games again.  There are some games I haven't reviewed that I should, like Love Letter and Escape.  I'll get to those at some point.

This is by no means goodbye, but it is a potential start to the end.