Give and Take - Player Interaction
I've recently got into heavier games, such as Brass: Birmingham with my games group, because they help me completely focus on a game, allowing my brain to fully put aside my day-to-day worries and thoughts. I've also started to enjoy games with more player interaction, which encourage everyone to stay focussed on what everyone around the table is doing, rather than just doing their own thing and not being part of the group. However, for me, the best type of player interaction is where you don't just put one over on another person, but where everyone gets something out of it, and in this article, I want to look at those types and what it is I enjoy about them.
Oh, and let's not forget the grandaddy of interactive economic games, Acquire.
Pugnax555 wrote: Oh, and let's not forget the grandaddy of interactive economic games, Acquire.
Acquire is a great game. My dad was obsessed with it, so we played a lot of Acquire when I was a kid. But it's a relatively low-interaction game. Drawing a tile is not interactive. Playing a tile is not interactive unless it triggers a merger. Buying shares of stock isn't interactive. Competing to get a controlling share in a stock is maybe a little interactive, but it doesn't require any discussion or negotiation.
Shellhead wrote: I think my current favorite style of play is semi-cooperative, where players can choose to work together or against each other, and treachery is also possible.
This is kind of what makes Zimby Mojo the treasure that it is. You often have to work together to kill the Chief or at least not work directly against each other. After that, total free-for-all.
Spartacus is chief among them. Merchant and Marauders can be as antagonistic as you would like it to be, but those merchanting captains are choice pickings. Blood Royale has plenty of interaction, and that can be a hindrance if negotiation time periods are not kept under check. Targi, one of the few worker placement games I really like is all about weighing that give and take.
Games without some form of interaction can really bore the pants off of me. Karuba is a notable exception in that area.
I like games about controlling space on a board, whether it's as simple as the spaces in Small World or Root, or as open-ended as X-Wing or Heroscape.
When it comes to economic games, I like auctions and direct trading/deals made between players. I'll take Power Grid or Catan over just about any Euro that gets rid of these features in the name of individual player boards. (These two games are also games about controlling space, incidentally).
I like games with some guesswork or bluffing involved, whether it's as simple as a social deduction game, or trying to create those kind of Princess Bride poison test moments in Race for the Galaxy. In this way I find that hidden information creates player interaction by forcing you to try to guess not only what your opponent is outwardly showing you, but what you can deduce based on what they're not doing. Good CCGs do this too, and get around the 'take that' problem of multiplayer games by there only being one target. Even in those games though, pure control decks that exist simply to tell the other player 'no' over and over again are usually considered to be less fun.
I don't mind take that style play as long as the game isn't overly long. Munchkin could be a fun game if it lasted 20-30 mins. Instead it lasts "forever". I think one of the underrated considerations in some games is 'how long is the thing I am asking people to do fun for?'. Design your game to be that long, then make it stop. People can always play it again.
I prefer lots of player interaction when the game itself is very simple and fast or when player actions affect everyone. The worst (for me) are games where each player turn is a lengthy affair but has no direct impact on others (other than maybe some combat) such that downtime is brutal and some players just zone out and are only required to start planning their moves when they are up, as if they couldn't be bothered to strategize AT ALL until every single turf war on the other side of the map has been resolved.
Multiplayer solitaire is ok for me when the game is complex and it is ultimately a point salad race. Some crossover competition (for resources, worker placement, etc) is fine but if I'm engine building I want to be mostly unmolested. Another big turn off is when I spend 5-10 minutes constructing an elaborate sequence that can be casually derailed by an off hand action of another player... AARRGH! In that case the game needs to be really simple so the "take that" action doesn't hit you too hard.
I'm ok with either luck based player interaction (chucking dice at each other) or pure skill based (planning out power grid city plots) so long as there are decent catch up mechanics for players that get dogpiled. I also dislike games that lead to king making, it's ok to not have 3 player war games