Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Playing Games Wrong

Reading the header, you might assume I mean playing games with the
wrong rules. I don't mean that at all. I've observed occasionally
that people (including myself) are just playing a game wrong. All the
rules are right, but something else is wrong. Sometimes it is a
matter of thinking too much or thinking too little. Other times, a
particular strategy is ignored. Others, the game is treated too
seriously, or too lightly.

Obviously, the best way to avoid this is to play with others who have
"played right" before, but this isn't always possible. It struck me
as obvious that Apples to Apples should never be treated as a serious
strategy game, but I've seen people play it that way. Unsurprisingly
it isn't fun. In a similar vein, Space Beans is best played fast.
Play slowly and it's not so great. Princes of Florence, played with
players who aren't aware of the relative value of jesters and
landscapes can create a very "wrong" game.

In others "wrong" is a matter of perspective. There are two styles
I've observed to playing Sticheln: "nasty" and "selfish". If everyone
plays with one style, it works great. If some people play "nasty" and
others "selfish", usually one of the "selfish" players wins, and the
others lose, and the "nasty" player gets to play kingmaker. Modern
Art is often the same way. I've played both "high" and "low" games of
Modern Art, where the prices tend in the eponymous direction. If you
get a mix of "high" and "low" players, the game can be very
unsatisfying. Can't Stop benefits a lot from trash talk, but one
player trash talking and everyone else not is just weird.

Some "wrong" ways of playing aren't so wrong, and some of them can be
fixed with minor mechanical changes. Vinci is one of my favorite
examples here. Even played "wrong" this is a great game, but the
"wrong" way to play (in my opinion) usually ends up with players
bogging down in the last round or two trying to squeeze every last
point of delta they can out of their position relative to the leaders.
Played in a much more free-wheeling manner, this game is even more
fun. A simple rules change of playing with hidden scoring
dramatically changes the style of play in these final rounds, and in
my opinon, for the better.

There's a few games that I think I must be playing "wrong".
Katzenjammer Blues, for example, I'm missing all the fun and most of
the game, and I usually like Knizia games. What's the story here?
I guess session reports help too. Maybe I'll try Katzenjammer Blues
again some day, but until then I'll keep playing with others to avoid
playing "wrong".

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