Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Games, Games and More Games

We talk about it for months. We scour the internet for news. We envy those who are making plans to travel to Germany. The anticipation builds in equal parts to our fear of how much money we’ll be spending in the near future. Yes, it’s Essen time again.

Like the rest of you, I’ve checked the daily updates on GameWire where Rick Thornquist does a great job keeping us informed and I’ve read several blogs which unselfish (and lucky) gamers have posted from the Essen Game Fair. As I read the short summaries for games that I had thought would make good additions to my collection, one by one they were crossed off my list until I’m left with only 4 possibles. That’s a good thing, right?

Granted, many of the new games didn’t even make the list because they are longer and more complex than the games that prove successful in my house, and I don’t really need any more brainless fun games so that eliminates another large portion of the new games but I did expect to have a list of 8 to 10 games that I seriously needed to know more about.

Now I’m trying to figure out if it’s me or is it the games. Do I have so many games that it’s hard to find something that sounds different? Do I have such great games that I can’t bring myself to buy something that doesn’t sound great, too. Maybe our tastes in games is too narrow which eliminates many great games.

Dare I ask if the designers are not coming up with new and original ideas that are also great games? Aqua Romana is compared to Metro but with a twist to add strategy. Hacienda reminds a couple of posters of Through the Desert and I detect a bit of Magna Grecia in there with the connections which earn money/points. I could be wrong but Aloha sounds like Tongiaki with a press-your-luck twist.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, especially if the games are good, but I don’t feel the need to add them to my collection. Two years ago I would have jumped on Hacienda with its tile laying/card management style but today I’m less than enthusiastic. Maybe it’s just a phase I’m going through, the I’m Bitchy And Hard To Please Phase.

The games that still remain of interest to me are Kaivai, which I’d like to hear more about, Big Kini, which seems to be one of the hits of this year, Hey! That’s My Fish, which Mr. Thornquist made sound like a simple yet interesting puzzle of a game, and Castle Merchants, which I’m not quite sure of but haven’t crossed off yet. Aqua Romana is still in consideration, too, since I don’t have Metro.

The good news is that my husband and checkbook are both relieved.

I’ve been playing DVONN for the last week, not face to face since no one in my household will play with me (everyone say, “awwww”) but online with Jasen (Baldboy_1) Robillard, who has been great about teaching a novice the ins and outs of this brilliant game.

I had played it once or twice before in a haphazard, this-looks-good kind of way but the more I play it and the more I understand the strategies in it, the more impressed I am with the genius of the rules. The limitations on movement—which pieces are free to move, how far you can move them, and the dvonn movement—combine to create subtle strategies that you don’t see immediately as you do in the other GIPF series games. The first impression I had was that it’s a lighter abstract that anyone can play and have a good time with. This is still true because it can be played that way, but this is also a heavy game that takes a great deal of analyzing and planning to play well. I‘m not a fan of abstract games but this one intrigues me and I’m totally hooked. I may never be very good at it but I’m sure having a lovely time learning. Thank you, Jasen.

Misc. Games

I haven’t been playing many face-to-face games due partly to the need to get the house and yard ready for winter but I did get to introduce a friend of Cori’s to Through the Desert and Attika. The latter is a bit tough to teach to someone who hasn’t played many board games but I thought he did very well managing his hand and blocking temple connections. Cori won with all her buildings placed. Through the Desert was a runaway for yours truly since I’ve had so much practice with tough opponents online. Our guest seemed to enjoy it but he didn’t realize the importance of getting to those oasis and came in dead last.

Richard and I also played a couple games of Fjords between supper and television time. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is more strategy to this game than most people give it credit for or I wouldn’t win with such consistency. And I have to say that I’m very tired of hearing how the Go half of the game is over in 2 minutes! The game is in the tile laying/farm placement decisions! The final bit is just a way to determine how well you’ve played the game. It’s a scoring mechanism, albeit a different breed of scoring mechanism.

Until next time, may your camels be swift and plentiful.



huzonfirst said...

Mary, you're one of many experienced gamers that I've heard talk of this phenomenon over the past couple of years and for once, I'm starting to notice it as well. Lots of interesting games at Essen, but very few bowl you over with their innovations. Maybe this is a natural occurance given the huge number of games that have appeared over the last five years or so; maybe it really is an indication that designers are running out of new ideas. However, while innovative mechanics are always a plus for me, I'm also very happy to play a well designed game that meshes elements found in other games. So I continue to look forward to the new games.

My list is a bit bigger than yours, including strong interest in Caylus, Tempus, Byzantium, Mesopotamia, and maybe Hazienda. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to try some of these out before I have to decide whether or not to add them to my own collection.

Seth Ben-Ezra said...

DVONN is a great game. I love how each piece on the board affects all the other ones. Often I find that achieving victory on the right side of the board ultimately requires moving this piece on the left just one space.... Like I said, great game.

DWTripp said...

It's not you Mary... it's the designs. Lots of repitition out there right now with small tweaks, pasted themes and graphics attempting to set them apart.

It's no wonder that Puerto Rico is still #1 in the Euro niche, or that Power Grid ranks so high. And Through the Desert, while not being high on my play list, is popular because it rehashes an old mechanic with interesting components and appealing art... enough to give it a high play value for gamers who want a fast and challenging game.

Given enough time I have no doubt there will be new hits, with unusual and exciting play mechanics soon. Then, for the next five years, there will be copy after copy of the design, all with different shallow themes and graphics.

ekted said...

"And Through the Desert, while not being high on my play list, is popular because it rehashes an old mechanic..."

DW, I really hope you aren't comparing TtD with Go here. I need to post a serious thread about this problem that people have. :)

DWTripp said...

DW, I really hope you aren't comparing TtD with Go here. I need to post a serious thread about this problem that people have. :)

Uhh... well... yeah, I was. To me, Through the Desert is GO for people with very short attention spans. I haven't played GO for 25 years and given the choice I'd play TtD because my attention span has shortened over the decades.

Looking forward to your article showing me why I'm wrong. ;o)

ekted said...

Jasen said...

Mary, you're a great student! Soaking up the very little I have to offer like a quilted paper towel or a sponge of some sort. How's that for a compliment! ;o)

I totally share your views regarding the quality drop in the last year or two. Production quantity certainly hasn't dropped but it seems like we're getting lots of recycling and fewer original games. It's probably something that was bound to happen - how many original game mechanics can there be? Fine by me if it means I only have to buy 5-10 new games per year. I'm running out of space.

Or maybe we're all turning into curmudgeons?