Tuesday, 10 September 2013

blind spots

As my gaming tastes evolve, the types of games that catch my interest change. I find that as I gain "expertise" and "experience", my vision actually narrows, in a way. You can say I know what I want so I automatically tune out from games that I know I won't like. That's a good thing - it means I know how to enjoy my hobby in the best way that is suitable for me. On the other hand, because of this I miss games which are in my blind spot. I automatically dismiss them when I come across them, or sometimes I don't even venture anywhere near them to hear about them.

There are some German games from the 90's and early 00's that I quite like. Games like The Princes of Florence, Puerto Rico, Ra, Taj Mahal. Games from that era are simpler than the kind of games I pay attention to nowadays. Sometimes I feel that recent games are all getting more and more complex. However this is not entirely true. There are actually still games of similar complexity and style as those from the 90's to early 00's - roughly the Catan (1995) to Carcassonne (2001) era. The problem is I now automatically tune them out! Most Reiner Knizia games are still of this light-to-medium weight as the C-to-C era, e.g. Qin. There are also games like The Palaces of Carrara. If these games came out 6 or 7 years ago, I probably would have been much more interested. Nowadays games that spark my interest are those like Archipelago, Robinson Crusoe, Clash of Cultures, Ora et Labora. Recently when I read the rules to Entdecker (2001) and La Citta (2000), I found that I miss the games from that era. I have played Entdecker before. I suddenly itch to play some C-to-C- era games again. I wonder whether this is the syndrome of pop songs during one's youth being the best. I got into the hobby in 2003, so the C-to-C games are the equivalent of songs that I grew up with.

Taj Mahal

The Settlers of Catan

It is quite ironic that I have a nagging feeling that C-to-C games are better - lean and mean, and not overburdened with superfluous chrome and unnecessary complexity - and yet whenever I come across a game of that style, I can't muster the enthusiasm to read more about it. In the case of Alien Frontiers, I have played it, and liked it, and would happily play again, but I don't make plans to play it again. You can definitely draw an analogy between boardgamers and drug addicts. You may start with simple games, but soon they become unsatisfactory and you need something stronger. After you've played a lot of a certain type of game, you start to feel restless and you need to seek out something different. I've certainly moved from C-to-C games to heavier Eurogames, although I sometimes feel heavier is not necessarily better. It's the need to try something new that drove me to try an 18XX game 18TN, a not-low-complexity wargame Rommel in the Desert, and a CCG game (okay, strictly speaking it's LCG) Android: Netrunner. It is also why I recently bought Conflict of Heroes. So far all these ventures have been successful. I did enjoy myself. I have not really ventured deeply, so there is a lot more for me to explore and learn. I consider myself lucky. There is still a lot of mileage in my boardgaming hobby. There is no shortage of games that I enjoy, whenever I have time and opponents. And I haven't even gone anywhere near RPG's and Go.

Alien Frontiers


The need to try something different helped to create my blind spot over C-to-C games. The other blind spot I have is crowdfunded games (a.k.a. kickstarter games). I do think there aren't many outstanding crowdfunded games, and that's why I rarely bother to read about them, but there are good ones. Alien Frontiers is one. Also Fleet, and Vanuatu (gosh I miss this).


Having fellow gamer friends who also buy games helps to alleviate this blind spot problem. Well, unless they have the exact same tastes as you do. I certainly have been introduced to some very good games only because one of my fellow gamers bought them.

Ultimately, blind spots is not really a big deal. I already have more than enough games to keep me entertained. There are simply too many good games out there and it's impossible to play every single one of them. But I will continue to try to keep an open mind. I won't try to play everything, but being willing to try games that sound iffy means sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Such discoveries are part of how I enjoy boardgaming.


Bay said...

Great observation. I've been feeling the exact same way, described to a tee in your post -- and in fact my playing Qin was one of the triggers. Another recent example was comparing the thematically similar Rialto and San Marco, which also share an area majority mechanic. Rialto layers on special buildings on top of its base mechanic of winning each of the "auctions". San Marco has a more pure feel of relying on its central divide-and-choose mechanic.

__ Eric Martin said...

Definitely, everyone has different tastes in games. But have you tried Palaces of Carrara yet? Amongst the games of the past year, I'd actually say it's shockingly good. A pure Euro that's lean and mean with the advanced rules (which you should start with) and a full set of players.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I have not tried the Palaces of Carrara. I have only read the description. How is it with a lower player count?

James Torr said...

I prefer the "C+C games" (neat term, by the way). Some of it is probably nostalgia, but when it comes to rule sets, I really do think less is more. Lately I've been seeking out some of the classics that I never played back in the early 2000s -- for example, I played Taj Mahal, La Citta, and Stephensons Rocket all for the first time this year, and enjoyed them much more than the Tzolkins and Terra Mysticas that my group tends to prefer. I also played played Palaces of Carrara and enjoyed it, but only one time, with 4 players.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

The more complex games are what most seasoned gamers tend to gravitate towards. I recently played Tzolk'in. It's quite good and I like it. However there's a nagging sameness despite the seldom used theme and the gears, which is best probably best summarised as "multiple paths to victory", a phrase that I love to hate nowadays. And "point salad". Somemtimes with the newer heavy Eurogames it seems they try to throw everything in - buildings with special abilities, tech trees, area majority. I can't help feeling that Tzolk'in could have been leaner.

Anonymous said...

The palaces of carrara plays well with two.