Thursday, January 18, 2007

Unplayed Games in the Top 50

For the most part, I love to try new games. I like being exposed to new styles of games, new mechanics, and having to think in different ways. I have no compulsion to like what others like, but I do like to compare my tastes to others'. A recent discussion of the reprint of Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage got me thinking about his very thing. Here I discuss every game in the BGG Top 50 that I have not played, as well as my interest level (out of 10):

Battlelore (interest level: 0)
I just simply dislike the M44 system of letting your cards telling you want you can do and what you can't do regardless of how obvious a move you have. However, even if you could completely choose your actions, like in a real wargame, the system is too simplistic for me to enjoy. If I was locked in a room with only Battlelore for a month, I would not play it. I'd rather talk about paint drying.

Twilight Struggle (interest level: 9)
I only played 1 turn of this online. The experience was soured by the terrible implementation. The graphics are excellent, but the usability is poor. A friend is picking this up soon, so I'll get the play face-to-face.

Age of Steam (interest level: 9)
I love Railroad Tycoon, and I'd love to try its big brother. I've ignored it for too long because the rules were never available. Some day I'll meet someone who owns a copy. So who owns the rights to Age of Steam anyways?

Commands & Colors: Ancients (interest level: 0)
See Battlelore.

War of the Ring (interest level: 8)
I actually have access to someone who owns this game. They have even spray-painted the figures to match the colors of the home regions. This game is certainly not a typical one for me to like, but some of the mechanics sound very fun. Now it's just a matter of setting aside a day...

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (interest level: 7)
It's clearly a very hyped and sought-after game, even more so now with the announced Valley Games reprint. I really dislike cardboard figures in plastic stands; that would keep me from ever buying it. But I'll try someone else's copy.

Paths of Glory (interest level: 3)
I've really just never looked into this. I guess if I'm going to play a long wargame with cardboard counters, I'd rather play something squad-level.

Hammer of the Scots (interest level: 5)
I'm only moderately interested in block games since my experience with Wizard Kings. I am also one of the few people I know who thought the movie Braveheart was ridiculously bad. So it really comes down to: Is the game interesting. After reading the rules, I cannot dismiss it. But the system is a little fiddly.

Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition (interest level: 0)
I've never read the rules or seen it played, but this game has all the wrong things going for it: space epic, long playing time, modular board, plastic bits, FFG design.

Up Front (interest level: 0)
I like San Juan more than Puerto Rico, but I doubt that analogy is going to work with a wargame.

Struggle of Empires (own it, interest level: 8)
Complex game with typically poor Martin Wallace rules. I need to spend an entire day going through this game and all the errata so I can understand it enough to teach it. I know the game is simpler than it seems, but it's going to take some work to find it.

Ticket to Ride: Marklin
Ticket to Ride: Europe (interest level: 0)
You cannot make a good game by tweaking a bad design. I will never play a Ticket to Ride game again.

Dune (interest level: 6)
The rules sound pretty fun. The custom board designs look very nice. I don't know if I'll ever see a copy in my lifetime.

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (own it, interest level: 7)
The deluxe version that I bought is inferior in every way to the normal version, except that it has variants for all the characters. The only reason I haven't played it yet is for lack of a willing opponent.

Battle Line (interest level: 5)
The rules just don't grab me, but many people whose opinions I respect say there's really something to this.

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage image by ubirata


At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Universal Head said...

I'm sure someone else will say it as well, but you really should give BattleLore a shot. I played three games in a row last night and while I can't deny there's a definite random factor of which cards you get to activate your units, working out the best strategies you can with the cards at your disposal is incredible fun. The Lore cards add another interesting 'take that!' factor. Far more deep and engaging than Memoir '44, in my opinion.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger thew said...

I'd like to second what Universal Head said. There's quite a bit of strategy involved in making the most out of the combination of command cards in your hand and units on the board. The system doesn't feel limiting at all. The randomness factor is certainly present, but would only decide the outcome of a game in a truly extreme circumstance. I would try to discourage you from simply writing off the game, but if it's not your style then so be it.

At 2:35 AM, Blogger Fellonmyhead said...

Me too; I'm known for appreciating the more heady games in our little circle but I have also played a number of the games under this same system.

I just don't understand why so many people who express a preference for wargames dismiss BL, M44, C&C:A and old father Battle Cry offhand. I also don't understand how somebody who might enjoy the elegance of systems such as Go (or even less elegant, such as Chess) can similarly describe the underlying system to these two-player experiences as too simplistic.

Clearly there is a simple model for warfare here, but I can assure you the most complex or deep models rarely (perhaps never) get it right. I'm sure I've said this somewhere else; the advantage of a more abstracted, simplistic model is that the level of simulation is always appropriate. Once you add in other elements, the model tends to fail as a simulation because there is too much detail for one element and not enough for another.

At 6:06 AM, Blogger ekted said...

I don't really care about the realism of simulation. I just flat out do not like the BC/M44 systems. I think it's a complete cop-out to say the cards you have and do not have simulate command and control problems. I would rather do (or try to do) whatever I want, and have the results of that action be resolved by the opponent's reponse and chance, rather than my choices determined by chance. Adding a fantasy veneer and a few extra "take that" powers does nothing to correct this.

In fact, I would compare M44 to Ticket to Ride in this respect. I know what I want to do, but I can't. SO I either have to do something less optimal or wait until I randomly am allowed to do what I want. No thanks to either.

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Mark Christopher said...

While I enjoy C&C: Ancients, there is still a void in game-space. I'd love to see a game with the relative ease of the C&C system, but with a more "organic" form of command-and-control friction. What I mean is, the cards in the C&C system are a contrivance. GMT's Musket & Pike system and Your Move Games' Battleground: Fantasy Warfare, on the other hand, each have command systems I prefer, especially the M&P system. In those games, you assign orders to leaders (M&P) or individual units (BFW), and those leaders/units carry out those orders until you're able to change them. Thus, you can go into a battle with a plan, but it can be tough to make massive changes to your plan on the fly. However, M&P is a simulation, not a light game, and BFW is essentially a miniatures game where I prefer the regulation of a hex grid or other type of map. I keep toying with trying to make up my own rules for this sort of thing, but it's too fun to just play the games I have. That said, though, I'd love to see a simpler tactical wargame that had a more "realistic" C&C system in it.

At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been hearing that randomness was a flaw for many games, and I strongly disagree.
The reasoning goes like this: "I want to do this, but I can't because of bad luck with the dice/cards. It's not realistic, the game is broken."
Actually, I think expecting to be able to do exactly what you want all the time is not realistic.
What's more realistic is this: when you have better odds, you win more often. In M44, for instance, you have to prepare for the possibilty of loosing a fight (you don't just go to battle with a 50% chance of winning!)
Sometime, even with better odds, you loose. Blame it on the weather, blame it on your undelings no following orders, but don't blame it on the game. That's unlikely, that's a bad surprise for sure, but that's realistic.
In M44 again, the cards don't tell you you can't play here just because. They simulate better communication with the ground troups in one area than another, and this changes with time. It's not something you can control, and this happens all the time in real wars.
I understand that some players want more control to be at their best, but being able to balance bad luck and recover from a bad surprise is also a skill. Having surprises like this in a game makes the difference between an adventure, a tale to remember, and just another game of chess.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger ekted said...

You can make all the excuses for the M44 design you want. You cannot modify my tastes. I've played every scenario twice in both directions. It's blah at best, and exactly for the reasons I stated.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger meowsqueak said...

(Apologies if this appears twice)

Battle Line ++

The rules may seem pretty simplistic but it's one of those games where simple rules lead to complex game-play. In my opinion, BL is an almost perfect mix of risk management, bluffing and logical deduction. A very enjoyable game for two. I recommend it with only one reservation - the theme may not appeal to some (but then there's always Schotten Totten instead).

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Fellonmyhead said...

Ekted wrote:I think it's a complete cop-out to say the cards you have and do not have simulate command and control problems. I would rather do (or try to do) whatever I want, and have the results of that action be resolved by the opponent's reponse and chance, rather than my choices determined by chance.

This still doesn't explain the distaste you hold for the underlying system as in "even if you could completely choose your actions, like in a real wargame, the system is too simplistic for me to enjoy".

Yes, let's forget about realism for a moment. What is it about "real" wargames that makes them so much more "complex"? To me it all boils down to one unit trying to eliminate another; whether you prefer to refer to CRT after CRT allowing for morale, weather conditions and/or varying levels of effectiveness by unit you still have to make that one dice roll to find out what happens.

I know I can't change the way you think, so if you ever find yourself locked in that room with my copy of BL, do you mind if I drop in a box of paint so you can watch it dry on my minis? I am positive you'll do a grand job!

At 4:58 PM, Blogger ekted said...


At 1:51 AM, Blogger Fellonmyhead said...



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