Thursday, May 10, 2012

RESEARCH...or, playing through my collection

Just as it is important to be well-read if you wish to become a good writer, it is also important to play plenty of games if you want to become a good game designer.  When I was first exposed to the hobby--and before I tried designing my own games as an adult--this was not a problem.  There were many gaming groups in Berlin to give me the opportunities, my wife and I did not yet have children, and every game from the past twenty years was new to us.  I also found plenty of classic German games at department store clearance sales and in neighborhood flea markets, and wasted no time snatching them up for the chance to finally try them and catch up with the rest of the hobby.

While I now enjoy designing games just as much as playing them, it has reduced the amount of time I have had to actually play published games.  The collection I've amassed has unfortunately collected too much dust, as my focus has usually been testing prototypes and getting a few plays of a handful of new releases.  You can see all the games from my collection that I have not tried in my online BGG collection: they are marked with a "want to play" comment.

Last year, however, I decided to change that.  At the biweekly game night that I host, I made the resolution to play at least two older games from my collection that I have not yet been able to try.  It has worked out wonderfully, as I've often been able to get three or more of those games out in a single evening.

I was not disappointed by my first plays of classics like Princes of Florence, Goa, and Amun-Re.  I also enjoyed older games like Blue Moon City, Turmbau zu Babel, Bluff, Hamburgum, Emerald, Quo Vadis?, Viva Pamplona!, Lascaux, Reibach & Co., I'm the Boss, and Netzwerk.

I was less impressed with Louis XIV, Das Amulett, and Magellan, and they immediately hit my sell/trade pile.  Other older games I was able to sift out of my collection after the first play were Pueblo, Canaletto, King Arthur Card Game, Risk Dice, and Wizard.

Games that could potentially be traded, but I'm keeping them for now, include: Clash of the Gladiators, Finca, Dolce Vida, Space Dealer, and Uptown.

In addition, I've been able to play several new games from the past two years.  Those that I'll be keeping in my collection are Hanabi, Paris Connection, Master Merchant, Freitag, Freeze, The Resistance, Fresco, Pergamon, Sun, Sea & Sand, & Steam.

Those that did not make the cut--mostly because I have other games that do the same thing--were Space Mission, Walnut Grove, Power Grid: First Sparks,  Mammut and Wurfel Bohnanza.

From my perspective, then, it has been a successful year in playing through my collection--and reducing it significantly.  It has also helped me resist the temptation to buy many of the new releases without trying them first.  And it has given me more of a perspective on the recent history and evolution of board game design, which is very useful research when working on my own creations.

However, I still face a daunting list of games in my collection that have not yet been played.  Most likely, I will trade some of these away before I play them even once, but I will hopefully get a good portion of them to the table in the coming weeks.

Here is my "to do" list:

Multi-Player Board Games:

Die 1. Million
Auf Achse
Black Vienna
Die Bosse
Café International
Catan: Cities & Knights
Colossal Arena
Cosmic Encounter
Der Fliegende Teppich
Formula De
Fussball Ligretto
Geschichten aus 1001 Nacht
Golf Masters
Grosse Geschäfte
Die Händler von Genua
Holiday AG
Im Schatten des Kaisers
Das Letzte Paradies
Die Macher
Die Magier von Pangea
Mare Nostrum
Mississippi Queen
Nexus Ops
Pandemic: On the Brink
Pool Position
Rasende Roboter
Remmi Demmi
Roll Through the Ages
Rückkehr der Helden
Glory to Rome
Die Seidenstrasse
Stephenson’s Rocket
Tigris & Euphrates
Tonga Bonga
Um Reifenbreit
You Robot
Der Zerstreute Pharao

Twilight Struggle
Hammer of the Scotts
En Garde
Mr. Jack Pocket
Die Pyramiden des Jaguar
Tennis Masters

Card games:
Alles Klar
Auf der Pirsch
Im Auftrag des Königs
Das Kollier
Nicht die Bohne!
Robin Hood
Schwein Gehabt!
Stop It1
Vom Kap bis Kairo
Was Sticht?
Die Weinhändler
Wer Hat’s?
Where’s Bob’s Hat?


mattgreen said...

From that list, and playing them to appreciate particular design aspects I humbly suggest the following rise to the top of the pile:

Cosmic Encounter
-does Kreml = Kremlin? If so get it played, it's fantastic
Twilight Struggle
Hammer of the Scots

thay all have some very good design factors that are worth exploring, not that other games on your list don't, just that these games have particularly good ones.

jeffinberlin said...

Thanks, Matt, for the suggestions.

Yes, I would love to get the chance to play those games (otherwise, I would not have bought them!).

I've played a solo game of Agricola to get a feel for the system, but not yet found a group with which to play it.

Hammer of the Scots and Twilight Struggle are both two-player games, and, as you notice from my list, I just don't play two-player games much.

All the games you recommend are very rules-heavy, requiring a lot of preparation time as well as playing time (and you could add Die Macher to this list). Ideally, a fan of those games could teach us, but it is more difficult for me to have to take the time to learn the rules ahead-of-time (and yes, Kreml is the original Swiss version of Kremlin).

Still, I have them because they offer different experiences than a standard "Euro" and I'd like to try them someday. I'm hoping my sons, when they are old enough, will want to play these games with me, and then I'll be able to get more mileage out of the two-player ones as well.

Peer said...

Jeff, we should make a day to play Kreml. I played it as a student and it was always fun, so with a bit of preparing (its been a while after all) I should be able to explain the game.
But we would need time (well, summer month should provifde that for me at least) and players that expect more of a "experience game" than something strategic. :-)

Im surprised you didnt like Amulett - Its one of my favorites and the system is still quite unique (although it does have the disadvantage that you need to know the game to get a feeling what cards are worth it)

jeffinberlin said...

Sounds good, Peer. I'd love to play Kreml with you sometime!

I liked Amulett, and I agree that it's like nothing else I have, but I'm just not sure if it's something I'll get to the table often, and as you said, all the players really need to know the cards in order to have a good game.
It does play quickly, however, as we had a follow-up game right after the first.

mattgreen said...

There is a quickstart guide for Kreml available on boardgamegeek that helped, massively, my group play through our first game. Strongly recommended.

The family game of Agricola strips out most of the rules-heavy procedural play from the game too. It's a good place to start and doesn't take very long.