Author Topic: What do you look for in a game?  (Read 1795 times)

Offline Decar

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What do you look for in a game?
« on: December 28, 2017, 07:46:27 AM »
I thought it might be an interesting topic to look at the top 5 things you look for in a game:

Here's my top 5, at least at the moment:

1. Play time (generally no more than an hour)
2. Intuitive mechanics
3. Depth of Mechanics - ie: can the core mechanic handle expansions or adaptations?
4. Does it work well at 2-player, how does it support more players?
5. Manageable/Mitigating Uncertainty (random events, dice rolls, landscape-discovery)

What are your Top 5 things that draw you into a game and make you stick to them?

Linkback: http://www.carcassonnecentral.com/community/index.php?topic=3726.0

Offline jungleboy

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2017, 10:07:52 AM »
Great thread idea!

I am quite picky about certain things regarding games and my opinions in this thread might not be in the line with the majority. To demonstrate this, I just looked at the BGG top 50 and I have only played four of the games and only own two of them (7 Wonders and 7 Wonders: Duel).

That said, I would have two of Decar's top 5 things in my top 5 as well:

Intuitive Mechanics: Oh, definitely. When I was first expanding out of Carcassonne a couple of years ago, I came across a lot of games where I found the mechanics to be unintuitive to my eyes. Maybe that's because Carcassonne seems so intuitive. I tend to go for light to medium weight games, I dislike unnecessary complexity and I like games to be accessible to everyone.

Play time: Up to 60 minutes is also a sweet spot for me, although I can go to 90 minutes if the game is good enough. If I'm having a game session, I'd always rather play more shorter games than fewer longer games. To hijack this a bit, I don't like the term 'filler' game to refer to a 15-20 minute game. I don't see these games as games just to play between longer or more 'real' games; I can enjoy a good filler just as much as any other game and would gladly play a few fillers in a row.

I'm going to list two others and 'save' my fifth one to see what some other people say!  :green-meeple:

Theme: This is my No. 1 and a tough one for me to explain given my (perhaps) peculiar views, but I'll try. In general, I see board games as an extension of my normal life and other hobbies, so I like themes to fit into that. I spend a lot of time travelling and engaging with history (via books, podcasts and MOOCs), so historical and cultural themes are what I like above all. On the other side of that equation, I don't watch any TV/movies anymore and I'm not interested in sci-fi, space exploration, zombies (sorry Dan) or any of that stuff. And therefore my point of view is: if I choose not to engage with these themes in any other aspect of my life, then why would I want to play a game about them? This does limit me a bit, I suppose, but luckily there are so many games with themes that suit me that it's not an issue.

A related point here is that even though I say theme is very important to me, I don't actually mind if a game is 'thematic' or not; or in other words, so-called 'pasted on themes' don't bother me as long as I like the theme. I have some abstract games in my collection (e.g. Santorini, Medina, Biblios) with pasted on themes and in all cases, what drew me in was the theme even though the theme might not be that 'present' in the game. Some may call this confusing theme with art, and that might be a valid point. But basically, if Santorini (to pick one example) was called Sarajevo and the theme was about snipers climbing to the top of a building to get in position to shoot their enemies, I wouldn't have had any interest in it whatsoever, even if the gameplay was identical.

Artwork/Components: I like a game to have a really nice table presence, and this is also a good way to draw in other people or give someone a great first impression about a game. Sagrada is a recent example of a game that just looks beautiful on the table. If it was exactly the same game with non-translucent dice and less interesting window tile things, then I wouldn't have been nearly as drawn to the game. I recently got the really nice medieval reprint of Battle Line. The original game (ancient Greek theme) has dreadful art so I didn't consider buying it even though I like the designer and thought the game itself looked interesting.


Offline franks

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2017, 09:05:02 PM »
Decar, another nice idea for a thread and would agree and appreciate both the previous submissions.

In my reviews I tend to start by listing the most important game aspects I look at. These items are always laid out on Board Game Geek at the top of the page.

I tend to roughly place them in the following order and I might have snuck in a couple of extra choices.

Game weight/complexity and player count: The first will give me an idea right of the bat how likely this is going to get to the table. Sadly the more complex the less likely I can get others to join in. My sweet spot, according to the BGG standard, is anything under 3.5/5. Under that, I fairly confident this has a chance of hitting my groups. I’m sure I have a few over this rating and they nicely decorate the wall of shame :( As mentioned player count is very important, both the design minimums and ratings. If a game is designed for 3+ I tend to move on unless there are extraordinary aspects to the game. Same with user ratings, a game should at least be recommended for 2 players. Thankfully, since I started the game group at work this has opened this up, (we have 4 regulars).

Mechanisms / Designer: Mechanism might have a slight edge here unless I’m already familiar with the designer. I am instantly drawn to some game mechanics over others. If I’m familiar in advance of the author that will be a strong hint on whether this game might be for me.

Theme and components: Generally I am fan of a strongly thematic game. Even though many games truly have pasted on themes I still find the setting important. I sometimes find it a challenge to get past a theme and just focus on the mechanic. Set a game in Steam Punk and I’m out, set the exact same game in fantasy, sci-fi, farming or history and that works for me :D I wanted to pick up on jungleboy’s thoughts of components, as a stand-alone feature this not a game breaker but the better the components the more likely I am to buy the game.

User comments (on BGG) and reviews: I often look at the user comments straight away as well. Lots of these comments are short impressions and can be somewhat candid. After looking at those, I move onto to more formal reviews.

Over all game ratings: Another major nod here to BGG. These give a fair idea of what the gaming masses think of the game. I look at both the overall board game rating and the segmented rating for; Thematic, Strategy, Family, abstract, etc.

Though this wouldn't be in the top five I wanted to mentioned another aspect that I am drawn to and that is sandbox games. These are games that can be lifestyles in themselves and can be built on. This is a big reason I like Carcassonne, one can add components and many expansions. One can also, relatively seamlessly, add mods such as fan expansions without totally breaking the game while adding interest and replayability.
Franks

Wanna play Carc? Can we add just one more expansion?

Offline Decar

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2017, 01:31:48 AM »
Great reponses so far  :(y)

Bgg's weight metric is a useful one for me too.  I rarely find we have the energy to breach a 3/5 in our household.  It's often hard to judge games that haven't been released yet when the metrics on BGG are skewed or only filled in by fans of the game.  But it works well for mainstream and released titles.

Offline Chooselife

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2017, 02:13:43 AM »
Well my 5cents are in:

My "game group" revolves around a (still not but getting there) non-gamer wife with short to none attention spam for rule explanation, a 5yrs (almost 6) daughter still learning how to gracefully  lose and a 2yrs (almost 3) toddler who just like to hang around the table.

While the topics have no specific order the buy/not-buy will be defined on how they interact with each other:

Theme - Personally I'm not much into horror so even if I had a more mature "game group" anything with zombies, cthulhu or monsterish stuff would have to score high on the other topics to make the cut.
I somewhat avoid to double the themes on games but buying a game just because it as a "friendly", "new" or "exquisite" theme doesn't always work.

Art work - Friendly art work will always create a proximity to the game especially when you play with kids. Some games are also obliged by its own theme to have an above par art work so if they don't they will probably don't make the cut.

Game weight/complexity/fun factor - Any game that takes too much time to learn, explain or where I can't play while teaching the base rules usually won't get any table time, anything with hidden written stuff is also, as you can figure, difficult to put on the table.
If the fun factor is high it can override the weightiness/complexity since it will drive the desire to keep learning/playing it.

Play Time - We usually play on evening, after dinner, when the kids start to slow down or in order for them to slow down but if it takes too long they will get sleepy and start screwing around.
Again theme, art work, fun factor can boost their attention for a few more minutes but I would say that anything beyond 30m to 45m is already pushing it.

Cost - Again a question of balance, if the game is to expensive but I'm sure all the other attributes are spot on I might go the extra pound on it but if a see that it won't get much table time or is to much complex for my "game group" I wont spend a dime.

Heldentaufe - Teens fighting monsters on dungeons... theme might sound off but completely nailed it on the art work and fun factor, kids love it.
Martians - Story of Civilization - Bought it mainly on the space/mars theme and the art work and scenario mechanic looked great. It's so f$$#$ complex that I want to sell it.
Dream Home and "Slide Blast" - Friendly art work, not that complex, fun, simple theme. Bought are family favorites.
The 7th Continent - Way too heavy for the crowd and I knew I would want to play it solo, crazy long play time, impeccable art work, slighlty on the Lovecraft theme, expensive as s$%&. Overall impression....
...
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me, Shall be my brother;

Offline dirk2112

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2017, 05:11:33 AM »
I have to start off by saying how much Theme doesn't matter to me.  If I really think about my favorite games, none have a theme that is interesting to me, let alone most people.  Do you want to build a town in medieval France?  How about opening up a gem shop trying to lure long dead European nobles?  Want to compete to see who can court the Princess from The Tempest?  Want to plant bamboo so a big fat Panda can walk around and eat it? How about curing diseases all over the world? (Actually this one does sound pretty fun).  We just bought Patchwork and I just kickstarted a game where I get to be a museum curator! :(n)  I suppose theme can be a big turn off (someone gave me a Dr Who game that I will never open for example), but I can't imagine it being something that takes a mediocre game and makes it good.  A great game with a bad theme is still a great game.  It is amazing how many of those I have. 

Ok now I will get off my soap box and give my top 5:

1.  Interesting new mechanic / an old mechanic with a new twist.  I already have a couple of set collection games.  In order for me to buy a new one, it must do something unique. For example, Century Spice Road is a great game, but I have other games with the same mechanic, so I won't buy it.

2.  End game - How long does the game go on after a player has won?  If we are playing to 100 points, fine, but don't make us play to some other goal when everyone knows the first to 100 wins 99% of the time.  Games where you can put players out are fine as long as they end soon afterward.  It stinks being the Russian player in Axis and Allies if the Axis players succeed in Operation Barbarossa.  You could be waiting with nothing to do for hours!  For games where players aren't kicked out, can they become king makers because they are so far behind in points?  Games like Ticket to Ride prevent this by having hidden objectives and nobody really knows the true score.  Other games don't bother. 

3.  Ease of use -  This includes 2 aspects.  A) How long does it take to learn or teach the game.  B) How long does it take to set up the game.  Gloomhaven looks amazing, but I realize that I have no interest in putting out and eventually cleaning up all of those components.  Any game with complicated rules is also a non-starter.  A game should take less than 15 minutes to explain and less than 10 to set up. 

4.  Player count - At most, we will have 5 players.  Most of the time, we will only have 2 or 3.  Why on Earth did we buy One Night Ultimate Werewolf?  :-[

5.  Portability - If we like 2 games equally, we will usually go with the smaller of the two.  We like things that take up less shelf space and are portable.  That is why we have Sushi Go and not the larger party edition.  This isn't a major reason to acquire or avoid a particular game, but smaller games are more likely to get purchased.

Offline Decar

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2017, 05:29:42 AM »
Quote
called Sarajevo and the theme was about snipers climbing to the top of a building to get in position to shoot their enemies, 

This does sound pretty good. Though I'd call it 'Enemy at the Gate' and set it in Stalingrad...nothing like a movie tie-in to shift games.

Offline jungleboy

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2017, 09:02:43 AM »
Thanks for your input Mike, interesting thoughts as always!

I suppose theme can be a big turn off (someone gave me a Dr Who game that I will never open for example), but I can't imagine it being something that takes a mediocre game and makes it good.  A great game with a bad theme is still a great game.  It is amazing how many of those I have.

Of course, objectively, a great game with a bad theme is still a great game. But I personally will get much more enjoyment of a game whose theme I like. Just after I posted my answer upthread, I listened to the latest podcast by Joel Eddy of Drive Thru Review. I can't remember the exact context, but he referred to the atmosphere of a game and I believe by this he meant a combination of art and a non-thematic theme or something of that nature. I quite like this term because I think it is a useful way to describe my feelings. So I think I would very much enjoy the atmosphere of Azul, for example, because the art/components are nice and it's a Portuguese azulejo theme which suits me as a resident of Portugal, even if the game is basically abstract. If it was another theme that was less pleasing to me, and the tiles were cardboard chits etc, then I wouldn't like it as much, even though the gameplay itself would be identical. I still like to think about and describe games in terms of what you do, within the theme, in the game - not what mechanisms it contains - so the theme is still the first thing that grabs my attention or puts me off even if I know nothing else about the game.

1.  Interesting new mechanic / an old mechanic with a new twist.  I already have a couple of set collection games.  In order for me to buy a new one, it must do something unique. For example, Century Spice Road is a great game, but I have other games with the same mechanic, so I won't buy it.

Definitely agree there.

I think the appeal about Century: Spice Road (having just received it but not played it yet) is not that it introduces new mechanisms - you're right, it doesn't - but that it takes certain mechanisms like deck-building, resource conversion and shifting market acquisition cost and implements them together in a very simple way. I was just talking with Dan while he was in his PJs about how we both dislike the term 'gateway' because it implies that the end goal should be to quickly move on to complex games, and we don't think that's necessarily true. But I think Century: Spice Road does fit that 'gateway' tag well because it introduces what can be quite complex mechanisms in a very accessible way.

Offline dirk2112

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2017, 10:04:29 AM »
So I think I would very much enjoy the atmosphere of Azul, for example, because the art/components are nice and it's a Portuguese azulejo theme which suits me as a resident of Portugal, even if the game is basically abstract. If it was another theme that was less pleasing to me, and the tiles were cardboard chits etc, then I wouldn't like it as much, even though the gameplay itself would be identical. I still like to think about and describe games in terms of what you do, within the theme, in the game - not what mechanisms it contains - so the theme is still the first thing that grabs my attention or puts me off even if I know nothing else about the game.

The FLGS had a demo out for Azul.  I didn't get a chance to try it, but the workers said it was a good game.  I will check out some reviews and see if it is for us.  We have no family or other connection to Portugal, but like I said up-thread none of that matters.   ;)

I get what you mean by atmosphere.  I just don't think I feel that way about any of my board games.  I have never worked on railroads, civic planning, the CDC, etc so I can only guess at how it would feel to do those things in real life.  I like games as a means of escape, so I may avoid themes and atmospheres that I am accustomed to. 

Offline jungleboy

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2017, 12:46:16 PM »
Game weight/complexity and player count: The first will give me an idea right of the bat how likely this is going to get to the table. Sadly the more complex the less likely I can get others to join in. My sweet spot, according to the BGG standard, is anything under 3.5/5.

I also like using this and my sweet spot is probably between about 2.0 and 3.something. Although I feel that the BGG complexity rating can be misleading sometimes because users aren't asked what they mean with their rating. Some users interpret complexity as ease of teaching and complexity of rules while others think it's about depth of strategy. That has led to a game like Tigris and Euphrates having a complexity rating of 3.53 (the heaviest game I own) but being called a potential gateway game by Joel Eddy because it's actually fairly easy to teach and grasp, but difficult to master.

Offline jungleboy

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2017, 02:55:28 AM »
Regarding the discussion of theme/atmosphere and its importance, an interesting game to use as a 'case study' is Century: Spice Road, with its theme of trading spices along the silk route. The publisher, Plan B Games, also produced Century: Golem Edition, which is exactly the same game but with a different theme and artwork. In Golem, players travel the golem caravan route delivering crystals.

Some BGG users much prefer the Golem game and are disappointed that the two sequels to the game won't have a Golem edition. There is a discussion here where people talk about their preference for one over the other. It's interesting to see how people are passionate about liking one theme or the other even though the gameplay itself is identical, showing that atmosphere is important to them, as it is to me.

(My own preference is for the spices theme because it just fits my theme/atmosphere sweet spot and Golem doesn't. I know many people are sick of themes about spices, trading in the Mediterranean etc, but I still like them.)

Offline Decar

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2017, 02:58:44 AM »
It also explains why you dont like Space games jungleboy......no atmosphere....

Offline dirk2112

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2017, 06:28:55 AM »
Wow there is a Golem edition?  I will be definitely buying that for sure!    ::)  :(n)

Let's say I seriously REALLY LOVED the Golem theme and wanted to buy this game.  I would still buy the Spice Road edition even though I don't care for the theme because it is compatible with future games. 

If the themes were flipped Jungleboy, would you still get Spice Road even though it wouldn't work with future games? 

I did enjoy reading the comments.  There are a lot of people, like Jungleboy, who are all about the theme.  There was a Dirk in there too:
"No remorse. This abstract game is just about getting some coloured stuff, converting stuff to different coloured stuff and spending stuff on things. I love it and don't give a second thought to the theme or pictures. I don't need a playmat either." ^-^
« Last Edit: December 30, 2017, 06:44:22 AM by dirk2112 »

Offline franks

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2017, 07:33:02 AM »
I blame the Millennials! Seriously, maybe this is a generation thing or just the subjective nature of ‘art’.

I’m not drawn to the Golem theme in anyway but had that been the only version I would likely have (grudgingly) bought it.

Clearly the Spice ‘theme’ is more popular and the publisher has good business sense.

Though that playmat is just soooo lovely. (Yes, I'm sure that is very subjective as well!)



I wants my precious ….

I just can’t justify the cost, (over $50 CND) and I’m still miffed that the Canadian based publisher charges in U.S. dollars, Grrrrrr. Anyway I sure they would have just scaled the price up accordingly.

Decar …. Talk about a groaner pun! … I loved it  ;D

Offline jungleboy

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Re: What do you look for in a game?
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2017, 08:21:57 AM »
If the themes were flipped Jungleboy, would you still get Spice Road even though it wouldn't work with future games? 

Yes, I'd say so. I didn't know anything about the gameplay of the next two games when I became interested in it, so in my view it stands alone as an accessible (read: gateway) and smooth game with a pleasing theme. The fact that there are two sequels is a really nice bonus though, especially since they can be combined.


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