Sunday, 5 June 2011

mechanism that don't click

Mechanisms are never the only reason that I like or dislike a game. Let’s get that straight up front. I have never given much thought to whether there are certain game mechanisms that I particularly like or dislike. I recently realised that there are some mechanisms that I tend to dislike. The strange thing is, despite generally not liking certain mechanisms, quite often I find games that I like which use such mechanisms. In fact, there are so many of them that I probably can't even call them exceptions, I probably have to call them big minorities. So I question myself whether I really dislike these mechanisms. On to the rambling...

  • Stock holding - Games where you don't directly control a company (or entity), and instead multiple players can gain stakes in a company. I prefer a more straight-forward ownership model - what's mine is mine, what's yours is yours. Somehow the concept of players being one type of entity, and companies being another, puts me off-balance. Maybe I get too attached to my companies. I think I didn't like Greed because of this, but I was probably also biased by my very poor performance. Chicago Express (especially the iPhone version using the original name of Wabash Cannonball) allowed me to explore the stock holding mechanism. I now understand better how it works. I don't find it particularly fun, but I appreciate how it cleverly creates many interesting interactions among players - leeching others' effort when you are a minority shareholder, intentionally ruining a company when others have a bigger stake in it, etc. I am half hesitant to try 18XX games and Imperial because of the stock holding mechanism. I don't mind it in Gheos though. I guess the many possibilities for dramatic plays in Gheos make up for it.
  • Area majority - This often feels like shifting cubes around and doing an exercise in efficiency. You are often trying to have majority in as many areas as possible while spending as little effort as possible. El Grande felt so-so. Struggle of Empires is OK, maybe because there is the warfare part and also the alliance mechanism. Wars of the Roses is OK, because of the secret-planning and guessing. I love China, and how quick yet clever it is. Yet it is essentially a form of area majority game. I can't explain why I don't mind the area majority here at all. I also like Tikal, Java, and Mexica. Maybe I like how they are very open and allow you a lot of creativity. I like Louis XIV well enough. It's actually also an area majority game. Gosh... I have given more examples of area majority games that I like than those I do not like or am neutral towards. Another one that I like is Die Dolmengotter. Okay, now I really sound like a defendent lawyer presenting incriminating evidence against his client. Wait, San Marco was so-so to me. In the Shadow of the Emperor was alright. The theme lifted it up from just average. Tammany Hall is OK. I feel the story. Dominant Species is just above average for me, I might like it more if not for the area majority.

    El Grande, one of the first (if not the first) area majority game.

  • Blind bidding / secret planning - Sometimes I feel that in such games unlucky guesses can totally ruin your position, so instead of feeling that it's my own fault for assessing other players' intentions incorrectly, I blame luck. Wars of the Roses is guilty of this and area majority, but I still like it. (I think I'm starting to enjoy contradicting myself...) For Sale is a very popular game, but it has never quite clicked with me because of the blind-bidding aspect. Category 5 / 6 Nimmt has this too, but I like it better. Maybe I feel there is more control. I found Grimoire, Fuzzy Tiger and Pirate's Cove so-so. I didn't like Niagara, but simultaneous bidding is not the only culprit. Witch's Brew was OK, maybe because there seemed to be more information avaible to make better guesses, and also it was not as easy to get screwed by bad guesses. I remember I also enjoyed Aladdin's Dragons for the same reason - there is some control and there is a reasonably good basis for making guesses.
  • Deck building - I like Dominion, but never saw it as a very big deal. I have never actively sought to try other deck-building games. There are so many such games now. Dominion is innovative and is very successful. Since I am perfectly contented with just playing Dominion, the many other deck-building games out there just feel unnecessary to me. I don't even bother to read up about them. Admittedly I don't actually dislike deck-building, just that I like it much less than most people.

For games that I do like, I can’t find any similar mechanisms among them. No particular mechanism stands out. No particular theme stands out. I do tend to like heavier games. I like economic games, and games where you build something up, where you feel you have achieved something by the time the game ends. Through the Ages, Agricola, Le Havre, Race for the Galaxy all have these. These are quite general preferences though. I guess to me the mechanism used in a game is just a tool. It is the overall package that is important, not the tool or tools used.

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