Sunday, February 12, 2012

Making the Out-of-Date Playable Again

I grew up playing games.  These, however, were the typical mass-market offerings for children and families, such as Hi Ho the Cherry-O, Pay Day, Candy Land, Clue, Parcheesi, The Game of Life, Monopoly, and Risk.  After being exposed to the larger world of modern board games, even sentimentality cannot bring me to pull out those same classics with my own family.  There are too many games these days that are better designed and much more fun to play--for children and adults alike.

Sometimes, however, we visit friends who are not familiar with anything outside this limited group of mass-market evergreens.  Many of them are open to learn one of "my games"--not necessarily one I've designed, but something I've brought with me.  But they also usually want to play one of their games, and I don't want to be a snob, so I usually take that as a good compromise.

As a designer, however, I'm always looking at the games I play with a critical eye, wondering whether a few tweaks could bring an old game into the 21st Century, or whether a mechanic or two could be salvaged from a poorer design.

Especially when the game involves almost no decision-making, I can't help myself but to wonder how I could tweak the game--or use the components to make a new game that would actually be "playable" by my standards.

That's what happened once when we were invited to play Mexican Train Dominos.  I had Dominos as a child and remembered it being fun when branching out, tree-like, all over the table.  However, Mexican Train took what I considered it's best element out of the game:  instead, players are simply adding to a single "train" of dominoes, hoping to draw the tile they need, waiting around for the "luck of the draw." Of course, there is a little "catch" in that you can play on other player's trains if they cannot, but you are still completely at the mercy of the tile draw.

I really enjoy network-building pick-up-and-deliver games, and was therefore hoping for more with a game that had "Train" in its title.  So I set out to design a Domino game along those lines.  It resulted in a game that uses Domino tiles as track and also as contracts (one side represents the starting station and the other represents the target station, with the double-Dominos acting as stations).

Yes, I think this would actually be fun for me to play.  The problem is that I've never been able to get my friends to try it.  They still learn new games from me, but whenever I mention "Dominos," they eagerly pull out the Mexican Train bits and convince me to join in.  Ah, well...

At least Risk is getting yet another face-lift, and I might just have to try this "modernization" out.

1 comment:

Peer said...

Well after Paperclip Railways and String Railways, the time should be ripe for a dominoes railways ;-)

(BTW: You can play a trick taking game with Dominioes - its called 42, rules are on the geek)