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The Emperor's New Games
We all have a soft spot for the latest and greatest board game that's coming out next. After all, it'll be better and more wonderful than the game that came before it, or so we're told. We are entranced by the playthroughs, we gawp at the beautiful components and we imagine how much fun we'll have playing this amazing new game. Yet, sometimes these new games aren't actually that new and we're too blind to see it. So in this article, I want to explore what this means for us, as the board game buying public. (This topic was inspired by the always wonderful Bez.)
ubarose wrote: Oliver is right. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a newexperience, so you get a new game. I’m feeling that way now, after not playing anything new in several months. I’m glad Barnes copy of Bunny Kingdom arrived this week.
But still a few months to go before Etherfields arrives for you ... now THAT will be a new experience (I even late pledged for it in December )
I do the BGG Math trades to get different tastes in ... and buy too much new shit .
But I've sort of realised that stuff is a bit new clothes like. As in, those differences - or the differences created by different mixes of mechanisms or theme - are often overstated. What's at the core? That's more important to me, but even then many cores are pretty similar to each other. At the core of a modern euro is layered complexities of min max optimisation; really, I only need one of those to get that feel when i want it. And the same could be said for lots of other "cores". I only really need one Pax to do its core of interactive engine thing.
But ss Oliver says, when you LOVE that core you want more of it. I wonder how many of us kid ourselves a bit though - " no no no this is different. It has different action selection spaces". If we loved that core enough, genuinely, if it was that good- wouldn't one or two be enough?
Of course, just like we might be chasing that core feeling, for many that exploratory feel is the core feeling they are after, which means new games with tiny differences.
All of this is fine or whatever, people want different things. It has all been observed before too. But for me I have got some core things I really like and far too many games doing those things. So when I see a new game doing that core thing, it's mostly, I'm good, dont need it.
The ONE fly in the ointment though? The idea that THIS one will be the one that hits at the core things I like AND will really capture the imagination of the family so I get to play it all the time. That's the chink in the armour.
CAPTAIN SONAR, which I got for an 8-player experience this summer when we head to Cape Cod for post-vax vacation.
THE INITIATION: CoreyK's new game that has some amazing Legacy co-op cool thing happen in the middle somewhere. (no spoilers please)
1. More of the Same. Either an expansion of a game that I already have and enjoy, or a similar-looking game by designer or publisher that I already like. Recent examples: Blackstone Fortress: Escalation, Cursed City, a bunch of expansion stuff for Marvel Champions.
2. Something Better. Every once in a while, I will see a game that looks like it does something similar to a game that I already have, only better. Recent example: Masters of the Night, which takes a lot of standard co-op game stuff and does it very well with efficiency.
3. Something Different. My favorite type of game to acquire is a game that offers a singular experience, unlike anything else in my collection. Recent examples: Magic Realm, Sleeping Gods.
In my experience, the Something Different acquisitions are the ones most likely to become shelf toads. Sometimes a game is just too different from what interests my friends, or else requires more of a buy-in, like a long play time or considerable complexity. I have learned to consider carefully who will play a Something Different game with me, so it's great if there is a viable solitaire mode. Because of the pandemic, every game that I bought in the last 15 months is also a good solitaire game.