×
Coming the Week of July 15th (12 Jul 2019)

Seal Team Flix and Campy Creatures Reviews, a second look at Tiny Towns, Brainwaves Podcast on Megagames, Tank & DPS News and more TBA.

A Seat at the Table: Serious Games

More
19 Mar 2019 00:00 #294014 by JonathanVolk
 
1. Serious Games Criticism
Is Gloomhaven the best board...

Jonathan Volk continues with Episode 2 of A Seat at the Table,looking at gaming’s obsession with serious, “complex” games. The first episode, “Playtime”, can be found here.

Read more...
The following user(s) said Thank You: Frohike, Colorcrayons

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 08:34 - 19 Mar 2019 08:35 #294015 by Jackwraith
It's interesting to me to discover that based on Vatvani's analysis, I don't own and, in fact, have never played any of the "top 15" games on BGG (Yes, I've played Pandemic, but not the Legacy versions.) I haven't read his article, so I don't know what went into his assessment of either complexity or bias. I do like complex games but I'm also a huge Go fan and a fan of games like Neuroshima Hex, neither of which are complex, but both of which possess great depth.

I also spend precious little attention on the opinions of "influencers." I don't really care what Vasel thinks about a game. I'll occasionally watch one of his reviews (and used to read them...) but mostly to get information about a game, rather than to take his opinion into account. That said, I did go back and watch his review of Portal's Cry Havoc recently and was surprised by the fact that most of the reasons that he listed for why he LOVED the game mirrored my own. Is that a factor of Tom's opinions matching mine or that Michael Oracz's designs have broad appeal and heightened specific appeal to a certain audience? (Due credit to Grant Rodiek here, as well.)

(BTW, I think you mean "wreaking" here: "... kaiju reeking chaos in Tokyo...", although depending on the kaiju in question, they certainly could be reeking and causing chaos, as as result. Smog Monster incoming: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla_vs._Hedorah )
Last edit: 19 Mar 2019 08:35 by Jackwraith.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Frohike, JonathanVolk

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 09:04 #294018 by hotseatgames
You must tell me, where can I purchase some of this neu water?
The following user(s) said Thank You: JonathanVolk

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 09:16 #294019 by Legomancer
The "complexity for its own sake" trend has hit full force of late, with stuff by Stefan Feld and Vital Lacerda constantly getting praise. To me, Uwe Roseberg's best game is probably Bohnanza, because it's a fairly simple game which entertains by giving you tough decisions to make in its small space. I've little interest in his sprawling, wheels-within-wheels other games.

You can count on me to always take a small problem and expand it to a Problem With Geeks and this is no exception. I feel as though a lot of games have moved out of "games you play" and into "games you solve". Not "solve" in the traditional sense, but where the play against others is simply a contest of who unravels the board state fastest so they can exploit it sooner. Satisfying this and the urge for novelty means many new releases are just "New York Times Crosswords Vol 27" -- literally more puzzles of the same time to solve and then move on from.

This, to me, coincides with a strange desire for media, particularly TV and movies, to be similarly solved instead of enjoyed. TV shows aren't seen as a creator working to entertain an audience but a challenge for the audience to "beat" the creator by figuring it out first. In movies as well, what happens in any particular movie seems to be less important than what we think may be happening in the next installment.
The following user(s) said Thank You: HiveGod, Jackwraith, Frohike, Colorcrayons, GorillaGrody, Vysetron, JonathanVolk

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 09:26 - 19 Mar 2019 09:30 #294021 by jpat
Arguably the problem is rating and ranking itself, which, whether we filter by complexity or ease or box size, still just privileges one hierarchy over another, and generally arbitrarily.

One (compound) reason for a complexity bias is the gatekeeping/status-establishing role of complex games and the novitate's journey from gateway game to brain burner. It's also probably a reaction--overreaction?--to the experience of playing "bad" mass-market games such as Monopoly and Risk, which, whatever their merits, aren't thinky games in the modern sense.

But while I may have been conditioned by BGG to feel this way, I do like much of what's valorized by the top 100 on BGG. It's biased toward the heavy, but it also doesn't to me feel arid or themeless. There's certainly reason to question the "more is more" approach, but that's not about complexity per se.
Last edit: 19 Mar 2019 09:30 by jpat.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Jackwraith

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 11:32 - 19 Mar 2019 11:32 #294029 by GorillaGrody
This was fun to read. Another great article, Jonathan.

Gloomhaven might have been my moment, the one where the excitement of owning it carried me through a few different plays, and where the other players and I kept looking at each other and saying "this is great." Then looking at each other. "Yeah, okay, this is great, right?" Then we put it down for a month or two (bad sign) and started it again. "This...is not great?" "Yes, I definitely think this is not great." That's the moment I had, the moment I probably should have had about 10 overhyped games ago. My subsequent reassessment began by pretty much banishing anything with AI upkeep.

(My two exceptions are Pandemic, which I keep for good reasons, and Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, which I keep for reasons of being the type "overweight hoarder of things").
Last edit: 19 Mar 2019 11:32 by GorillaGrody.
The following user(s) said Thank You: JonathanVolk, n815e

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 11:41 #294030 by ubarose
It took me forever to read this article because I had to keep stopping to catch my breath from laughing.
The following user(s) said Thank You: jeb, JonathanVolk, RolandHemisphere

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 11:43 #294031 by GorillaGrody

Legomancer wrote: The "complexity for its own sake" trend has hit full force of late, with stuff by Stefan Feld and Vital Lacerda constantly getting praise. To me, Uwe Roseberg's best game is probably Bohnanza, because it's a fairly simple game which entertains by giving you tough decisions to make in its small space. I've little interest in his sprawling, wheels-within-wheels other games.

You can count on me to always take a small problem and expand it to a Problem With Geeks and this is no exception. I feel as though a lot of games have moved out of "games you play" and into "games you solve". Not "solve" in the traditional sense, but where the play against others is simply a contest of who unravels the board state fastest so they can exploit it sooner. Satisfying this and the urge for novelty means many new releases are just "New York Times Crosswords Vol 27" -- literally more puzzles of the same time to solve and then move on from.

This, to me, coincides with a strange desire for media, particularly TV and movies, to be similarly solved instead of enjoyed. TV shows aren't seen as a creator working to entertain an audience but a challenge for the audience to "beat" the creator by figuring it out first. In movies as well, what happens in any particular movie seems to be less important than what we think may be happening in the next installment.


This! All of this. And I see this mania for solve-and-consume cascading down into many things for which there is some sane, ordinary but nebulous object (like "make art" or "learn something" or "spend time with friends") and towards which the object becomes stressful and neurotic ("win at art" or "attend the best school" or "beat your friends"). I can think of a few dozen healthy, pointless activities of which people are always asking what's the point?
The following user(s) said Thank You: Frohike, JonathanVolk

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 12:10 #294033 by JonathanVolk
When I returned my copy of Caverna for store credit, and watched as the salesperson patiently counted all ten thousand pieces for two hours (seriously), me sitting in silence so as not to interrupt her counting, I kept thinking about death, and the useless iterations of meeples and resource chunks that haunt us solidly. When she finished counting, she looked up and smiled and said, “All here! I can give you $7 in store credit.”

“I paid $100 and never played my copy.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m not sure I want to sell it to you now. I had no idea it would be worth so little, I—“

“Are you serious?” she said, the look in her eyes the look when someone feels profoundly that they exist in time and that that time belongs to them, and that others exist in time too, and of course their time is theirs too, and that we are constantly trading our time with others’, and that the exchange rates generally suck.

“I’m sorry. I had no idea it would take so long.”

“There are ten thousand pieces to count.”

“I’m sorry.”

“$7.”

“Ok.”

“Ok.”
The following user(s) said Thank You: ubarose, Frohike, cdennett, GorillaGrody, Vysetron, n815e

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 12:32 #294036 by RolandHemisphere
This was posted to Reddit and, as you might have guessed, you made a lot of heads explode. Gloomhaven fans have very thin skins and are too busy playing the game to read the entire piece. It's pretty funny.

Really engaging article. #thanksthanks
The following user(s) said Thank You: ubarose, Frohike, GorillaGrody, JonathanVolk, n815e

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 12:55 #294038 by JonathanVolk

This was posted to Reddit and, as you might have guessed, you made a lot of heads explode. Gloomhaven fans have very thin skins and are too busy playing the game to read the entire piece. It's pretty funny.


Something tells me the Vertigo superfans (Vertigoalies?) would be kinder.
The following user(s) said Thank You: RolandHemisphere

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 13:05 - 19 Mar 2019 13:09 #294039 by ubarose
I think that complexity is a combination of a number of things:

Depth
Fiddliness
Amount of Rules (which creates the learning curve)
Opacity
Player Interaction

You can have a game with a lot of rules, but if the rules are all pretty intuitive it can quickly go from seeming complex to being rather straight forward. However, it may require that you play it several times to get to that point.

Personally, I think other players are the biggest contributor to complexity and depth. The more player interaction you have in a game, the more complex, deep and interesting the game is. People are more complicated than anything that can be designed. Therefore, I don't find Gloomhaven particularly complicated or interesting. Just kind of slow and fiddly.

However, many of the gamers I know equate opacity with complexity. If there is a lot of crap layered onto a game such that it obscures the core game engine, it gives the illusion of complexity and depth. They also very much enjoy "solving" the game by trial and error. They will hate you if you pull back the veil and expose the mathematical engine to them. I learned this the hard way when I lost patience with the length of time it was taking people to make purchase choices in a game with multiple currencies and blurted out, "It's just division. Convert to a common currency and divide by the number of victory points; buy the least expensive victory points." We never played that game again because I had "ruined it forever."
Last edit: 19 Mar 2019 13:09 by ubarose.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shellhead, jeb, Jackwraith, Frohike, Colorcrayons, JonathanVolk

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 13:14 #294042 by JonathanVolk
Ubarose writes,

Personally, I think other players are the biggest contributor to complexity and depth. The more player interaction you have in a game, the more complex, deep and interesting the game is. People are more complicated than anything that can be designed.


Perfectly said. This is why I’ve developed a near-allergy to games with solitaire-like mechanics and minimal interactions. It’s like a bunch of people taking separate submarines to the bottom of the ocean with really complicated Rubik’s cubes, and, after a predetermined amount of time, surfacing to see how all the other submarines did. Deep isolation.
The following user(s) said Thank You: ubarose, Frohike, Colorcrayons

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 14:00 - 19 Mar 2019 14:16 #294048 by RobertB
Regarding #1: Is there even such a thing as formalized board game criticism vs. board game review? Because 99.9% of what's out there in all fields is review. For example, some reviewers hate minimal-player-interaction games, and some love them. But I rarely see any reviewer get beyond hating Submarine Rubik's Cube to explain why it works so well if you like it.

Re. #2: BGGs difficulty ratings are every bit as arbitrary as their game ratings. There's no kernel of objectivity to be found there. Just prefix throwing that rating around with, "BGG rates it...", or better yet, "BGG rates it x, but I hate <insert game category here>," and you'll be fine.
Last edit: 19 Mar 2019 14:16 by RobertB.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
19 Mar 2019 14:18 #294050 by Jackwraith

JonathanVolk wrote: Perfectly said. This is why I’ve developed a near-allergy to games with solitaire-like mechanics and minimal interactions. It’s like a bunch of people taking separate submarines to the bottom of the ocean with really complicated Rubik’s cubes, and, after a predetermined amount of time, surfacing to see how all the other submarines did. Deep isolation.


Multiplayer solitaire. There are a lot of games like that, such as Race for the Galaxy. You're solely concerned with your engine and almost nothing anyone else does has any impact on the construction of your engine. It's a fine line for some, though. There are people here who think Race is fine and the changes that some expansions have made to it that occasionally force interaction are the tipping point into acceptability. I'm not on board. I like the elegance of the whole design, but I play games with people in the room to play with those people. If I want to do my own thing, I can play a lot of video games. I think Terraforming Mars evaded this problem with a quite similar design by having the communal board with global (ahem) effects that change the way various players' engines function. But it's still pretty limited in terms of interaction.

I've had the argument made to me that Villainous is multiplayer solitaire because of how disparate the various characters and their win conditions are. I've argued back that the Fate decks in that game offer a form of direct interaction that's actually essential to some of those win conditions, so there's no way to properly play the game without interaction. It does require a social impetus, though, which many other games don't have or need.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shellhead, Frohike

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Moderators: Gary SaxFrohike
Time to create page: 0.319 seconds