Making It Suntory Time

Last week, MK and I blew out of town to go hang out with Julian Murdoch for a few days, and the ensuing visit was like a G-rated Swingers: hard drinking, gaming to exhaustion, running around in a forest, playing games with Jen and Peter, dinner with Hasbro’s Rob Daviau and Lindsay Braun, and a surprise visit from the ATF.

OK, that last part isn’t strictly true. But it was pretty awesome nonetheless.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the board gaming strategy scene is far healthier than what we generally have on PC. It’s not that the games themselves are superior, but their variety and playability leaves me envious. So many board games can be fully understood by the end of the first or second turn, while I can play a game like Europa Universalis or Starcraft II for months without really grasping what’s happening underneath the hood. If strategy depends on understanding, then board games get players strategizing almost instantly. With PC games, there tends to be a long, perhaps endless, period of fumbling in the dark before the game becomes clear. Board games have a short run-up from Learning to Fun. PC games tend to play a more dangerous game, promising that more and deeper fun awaits if you’re just willing to play these half-dozen tutorials and wear out your “alt” and “tab” keys  flipping between the game and the PDF manual.

Different platforms, different markets, I know. But still, I love the straightforward trade-offs of Fresco and Agricola, with their cruelly limited number of actions per turn and scant resources. I was amazed at how Formula D, a board game about auto racing, so successfully translated the essence of racing onto a playing field of spaces, dice, and counters. Rob and Lindsay brought over a game, Catacombs, that involved little more than hurling little blocks across a board and stealing turns, but it managed to offer great team play and fast-changing tactics.

On the other hand, board games have it easy because the game’s community is right there in the room with you. Who cares how big the player base is, when all it takes to get a game going is one copy and a couple friends? Board games can court minimalism, and choose oddball themes, because they require so much less of an audience than do PC games.

Beyond that, I also learned valuable information such as: G’vine gin makes a brilliant martini, Suntory’s Yamazaki single-malt is a solid but indistinct scotch, and the new Sherlock is brilliant except for one little problem: the mysteries and plotting are actually not very clever at all, which leaves Moffat’s Holmes looking uncharacteristically dense and careless at times.

Final thought: I love the setting and the themes behind Bioshock Infinite, but I hate the Bioshock branding. More than that, however, I resent a gaming community that complains about branding and lack of “original IP” (a term which adopts the bloodless corporate term for what we used to call an idea) while doing nothing to create an environment that fosters risk-taking and originality.

  1. I get to meet up with and play some games with Julian tonight. What’s the 1 game I should avoid playing with him for fear of my fragile ego?

      • Flitcraft
      • August 18th, 2010 5:55pm

      The great thing about Julian is that he is crap at most games, and easily distracted. He favors quick pace of play to a fault. Don’t worry about Julian. But if Agricola comes out, you really should be careful. He loves that game and has spent a lot of time playing it.

    • Spades
    • August 18th, 2010 5:43pm

    What is the political influence behind Bioshock Infinite anyway? Is it objectivism or communism? Also how is this game a prequel? The premise doesn’t sound like its connected to Andrew Ryan or Rapture. It looks interesting nonetheless.

      • Flitcraft
      • August 18th, 2010 5:56pm

      The connection to Bioshock is being kept under wraps for now. Couldn’t shed light on that. But the political influence? Go listen to the GWJ Conference Call this week and last. Levine gets into the time period he is evoking. It’s a good listen.

    • Spades
    • August 18th, 2010 9:03pm

    Why do that? I simply went on good ole wikipedia and searched up the game. Apparently the political influence is American exceptionalism. In a nutshell it is a American extreme right-wing ideology. The game is pretty much Nazi Germany in the sky.

    • Why? Because listening to Ken Levine talk about his game at length is far more satisfying then a Wikipedia article can be. It’s also probably better information though you might get more interesting speculation from Wikepedia on the things Levine won’t talk about.

      Also, if you’re a gamer you should already be listening to the fantastic podcast Gamers with Jobs always put on, you do yourself a disservice not to be.

    • Stormwaltz
    • August 19th, 2010 7:36pm

    You may have already seen it, but I’ll leave this here anyway….

    http://xkcd.com/778/

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