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Play Matt: Wavelength Review
After me, the next member of the household to see Wavelength is the dog, and she doesn’t like it. It contains an extraordinary plastic device that stands up in the box. Around the rim of the device is a wheel that makes a pleasing clickety-clack noise as it turns. Except it doesn’t please the dog. She comes running around the corner, skidding on the floorboards and barks at it until it’s put back in the box and the box is put back on the shelf.
I liked this one a lot too, although we never played it with two. Like Codenames, this was one that often came out at the end of my game meetups, but could see it working with a variety of other people.
BUT it has a somewhat glaring flaw in that the rules themselves don't do a great job of scaffolding you up to how to play it "right". If you just say the scale, give a clue, and then collectively guess, it isn't really anything special. It shines blindingly bright when you're breaking down the nature of what it means to be "hot" or what it is to be permanent, and while it seems obvious to some of us, I was absolutely shocked to see people who just totally didn't play that way at all and thus thought the game sucks.
We've been trying to do something that encourages conversations like this but that makes it more apparent that's what you're supposed to do, and it's really fucking hard!
Also I’ve played a couple of times at work and the need to not be particularly offensive definitely held us back. Playing with a group of folks where you can be somewhat less reserved makes the game work best. As an example, I work in tech and the scale that came up was “underpaid to overpaid”. With a diverse group of folks from different disciplines and backgrounds that clue was an absolute poisoned chalice. The indicator was towards overpaid so I went with a clue of “Us”. They didn’t get it.
charlest wrote: This is a brilliant game. With a group willing to really dig into the discussion, I don't think I'd rather play anything else for this style of design.
Personally, I think I prefer Decrypto. I like the way you have to try and give clues without alerting the other team and the fact that they, in turn, have their own meta-puzzle to solve. But since the rest of my family disagree, it hasn't seen as much table time as I'd have liked to check.
Codenames is a slightly meatier game, but it's less fun, not least because thinking of good clues is really difficult and becomes dead time during play. With Wavelength it's much easier, if you're struggling for a clue, to just pitch in and hope for the best.
I think Matt Fantastic's comment there, about how the rules don't scaffold you to play it right, is interesting... because, well, how could the rules do that? Would saying "all clues should be discussed, and the motivations and mental and emotional capacities of the clue giver interrogated rigorously" really do the job? I kind of feel like it rests on the players with something like this; if players can't see that that the most fun is going to be had out of discussion, maybe the game is not for them anyway, sort of thing.
I feel like maybe as well, this is the kind of game that the non-gamer is likely to just understand that implicitly with. Like, if all you've played is pictionary "THAT'S NOT A HORSE!!!" or scattegories "NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE JOEY JOE-JOE JEREMIAH!! or even Scrabble "SHAZAM IS NOT A WORD" arguing is part of this kind of game.
mc wrote: I think Matt Fantastic's comment there, about how the rules don't scaffold you to play it right, is interesting... because, well, how could the rules do that?
I feel like maybe as well, this is the kind of game that the non-gamer is likely to just understand that implicitly with.
I find this whole aspect of game rules fascinating. Because you're right, there's a huge gulf here between what a hobbyist thinks of as "rules" and what regular players think.
The latter group know full well that you've also stated a truth in saying that it's hard to impossible to cover all the bases with a rulebook and that a lot of this stuff is implicit in the setup of the game and in social conventions. The former group, some of them at least, get quite angry if rules are not comprehensive and don't dictate how you're supposed to approach the game. There are folk who even go looking for obscure exploits that would hardly ever come up in play, and will shout the game is "broken" because they're not covered.
I mean ... why would you do that? One of my favourite things is playing one of these looser games with a group and seeing how they've chosen to interpret that looseness, and whether it improves or spoils the game compared with the way I interpreted it. In some extreme cases - like Hanabi - it can feel like an entire new game. It's wonderful.
So in the case of Wavelength, there isn't inherently anything within the game system to make it particularly more effective a strategy to spend a while debating and discussing the weird nuances vs just taking a quick gut check and going for it. A lot of players will still naturally end up doing the deep dives, but there are a shocking number of players who just do not see it on their own yet they play through the game system successfully and have no idea there is this whole deeper layer.