Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Boardgame, madame? Red or White?

As gamers begin to build their collection of games, soon there are more games available to play than gamers to play them with. The solution? – create more gamers. A key part of creating a new gamer is to find the right game for the person and the situation. Thus, the boardgame sommelier is born. (sommelier = dude who picks wines for other people). Perhaps it should be Gammelier (using a long a sound)? (Although if I were sticking with the French I guess it would Jouelier… but where’s the fun in that?)

To some, matching a game to a person can become a game in itself. Analyze a persons habits, preferences, and hobbies and then try to find a game that they will enjoy. It is easiest to start with broad categories like party or dexterity games and then narrow it down to a few likely candidates. A very good “gammelier” will also take into consideration the overall quality of the game as well as how well it fits the target player. If a game has an excellent reputation, it might be a better choice than a mediocre title that makes a more solid match based on theme and mechanics.

My personal favorite target for my gammelier activities is my wife. She’s a trapped audience and can’t run far. Normally, she’ll play a game now and then as a favor to me since I enjoy them so much, but it is a rare game that will motivate her enough to try to entice me into playing. I figure if I can find the right title, she’ll become that much more of a gamer and I’ll be all set – a live-in game playing opponent!

So, what criteria should I use for my gammelier recommendations? She’s a science professor who is good at spatial reasoning. She loves art and creates a fair bit of it – mostly abstract art with lots of geometric designs. One of her favorite games is RoboRally. (This would be a fine selection the majority of the time, but I personally feel it only becomes a good game once there are at least four players running around on the board.) So, I’m looking for a spatial or pattern recognition type game, that plays well with two players. For some time I had been eyeing Ricochet Robot – a game where players examine a board and try to find the minimum number of moves required to move one of the colored robots to a specific location on the board. I bought the game for my birthday and proceeded to show it to my wife a week or two later. The result? – I’ve created a monster. For the first week after we started playing I wasn’t allowed to pack it up back in the box. I had to leave it out on the kitchen table so we could play it whenever we wanted to. In fact, I took it to the local gaming club and another gamer spouse (who is also a full fledged gamer) also became addicted to it. We couldn’t really start a new game for the evening until we had several more “just one more” rounds of play.

While I am now stuck playing Ricochet Robot several nights a week, this truly is a “good thing”. Any game is better than no game. I’m particularly proud of my selection as I bought Ricochet Robot sight unseen – having never played it before. My next goal is to try to find a good backup game to add a bit of variety. My ADD gaming habits tend to favor variety over quantity, so I just need a few more titles selected for my wife so that I can rotate through them to satisfy my penchant for variety. While SET is a possible candidate (I’m worried she’ll just always beat me into the dust), I’m eyeing one of those games where you race to be the first to create an image out of triangles. Of course, as the gammelier, half the fun for me will be the search.


huzonfirst said...

I think Ludelier sounds best!

Check out Factory Fun, Matt. It features spatial reasoning very similar to RoboRally and a puzzle-like aspect like Ricochet Robots. I'm pretty sure it plays well with two (I don't see why it wouldn't). Good luck with the conversion process!

Dr. Matt J. Carlson said...

That would be a short "u" sound in Ludelier, correct? That does have a nice ring to it. Is that from ludotheque (games library)? (I was trying to stick to French for the root word...)

AnakinOU said...

You might want to look into finding a copy of Die Verbotene Stadt. It's an OOP ancestor to Ricochet Robots, but I belive it is turn-based (not simultaneous puzzle solving).

Santy Anno is a great Ricochet Robot-esque game. Although I'm not sure it plays (well) with only two players, it can be a hoot with a full table.

Himalaya is another "programmed movement" type game, similar to RoboRally in some respects. It's definitely worth checking out (and a favorite of my wife as well).

Ubongo is a fun speed multiplayer puzzle solving game which has recently been reprinted by Z-Man. Wicked Witches Way and Carrousel are fast-paced competitive puzzle solving games as well. You may also want to look into Rumis, which is a fantastic 3D block-laying/structure building puzzley game thing.

huzonfirst said...

Sorry, Matt, I don't parleis vous. But the lud- suffix for game goes back at least a decade, with examples including the Luding website (the European precurser to the Geek) and the term ludography, used to describe a game designer's body of work (which goes back at least ten years to The Game Cabinet and Ken Tidwell and could well be older).

Pawnstar said...

On that basis, sholdn't it be "Luddite"? Perhaps not...

Anonymous said...

I can understand the pain of finding the right games to create more gamers. I used to run as a game master in a boardgame cafe and getting the right games to the group of stranger comming could mean getting a "returning" customer or a "once off" customer. We do learn a lot and there are some basic question that we asked before introducing a game, after explaining and getting the player to start the game, we need to constantly go back to make sure that they are "in" the game if not will switch the game based on their feedback.