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Thinking Out Loud

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

St. Petersburg >> First Impressions

I finally got around to trying St. Petersburg out for the first time last night. I know, I know, it's highly rated and been out for a while... But I had always been a bit skeptical by comments I had heard about the game -- that the rich get richer, that initial luck of the draw on the first turn is huge, that the game feels (gasp) broken, etc.

Trey Dembski (yayforme) was kind enough to teach me how to play. Other than reading a few reviews online, I had never read the rules, and knew nothing about the actual gameplay. I have to say, having a great teacher goes a long way toward enjoying a game. Trey and I played through a few dummy rounds of the game as he explained rules and tried to convey some of the strategies and how to evaluate the strengths of different cards or actions. Then we re-set the game and played for real.

I focused more on smaller incremental VP gains, thinking that in the long run, earning 1-2 extra VPs every turn over the course of the entire game would add up, rather than holding off for the larger 5+ VP cards that you only need in play for a few turns to offset their costs. It ended up costing me in the long run, as Trey was constantly flush with money and I was struggling to add cards each phase... The final score was 107 to 87, which I felt pretty good about for my first game.

The real puzzler for me was that during setup and instruction, Trey had mentioned the game was reminiscent of Hansa, another game I enjoy a great deal. At first, I didn't see it. At all. But over the course of the game, as Trey's suggestions and advice started to click (and I finally started to see the trickle down effects of some of the game's decisions), I slowly understood the Hansa reference.

My first few games of Hansa actually did feel quite a bit like my first game of St. Petersburg. I was so caught up on my own turns and actions, that I failed to see how I may be setting my opponents up for a good turn, or that I can actually help steer the course of the game with my current turn to help position myself for a better future turn. Once I saw this interconnectedness of actions, my enjoyment and opinion of St. Petersburg increased.

Current Rating: 7.0

Interesting decisions and quick, simple gameplay. I can see why people grow frustrated with initial draws for cash. At first, I felt the game suffered greatly from "rich get richer" problems -- but over the course of gameplay (and thanks to an excellent instructor) I began to appreciate the ability to block opponent's moves and steer the course of action to mitigate these effects. In essence, the rich only get richer if you let 'em! Definitely warrants additional playings, as strategies finally started to click.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The End of Impulse Game Shopping?

I was recently asked about whether or not there are enough gamers in the gaming hobby to support the sheer number of new games being published. It was an interesting question that I had to mull over for a while.

There really is no single definitive answer -- at least not from me. For one, I'm an avid collector and gamer, so from one perspective, there can never be too many games. But that got me thinking, that over the past year or so, I've actually made some significant changes in my purchasing patterns. Overall, there are fewer "bad" games in my collection.

Why is that the case? Are there fewer bad games being published? Certainly not... :)

So it must be a change in my behavior, decision making and valuation of quality. Or something like that.

I do think there are enough gamers with enough disposable income to support more and more game titles, but I think gamers are also becoming much more savvy about investing in games. With so much information available at their finger tips (via sites like BoardGameGeek), consumers are exposed to far less risk than they once were -- you can research a new game, read reviews, download rules and be so much better informed that I think it's easier now to filter through available games and find ones that are more likely to be popular with the buyer. Fewer duds, happier gamers, more money left to spend on other games that interest them.

My purchase behavior has changed substantially over the last few years due to the information available online. While I used to wander into a hobby store and buy games based almost solely on the information on the gamebox, I am far less likely to purchase games on a whim now. Just a few years ago, probably a good 2/3rds of my gaming purchases were based strictly on whim, whereas now I probably only purchase about 10% of my games without doing substantial research, visiting publisher websites, or looking for information on BoardGameGeek.com.

In fact, I'm pretty sure the last 4 games I purchased solely on a whim are among the 4 games I've rated lowest in my collection (rather than just playing another person's copy) over the same time span, starting with War of the Ring (not my cup of tea, as well chronicled in my recent review), GreedQuest (gimmick-driven Steve Jackson game), Kung Fu Fighting (a better version of Munchkin, which may not be saying much) and Marco Polo Expedition (got suckered in seeing it was a Reiner Knizia game).

On the other hand, games I spent time researching, reading reviews for, seeing feedback from fellow geeks, downloading the rules for prior to purchase or otherwise investigating before investing... well, let's just say my success rate has been much, much better.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

War of the Ring >> A Fighting Chance

After taking some flak from some fellow BGGers and my face-to-face gaming buddies on having panned War of the Ring after only two aborted playings, I agreed to play a complete game with an experienced player, hoping that having someone teaching the rules as we go, rather than struggling to teach the rules myself (as a newbie, to another newbie) would help things considerably. My previous two attempts bogged down after only 1 or 2 turns, as the dense rules, poor examples and exception-riddled conditions scared off potential opponents.

Michael Silbey (armadi) and I squared off for a game of War of the Ring, completing setup as Michael finished going over some last minute rules. I had read the rules several times and had myriad player aids and references, but felt that there was always something missing so it was worth the refresher.

I opted to be the Free People's player, as Michael had played the Free People in the last several games. My overall goal was to forsake military activation to push the fellowship along as quickly as possible before Sauron's forces could activate a large military presence or claim additional dice to allocate to the hunt.

After the second or third turn, I decided this strategy was not only unimportant, but that any long-term strategy or planning was largely irrelevant, as the dice strongly dictated what I could do during any given turn. My frustration grew into bitterness as I felt that fewer and fewer of my decisions mattered, and the incredibly high barrier to entry (and for me, enjoyment) of the game reared its head.

The overall feeling was one of frustration, detachment and boredom. Finally, after nine turns, we called the game, as the fellowship was taking a serious pounding and had 11 corruption as it stood, locked in place, at the outskirts of Mordor. Getting to that point took about 2.5 hours, which normally wouldn't be too bad a time investment for a good two player "wargame" experience. But the game felt like it had taken 4-5 hours, and not in a good way.

I also felt that my turns were incredibly limited by countless points of luck -- the roll of the action dice, the roll of the combat dice, which hunt tiles were drawn, which event cards I drew, and then the cascading luck effects from the various event card actions. Or that any real planning was far too easily undermined by good cards (and good card play) by my opponent.

Free People finally roll the one die type they need to move the Fellowship toward Mordor? Ok, let Sauron draw a Hunt tile. Great. Take 2 damage or lose the Fellowship leader... Oh, and on Sauron's turn, he's playing this card that moves you back a space. So effectively, you lost a turn, gained corruption and got moved to a worse location. Oh, and Sauron has 2 more dice left while you get to sit back and watch him move all over the place. Wheeeeee!

And people call this fun?

Previous Rating: 6.5
Revised Rating: 3.5

My Comments: A mish mosh of fairly good (production quality) and very bad (everything else). Very strong theme, excellent looking components (which don't fit on the board, by the way, and make identifying borders and regions nigh impossible). But the complex, arduous gameplay greatly detracts from the experience. I've never felt so uninvolved, bored and disinterested in my role in a game. Decisions are not very compelling, the exception-riddled rules are confounding, and the gameplay bogs down into a herky-jerky pace that really squeezes any enjoyment out of this. I never need (or want) to suffer through this again.

Monday, August 22, 2005

GenCon >> The Recovery

I'll write more as my energy, and health, return, but GenCon was exhausting -- both literally and figuratively. For those that heard me mention I had been experiencing headaches, shaking, numbness in my hands, dizziness and fatigue over the course of the convention, I think we nailed down the cause: malnutrition. I ate a grand total of 5 meals and 6 meal replacement bars from Tuesday night through Sunday afternoon -- supplemented by liters of diet soda and the occassional orange juice.

I was scheduled into so many events, appointments, meetings and booth times that I rarely took the time to eat properly over the course of the convention. Do Not Let That Happen To You!!! I'm still recovering now, after a few sturdy, home cooked meals and constant water drinking. All said and done, I lost nearly 15 pounds in 6 days, dropping from 212 when I weighed myself Monday the 15th, to weighing in at 197 when I got home yesterday (Sunday the 21st).

Unfortunately, the side effects of my erratic eating blurred a good portion of my GenCon experience in my mind. Goodman Games had a successful weekend, and I heard a lot of great fan reaction to some of the books I wrote, which was a good sign. I was able to show off a few prototypes, which was also a good thing -- looks like at least two will be picked up in the next month, with a few prototypes being sent out for further review by prospective publishers. I met a lot of great BoardGameGeek people, but didn't have the time or energy to hang out and game -- that's the biggest disappointment for me over the weekend.

Fortunately, I was able to spend quite a bit of time with Steve Zamborsky (Zambo) and Denise Patterson-Monroe (Denise). They are both great people, and are easily the sort of folks I'd want to hang out with at or away from the gaming table. I miss them already! In fact, I have yet to meet someone from BGG that I haven't gotten along with -- even you, Morgan :)

I also got to briefly meet-and-greet Morgan Dontaville (sisteray), Anye Sellers (dietevil), Ted Torgerson, Kevin Bender (futurescaper), Rhonda Bender (wren), Valerie Putnam (statonv), Rick Thornquist (rthornqu), Chris Brooks (CaptainCaveman), Jim Ginn (ginn5j) and probably a dozen others I just can't remember... Sorry! It's nothing personal.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Storm *Before* The Calm Before The Storm

Whew! What a crazy weekend. Some friends came in from out of town to visit, arriving in St. Louis just in time for one helluva storm. We had some serious wind whipping through, snapping branches right off the trees, and sending anything not latched down flying down the streets -- garbage cans, recycling bins, etc.

Well, the wind was strong enough that it knocked out the power around 3:30 PM on Saturday. And we didn't get power back until afternoon on Monday -- almost 48 hours without electricity. We had to throw out nearly everything in our fridge and freezer. But that wasn't the worst of it. Being without TV and Xbox was bad. But that wasn't the worst of it, either.

No computer, internet, email or BoardGameGeek. Now that was rough!

Especially since I had so much left to do to prepare for GenCon. Character sheets to finish. Creature encounters to print. Files to transfer to the laptop. Software to install. PDF rule sets to create. Prototypes to complete. I was about as nervous and anxious as you could get. A raw bundle of nerves.

Thankfully our friends Phil and Diane let me work at their place. I just packed up my computer and everything I needed and camped out there for a while until our power was back on. Then today was spent scrambling to finish all the other last minute projects. I'm not done yet, but I'm getting closer. Hard to believe that GenCon is already here -- I head out tomorrow (Tuesday) and will be in Indianapolis through Sunday afternoon.

Finally things are starting to calm down again, before the flurry of activity of the Convention. So sandwiched between the nerve-rattling power outage and the weeklong gaming binge, I may be able to grab a few hours of sleep tonight. Maybe.

I'm fairly well organized, have all my projects and prototypes ready to go, and can't wait to get to the convention this year to run the Vault of the Dragon Kings tournament and participate in the Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising movie tie-in events. With so much to look forward to at this year's convention, somehow I think I won't be getting that much sleep, after all!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The King Is Dead, Long Live the King >> Kingmaking and Its Effect on Gaming

Riffing off the discussion and debate generated by my previous GeekList on BoardGameGeek -- The Unbearable Lightness of Being >> What Makes a 'Light' Game Light? -- I decided to take a look at another controversial gaming term: Kingmaking

Wikipedia defines Kingmaking, or as they refer to it the "Kingmaker Scenario" as follows:

A kingmaker scenario, in a game of three or more players, is an endgame situation where a losing player, him- or herself unable to win, has the capacity to determine which player among others is the winner. Said player is referred to as the kingmaker or spoiler. No longer playing for him- or herself, he or she may make game decisions to favor a player who was kinder to him or her earlier in the game.

While this serves as a good starting point, it doesn't fully address the wide range of circumstances, motivations or level of visibility that different Kingmaking scenarios have. Below, I propose a series of different situations, and as you, my fellow Geeks, to help me determine if these are truly examples of Kingmaking, and help me explore this interesting topic even further.

What do you think? Are these legitimate Kingmaking situations? Do some of these scenarios bother you more than others? How often does Kingmaking come up during your gaming sessions? What other elements factor into a Kingmaking scenario?

Arbitrary/Indifferent Preference
Visibility: Usually obvious
Impact on Outcome: Medium to Heavy
Intent: Usually not personal

This may be one of the "classic" examples of Kingmaking. The player in the role of Kingmaker may not even have control over his situation, but circumstance puts him in a position where his decisions dictate the outcome of the game. He may not like it, he may not want to do it, but for the game to continue, his moves and actions will dramatically impact the outcome, if not crown a victor outright. In a purely theoretical situation, let's say you're in the final round of Modern Art, where Player A and B are vying for the win. Player A has several Lite Metal paintings, and if Lite Metal sells well, is guaranteed the win. Player B has several Gitter paintings, and if Gitter sells well, is guaranteed the win. There are four of each painting in play, and your hand contains only Lite Metal and Gitter paintings -- so your play will trigger the endgame and crown a victor one way or the other.

Preferential Treatment
Visibility: Subtle if infrequent, obvious when constant
Impact on Outcome: Varies greatly
Intent: Usually personal for the preferred target

This subtle game manipulation may not crown a King right away, or even be easy to detect. Other times, this may be pretty obvious, and while each individual occurence doesn't steer the game, over time this manipulation positions one player to assume the throne. The intent and impact of this sort of manipulation can vary greatly. The player may not even realize his bias is influencing the game, while others may revel in the disruption they cause. I've seen this many times in trading games, especially in Bohnanza. And I'm sure many of my fellow Geeks have, as well, in one form or another. You know, the guy who trades favorably with his girlfriend, hoping she'll like the game, or a player who knows he's out of the running and will make crazy trades to try and end the game.

Overt Manipulation
Visibility: Blatant
Impact on Outcome: Heavy
Intent: Active, intentional, personal

This may be the most pronounced, overt and egregious example of Kingmaking. While the motivation may differ, I tend to view this as a very deliberate, personal disruption by abusing the game system to directly (and usually very powerfully) improve the status of a particular player at the detriment of others. Lagging far behind in Age of Steam? Feeling resigned to your fate as last place? Faced with this situation, what's to stop a player from using his actions to ship the goods of other players, earning them money just for the hell of it? This seems to go against the social contract of gaming far more than most of the other scenarios, as it's nearly impossible to counter/mitigate by the other players.

Kicking the Dog
Visibility: Blatant
Impact on Outcome: Low to Moderate
Intent: Active, intentional, personal

If you can't attack or hurt the leader, it can be very tempting to kick the dog -- the last place player -- to exert some control over the game. Even if the person in last place isn't a threat, and there are other viable targets, a weak position and the chance to snatch up some quick resources/territories may be too tempting to pass up. This is an obvious manipulation of the game experience, but is often within the confines of acceptable behavior and play with many conquest/conflict games. And since it doesn't directly benefit the leader (even though it indirectly weakens his competition) it often doesn't bother anyone, other than the player being kicked. This seems to happen frequently in games like Risk 2210. After all, why risk retaliation from a player with strong resources when you can safely kick the dog? The players that get targeted early (which is usually an arbitrary decision) tend to get targeted often once they've been hit a few times. This can often lead to Vendetta Kingmaking, below.

The Vendetta
Visibility: Blatant
Impact on Outcome: Moderate
Intent: Active, intentional, personal

This scenario is all about grudges and retribution. Perhaps Joe didn't wipe his feet when he came in, or Bill beat you soundly in last week's game. Or maybe you're the dog of the current game and keep getting kicked (see above). Whatever the case, it's now personal. Regardless of what happens, one person has adopted an attitude of "I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure X doesn't win." This may devolve into side conflicts and battles that discount the goings on elsewhere in the game, as can happen in conflict games like A Game of Thrones. If Greyjoy suffers an early setback from perceived targeting by Stark, for example, he may simply focus on Stark for the rest of the game, even if its in his best interest to spread out or select other targets. The Greyjoy player no longer cares about winning the game -- he just wants a little revenge.

Abstaining/Shirking Responsibility
Visibility: Varies Greatly
Impact on Outcome: Moderate to Heavy
Intent: Can be blithely unaware, or very intentional

This may seem like a passive method of Kingmaking -- that is, manipulating the game by not doing something rather than actively doing something. As such, sometimes this can be rather subtle, while other times it is quite obvious. Player A sees a situation where Player B can gain an enormous advantage, or outright win the game with a certain action/decision, and rather than move to block that action, steps aside and puts it squarely on the shoulders of the Players C & D to stop Player B -- or even just steps aside and lets Player B seize the game. In another theoretical situation, you're playing a 6 player game of Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition, are the third player to select a role. You are trailing horribly with only 3 VPs, while the last player in turn order has 8 VPs -- needing only two more for the win. You know if the last player selects the Imperial Strategy Card, he will win, as no one on the board is in a position to stop him militarily. The first two players select Tech and Logistics. You now have to decide if you'll stop the last player by taking the ISC card, or force the following players to stop him.

The Alley-Oop
Visibility: Usually blatant
Impact on Outcome: Moderate to Heavy
Intent: Active, intentional

This is a more direct, intentional method of manipulation than sub-optimal play, although the two are closely related. In this situation, a player takes a turn that (regardless of the benefits to himself) positions another player for an enormous turn. At the right time, this could easily crown the victor, if not dramatically alter the course of the game. In Hansa, this could easily happen if a player were to Replenish the trade goods at all the ports, then simply spend talers to move the ship to a place where the next player has an incredibly efficient route to sell off goods and benefit from the newly replenished ports.

Forced Countdown
Visibility: Usually blatant
Impact on Outcome: Moderate to Heavy
Intent: Active, intentional

While the motivation may differ greatly from situation to situation, for one reason or another, a player finds himself doing everything in his power to end the game as quickly as possible. This is a viable strategy when the player is in the lead and trying to secure a win, but when performed by a player who can't possibly benefit from the shortened time frame, it's a pretty strong manipulation of the game that invariably tends to favor certain players. When there is a game-ending mechanic directly in the hands of the players, this can be incredibly easy to do. For example, with 2 actions each turn in Tigris & Euphrates, there's nothing to keep a player from simply discarding his entire hand of tiles to draw a new set. Churning through 12 tiles per turn can dramatically shorten the game and reward the player with the best position at the time of the manipulation. Once a player decides to perform this sort of countdown, the game can end quickly, leaving the remaining players scrambling in response.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

GenCon 2005 >> The Gamers and Me

FYI - If you're going to be at GenCon 2005 in Indianapolis , there's going to be a screening for the movie Gamers: Dorkness Rising on Saturday, August 20th at 10 PM in a venue TBD. There should be info available at the Goodman Games booth and at some of the screening/movie auditoriums. I'll be running a celebrity gaming group through the D&D Module I wrote for the movie beforehand, as folks file in... So far the scheduled players in the game session include Monte Cook, Aaron Williams (creator of Nodwick, who appears in the movie) and several actors from the movie or members of Dead Gentlemen Productions.

Why am I so excited about this? Earlier in the year, I was approached by Joseph Goodman to write the "official" module for the movie. I got a sneak preview of the script, and worked long and hard to develop a Dungeons & Dragons module that captured the spirit of the film script and the Gamers' license, and am very pleased with the results. The module is at the printers, and will debut at GenCon.

As added geekiness, I've been asked to sit in on a signing session, where we'll be signing copies of the module at the Goodman Games booth from 10 AM to Noon on Friday. So stop by and get your copy of the module signed by the author! I hear he's a pretty swell guy. :)

And for over-the-top geekiness, I may be interviewed about writing the module for inclusion in the bonus material on the DVD! Guess I'll need to, like, shave and stuff... Hmmm... What to wear?? My +1 T-Shirt of Protection?

By the way, if you're going to GenCon and are an active member of BoardGameGeek, keep an eye out for me -- I've made a laminated badge featuring the BGG logo and my avatar/username for easier reference. If you see me, stop by and say hello!

Hope to see you at the 'Con!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Out of Steam >> Why I'm Not A Fan of AoS

Jay Moore (MUKid), one of my St. Louis gaming buddies, recently had a chance to play Age of Steam again after learning from Chester Ogborn (cornjob) at Geekway to the West. It was interesting to read his recap of the game, and he was eager to get another game together... so he sent an email out to me and a few others trying to look for additional players.

That's when I took a closer look at the game and tried to define my dislike for the game. Note that I'm not a "hater" of the game, but simply not that interested in playing again. I currently rank it 5.5 out of 10 on BoardGameGeek.com.

First, I do not like games which become a foregone conclusion during gameplay. This holds true for usually longer games, where after a few bad turns or plays, you're pretty much out of the game and reduced to the role of a spectator. This happened to me early on in Age of Steam, as well as games like Advanced Civ and the various new Risk incarnations. That may not kill a game for me completely, if the other aspects of the game are engaging (or if it has a short playing time) but it certainly detracts from the experience.

I also think I simply dislike the types of decisions required in Age of Steam -- I can see that they are important, strategic/tactical decisions, but of a kind I don't enjoy (such as action selection among various abilities which all seem to pale in comparison to my first choice) or am not good at (the 2+ turns in advance to plan out where you want to build track based on foreseeable shipping paths developing).

I far prefer games with a sharper focus on the here and now, where I feel that optimizing my current turn can have a strong bearing on the final outcome, rather than requiring my current turn to plant the seeds for optimizing a turn later in the game. That's not to say I dismiss games where you need to keep an eye on the future -- I just think Age of Steam requires more of that than I enjoy... or failing to plan ahead far enough in advance can put you in an unrecoverably bad position.

With so many other games I truly enjoy that take about the same amount of time, I can't see what another session of Age of Steam would reveal that would dramatically alter my opinion -- especially after playing Stephenson's Rocket, which I felt was a superior train game all the way around.

By comparison, I rank Stephenson's Rocket a 7.5 out of 10 and would far prefer playing that to Age of Steam. Here's what I had to say about Stephenson's Rocket on the 'Geek: Felt a bit like RK's take on Acquire, with a bit of Age of Steam thrown in. Unfortunately, we had two copies of the german rules translation, which had some significant differences, so the first game was a wash -- but I saw enough to know the game deserves another play.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Unbearable Lightness of Being >> What Makes a 'Light' Game Light?

This is based on a recent GeekList I posted on BoardGameGeek.com. It's gotten quite a bit of response in a short time, and I think it's an interesting topic. The condensed version of the GeekList's scope follows:

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Often when describing games, we use catch phrases and jargon to put games into categories for easier comparisons and explanation. However, there really isn't a consistent definition of many of the terms we bandy about regularly (such as the many lists arguing about the definition of a "wargame").

One term that gets used frequently is a "light" game, as a supposed opposite to games we define as "heavy." And at times it seems that "light" and "filler" are used synonymously -- but is that really the case? What does "light" really mean, in a gaming context?

Please note that I'm not stating these attributes are the most accurate definition -- just providing some food for thought.

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Simplicity of Rules? I think many folks would argue that a light game is one that can be taught quickly. Many Out of the Box titles fall into this category, as part of the publisher's mission statement as being playable within 5 minutes of opening the box. Simple, clear, accurate rules which can be taught quickly to get new players familiar with the game concepts, or allow experienced players to "brush up" on the game in a matter of moments.

Short Time Frame? Often I think of a quick-playing game when I think of light games. Many games that can be played in 30 minutes or less may often be considered light games, despite any other attributes. I personally think that this isn't entirely accurate, as there are some quick games that feel deep and layered with strategy. But I can see the argument that quicker games may tend to come across as "lighter" than longer games.

Higher Than Average Luck Factor? A long game with a lot of luck may prove incredibly frustrating, but the "lighter" the game, the more tolerance and acceptance of luck. Being screwed by luck in a light game doesn't have the same sting as having an awful run of luck in a heavy game. Whether this luck is based on die rolls, card draws, chart/table results or manifests in other ways, I think that light games can "get away" with more luck and still provide engaging, enjoyable gameplay than heavier titles.

Limited Short-Term Decision Making? With this attribute, I'm looking at the number of options or decisions a player has to make on any given turn. Do light games tend to offer fewer decisions, or decisions among options where one option is clearly better than the others? Limited decision making should not be miscontrued as limited strategy -- just a tighter focus on turn options which help shape a player's actions. This may be represented in having only a few action points to spend on a turn, or only having a handful of turn options available, depending on the type of game.

Limited Long-Term Decision Making? While you may need to have a long-term strategy mind, I think lighter games tend to limit the impact of failing to plan ahead to the Nth degree... whereas heavier games can be brutally unforgiving if your decisions don't take into account your next 2 or 3 turns (a la Age of Steam). Note that I'm mentioning "limited" long-term decisions, and not "lack of" long-term decisions. A general long-term plan can be helpful, such as keeping a color hovering near 15-16 in Ingenious, so you can easily take an extra turn later in the game as needed, but the decision tree for long-term strategies is fairly limited.

Accessibility? I'm not talking about product availability here, but about how accessible the game is to the average player. This is a gestalt of the game's rules, theme, mechanics, complexity and overall appeal to Joe Gamer. As opposed to heavy games, which can get by being very very niche and targeted (such as a wargame about a specific day in a battle with a great deal of minutae), light games may tend to be "safer" in terms of theme and focus. Perhaps this means bearing a theme that's easily identifiable (pirates, finance, or in the case of Royal Turf, betting & horse racing) or a more conventional mechanic that's present in numerous other games (such as bidding or trick-taking).

Ability to Socialize? Is there a noticeably friendlier and more social atmosphere around light games? Compared to their heavier counterparts, with players seated around a table, staring at the board with furrowed brows, lighter games tend to encourage more social interaction. With lighter games, non-game conversation -- movies, kids, you name it -- seems more likely than with heavier games. In fact, some light games may simply be something to do to "keep you busy" while you're talking.

--

So what do you think? What are the attributes you generally associate with a "light" game? What are some of the best examples of "light" games? Does being considered a "light" game detract from general perceptions about its quality?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Geekway to the West - The Photos

Here are the rest of the photos, courtesy of Topdecker, from the Geekway to the West. Oh, how I wish I had taken more photos!


Age of Steam, featuring (from left to right): MUKid/Jay Moore (mostly hidden), Astroglide/Justin H, Cornjob/Chester Ogborn (teaching the rules), Armadi/Michael Silbey, Cbdarden/Chris Darden, Yayforme/Trey Dembski


Amun-Re featuring (from left to right): Chaddyboy_2000/Chad Krizan, Phil Ruffus, Jpact/Jim Paprocki (at rear of table), Alfredhw/Alfred Wallace (great shot of the back of his head) and Giant Robot/Ron Stuckel.


Outdoor Group Shot 2, featuring (left to right): Giant Robot/Ron Stuckel, MUKid/Jay Moore, JPact/Jim Paprocki, Chaddyboy_2000/Chad Krizan, Ynnen/Jay Little (me - I told you I wasn't that short), Cornjob/Chester Ogborn, Armadi/Michael Silbey, Astroglide/Justin H, Alfredhw/Alfred Wallace, Hibikir/Jorge Montero, Cbdarden/Chris Darden, Yayforme/Trey Dembski, Phil Ruffus.... DeiTass, SpacerX, Topdecker & Mrb88 are the only ones missing, I think.