Monday, 8 December 2008

other games in Hong Kong / non-gamers

My short trip to Hong Kong, 12-16 Nov 2008, was a good one. It was a business trip, and I extended my stay to Sunday, to meet up with some old friends. And we played lots of games. I have written about Dou Di Zhu, Metropolys, Galaxy Trucker, Dominion, Around the World in 80 Days. We also played Ca$h 'n Gun$, Citadels, Ticket to Ride: the Card Game, Hive and Sticheln. These aren't new-to-me games so I didn't write about them.

One thing that surprised me was my friends quite liked Sticheln. Sticheln is a trick-taking card game, with an interesting twist. At the start of each hand, you choose a pain colour (i.e. suit). During that hand, every card you win counts as one point, except cards in your pain colour count as negative points according to the value of the cards. The interesting twist is how it works in the opposite way from Bridge. The first colour played in a trick, instead of being the strongest colour, is the weakest. Any other colour played after that first card trumps it. It takes a while to get used to it, and to learn not to get "awarded" cards in your pain colour.

The game was confusing for my friends, especially Ben. However by the time we played our second game, they all started to pick up the tactics, and I didn't do well by then. Later after I returned to KL, I even played a few more games of Sticheln with Ah Chung and Ben over BrettSpielWelt.

15 Nov 2008. Ah Chung, Moh Yen and Ben, playing Citadels in my hotel room at Langham Hotel, Mongkok, a very nice hotel.

Ah Chung, Ben and Moh Yen are non-gamers. I find that it can be hard to please non-gamers (or maybe they are close friends so they don't hesitate to tell me what they didn't like about a game - 不会客气). The theme of a game can already be a turn-off, even before I tell them anything else about the game. Ben found the theme of Dominion to be an absolute turn-off, and told me so bluntly. Thankfully I still managed to convince them to try it be saying it was one of the hottest games now. Afterwards Ben surprised me by telling that Dominion turned out to be his favourite among the many games we played. I had expected him to say Sticheln, or even Fight the Landlord / 斗地主.

Non-gamers won't like games where you beat them easily, especially perfect-information games. I guess this probably applies to everyone. Not many people will enjoy playing a game where you know you are probably going to lose. Well, you probably should not think of it being playing a game, and should think of it as learning the game. I showed Ah Chung Ticket to Ride the Card Game and Hive, and he didn't like them because I could beat him too easily since I have played them before. The memory element of Ticket to Ride the Card Game is challenging to non-gamers playing it for the first time. And Hive, being a perfect-information abstract strategy game, of course fully favours the more experienced player. So, really, the two games that we played were more about me showing Ah Chung the games than us playing a game.

They enjoyed Ca$h 'n Gun$, and Ben even considered making a home-made copy to carry around, so that he can pull it out any time to play with friends. Ca$h 'n Gun$ is newbie friendly, because it's simple, and it's a lot about group psychology, bluffing, negotiation, intrigue, and not all that much about strategy (well the strategy is mostly around manipulating / persuading / threating / cheating / backstabbing people). I never was a big fan of Citadels, but I thought it would be suitable for non-gamers, and it was indeed. This also has some psychology / bluffing / double-guessing, and non-gamers / new players has a good chance of doing as well as experienced players.

I should try to keep up the momentum of playing boardgames online with Ah Chung and Ben. We haven't played Dominion at BSW yet. I think it will be much faster since we won't need to shuffle. Ah Chung is a big fan of Ticker to Ride (although he resists all versions other than the original USA version), and he has a paid subscription to play it online at the Days of Wonder website.

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