Wednesday 15 August 2007

Gaming as a Social Experience

Finally played a four player version of Tresham's Revolution: the Dutch Revolt . It isn't a simulation of the 80 years war, but more of a "high level"/strategic game of influence, economics, armies, and religion. Revolution rewards long term planning. And it captures the historic theme good enough for me.

Although in the game I played the Reformers and the Burgers weren't getting along well. Those Reformers wanted the same provinces and towns I did and at the same time. Historically Burgers supported the reformation, but not in this game. It was a game long fight between our 2 factions.

There was a huge fight in Holland between the burgers and the reformers. Burgers eventually won Holland with an army build-up. Plus a stalemate between our armies in the north (Friesland, Groningen, and Drenthe) which was eventually resolved by Calvinist support in Friesland overwhelming the assistance the burgers got from the Huguenots.

A fight with the Reformers is usually the last thing the Burgers want. The whole game ended with the map still split between the four groups. The Hapburgs were on the ropes, after losing a lot of ground to Burgers and Reformers (who weren't just attacking the poor Burgers). But the last turn saw the Hapsburgs grabbing enough points to put them in second ahead of the Reformers and just behind the Burgers.

I had a fun time, but then again I played the Burgers.

Monday 6 August 2007

Theme in Games

Cat viewing Industrial Waste board
Game theme is a highly subjective game attribute, but I think theme is part of the immersion of a game.

Immersion is when the game stops being rules, wooden bits, cards, cardboard, and so on and becomes something more. RPGs seem to be inherently thematic and immersive.

Without immersion you are just sitting around a table talking and rolling dice (not much of a "game" there isn't even a winner); RPGs are enjoyable games because of the immersion. And they acchieve this immersion via theme (plus social aspect of game).

Game theory seems to be unable to fully describe RPGs
, but narrative theory does deal with RPGs. The more narrative based a game is the more each move in the game can be narrated.

Industrial Waste is very much a game theory game, but it also has some narrative. Each move is fairly dry. For example
I recently played a two player game of Industrial Waste. I was the yellow company and my opponent was red. The red company's logo is NiN (industrial bands for industrial waste).

I went second. Action cards were dealt face up into 3 piles of three cards each (no duplicates allowed in a pile). The opposing company, NiN, picked up a pile containing Growth, Innovation, and Order. I took the pile with Order, Raw Materials, and Waste Removal.

NiN played growth moving up to 15 million Euros for a completed order (game ends once a company reaches 20 on the growth track).

I played my raw materials card to auction off 5 goods. The auction in this game goes once around the table. NiN bid 5 million Euros and I raised it to 6 million winning the auction. Since I called the auction and won the 6 million went to the bank. If I'd let NiN get the goods, I would have taken their 5 million bid for myself (person who starts the auction gets the money).
But at a high level:
I played Industrial Waste again. I warned the other player repeatedly about the disadvantages of non-stop pollution in the game, but he filled up all of his waste storage area, and couldn't run his factory any more. He tried bribes to keep things quiet after pollution related accidents plagued his plant, but all the money wasted on bribery plus the inability to produce put him in a poor position for the end game.
Chess and Go are immersive because of the level of thought involved, but there's no real narrative (hence, no theme from my point of view). Theme isn't critical for an enjoyable game.

A well themed game is one where you can tell a story about what happened afterwards, and that's inherently immersive for me.

Thursday 2 August 2007

Hollywood Blockbuster

If you haven't played Hollywood Blockbuster (or Traumfabrik as the original game was called) then you are missing out on a lot of fun.

My enjoyment is mainly from the theme. Producing movies is so much fun. Without the theme it would be just an auction game. You start with a few screen plays which could be made into movies. Each screenplay has some requirements: actors, directors, and so on. The items needed to complete movies are available at auctions and parties.

The game rewards both speed and quality. However, it is hard to make good movies fast, and you frequently have to choose between one and the other.

I've always been fascinated by closed economies (no bank to inject more currency into the system). And this is an auction game in a closed economy. The amount of currency (called contracts) in circulation is fixed at the start of the game (based on the number of players). Contracts are points at the end of the game; the game rewards people who manipulate its economic system.

But the thing I remember after playing is the films actually produced like The Lord of the Bling starring Jack Nickledime, Demi Less, and Christopher Walkon directed by Quint N. Tarantula.