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Thinking Out Loud

Friday, September 30, 2005

In Case of Emergency, Break Game >> The Anarchist's Guide to Making Games Implode

I just posted a slightly tongue-in-cheek GeekList over at BoardGameGeek about games that have mechanical chokepoints -- games that can either be sabotaged to stalemate (something occurs that freezes the game an no one can play) or artifically ended before the proper game flow ever really gets established.

The idea came to me after a recent night of gaming in which this very thing happened. Justin, Michael and I were playing Marco Polo Expedition by Reiner Knizia. I absolutely hated my first game, but swore I'd give it a second chance. Well, the game is still dreadful. Here's my blurbage about Marco Polo Expedition from the GeekList:

The game is bad enough as it is, with the surge-and-draw pace and thin hand management. But you can bring this game to a grinding halt and reach a stalemate situation where literally a player cannot take an action.

In fact, this just happened the other day, and is the impetus for the list. The game was dragging on anyway, despite an earnest effort (at first) to play as intended. But about 1/2 way through, Player A (whose name rhymes with "stroglide") passed each turn and simply drew a card.

Sounds benign, right? Except that with only 3 players, and 1 of them never contributing cards to the discard pile, the draw pile, when reshuffled, only had cards we had already discarded... Eventually, Player Y was able to collect important cards needed to advance on the trickier spaces, and eventually the two other players were locked out of movement -- the cards in our hand were unplayable to pass the current sets of requirements, and without more cards added to the discard pile to shuffle in new options, we were stalemated.

It's actually far more satisfying than you might think to see a camel go kaaa-BOOOOOM.

Click here to read the Anarchist's GeekList and the other implosive games.


Marco Polo Expedition: 2.5/10 (AVOID!!) -- An odd duck. Theoretically a hand management game, but the pace was strange. Irregular surges of activity followed by incredibly long pauses of inactivity. More strategy may reveal itself as time goes on, but hording cards, and taking advantage of the first player to "blink" and act (and thus open up an opportunity for rapid advancement by subsequent players) appears problematic. Further play simply shows that the game is erratic, clumsy and perhaps even broken, as card hording can reach extremes where there are no more cards to draw and no one has the required cards to advance, leading to complete lockdown.


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