The Meta-game Hot

Trickykid     
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Yesterday it struck me, right in the middle of a marathon 8-hour session of
Twilight Imperium 3 (in which for the 3rd time in a row the same annoying bloke whipped my backside with some very effective psychological warfare and epic-scaled whining, what I like so much about American games: the meta-game. Yes, I was losing my fleets rapidly, and despite the fact this guy kept hitting me with his cosmic boobs (his self-dubbed synonym for the feared warsuns)...for some strange unlogical reason I seemed to enjoy the session tremendously.


Let me explain: Apart from the fact I was brought up on a diet of banana-mousse and East European fairytale-movies dubbed in German I am actually Surprisingly stable (at least my shrink thinks so) and like any other person I hate to lose like that, especially after spending 7 freakin' hours to build an impressive fleet. But what TI3 and some other AT-classics seem to confirm for me is that well designed games are more than an elegant system filled with streamlined mechanics. It's above all an open architecture, allowing players to create a complementary game: A meta-game, filled with hectic conversations, passionate threats and as the guy next to me proved with fierce conviction for the 3rd time, epic whining. 

Call me crazy, heck, call me Jean-Pierre, but that's exactly what I search for in games. Euro or Ameri, it doesn't matter...if it has heavy interaction amongst players and generates allot of casual and not so casual conversation (extensive talk about the importance of good storage boxes is a bog plus) it will surely land on my wantlist sooner or later. Naturally a cool-sounding title like Full Metal Planet helps, unlike "Das gröbe Deutsche Politik-spiel" or "Händler von Bayern gehen sofort suruck in der stadt".  And this brings me to the opposite of a lively evening of TI3: the feared eurosnoot-gathering.

While I don't consider myself a connaisseur on the subject I have made the mistake in the past of accidentally attending one of those game nights that attract only the purest of eurogamers. You know the type: they always wear polo shirts and listen (without exception, it's scary) to either the name Frank, Steve, Serge or Gunter and think Space Hulk is a sci-fi-channel-spin-off of the legendary Lou Ferringo series.

Gaming is equal to: sitting at a table gathered in silence, staring at their playing boards that look like an excell-sheet, and only showing a faint smile when the box they just opened contains more wooden bits than an average-size Ikea kit.  

I once made the mistake of taking my copy of Arkham Horror to one of these
hellish matinees. A Frank came to me, without a doubt the leader of the pack since he wore a polo-shirt and a National Geographic approved set of shorts. He looked at my gamebox and asked if it used an auction-mechanic since he loved that more than anything. For a single glimpse of a second I was ready to tell him it was a game about a bunch of reckless investigators fighting against a horde of slimy monsters invading a small American town spreading doom, closing intergalactic portals to other dimensions and battling a devastating übermonster in an action-packed gun-tottin' epic finale, but I heared myself telling him "no, it's a mathematical abstract" in an attempt to avoid a long pointless conversation to what he surprisingly replied: "Oh...cool". 

That said, I like my euro now and then. Catan had definitely trapped me in its sweet sugary spell
for years and lately I am not afraid to admit Agricola was a pleasant discovery, despite the fact it's about farming and has a sheep with rabies on the front of the box with no guns in sight. In fact, lately I find myself buying all sorts of euro-classics I shamelessly neglected in the past. Yet, somehow I already know this interest is going to fade eventually, as for every Puerto Rico there seems to be 150 sleep-inducing auction games about power-struggle in the Renaissance with a board that looks like an Excell sheet. 

No, my bet is surely on the hybrid. A game that combines the elegant transparent rules of the euro with a generous portion of
rich thematic American-style flair. Fantasy Flight Games is surely on the right track to become the leader in this field. While Starcraft was a small disappointment (2803 components for nothing more than an upgraded Risk-variant?) I think TI3, A Game of Thrones and Fury of Dracula prove that the future lies in epic-scope games with lots of variation and a healthy dose of non-predictable elements generated by the players themselves. In short: Long live the hybrid!  

As a side-note to Frank who is undoubtly now reading the rules
to a German game about a fish market in the middle ages: try Arkham Horror as an off-beat filler between two Knizia auction games on your upcoming Halloween game night. It might possibly scare you more than a disappearing goods-cube on your farmyard and will make it so much easier to detect traitors amongst your pack of so-called diehard eurosnoots. Love those shorts thought...
The Meta-game There Will Be Games
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