Sunday, November 04, 2007

Rehash Redux

Each time a new game comes out, it is inevitably compared to all those that came before it. This is even more the case when a large batch of new games is released, as occurs each year around Essen time. If some new game has, for example, an Auction mechanic, then it is denounced as "yet another Auction game."

I believe that such superficial comparisons are presumptuous.

Consider the Area Majority mechanic, which is exemplified by such great games as El Grande, Maharaja, Liberté, San Marco, Aton, Carolus Magnus, Mexica, Mission: Red Planet, and Carcassonne. I own and happily play all of these. None feels remotely like another even though some share other mechanics.

Another way to look at this is to choose any mechanic and find games you like and dislike that use it. If the mechanic alone made the game, this would not be the case at all. With Set Collection for example, I like Taj Mahal, Ra, and Tower of Babel, but dislike Ticket to Ride and Fairy Tale.

Games are more than a list of mechanics. Mechanics must be stitched together in various ways, drive each other, feedback into each other, and complement each other. This stitching provides the sequencing and flow of a game, directly affects the kinds of decisions players make, and can provide tension and conflict.

The simplest rule can completely change the texture of a game. Imagine Quarto! without the rule that you choose the piece your opponent plays. Imagine Medina without the rule that you can't start a new palace of a given color if the current one is incomplete. Imagine Rheinlander without reinforcements.

When I hear about new games featuring mechanics that exist in games I love, I don't dismiss them, I pay attention. Did the designer find some new way to hook things together? If so, don't be so quick to pronounce the game a rehash.


At 12:36 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This post is a rehash of your last post.


At 1:00 PM, Blogger Seth Jaffee said...


I couldn't agree more. I don't know how many posts I've seen about Race for the Galaxy regarding it as either the same as, a replacement for, or unnecessary because of San Juan - all of those sentiments are pointless, and in that case the game is more similar to San Juan than usual because they were based on the same thing!

Cuba as well - being compared to Puerto Rico, Caylus, and Pillars of the Earth. Hey, if Cuba is anything like those three games, then I'm sold already!

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The reason people look down on rehashes is that:
a) it /may/ show a lack of creativity on the part of the designer, and
b) many people don't see the need in owning two games that fill the same gap, i.e. why buy Race for the Galaxy if it scratches the same itch as San Juan, which they already own.

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Pawnstar said...

Totally agree, Jim; it's never about the mechanisms but how they are employed. I found Cuba very refreshing; it's not enough like PR or Caylus for me to pass it over.

Like Seth says above, similarities between games can be attractive more than repulsive; especially if the differences are interesting enough - not unlike your examples of Quarto and Medina. RftG awaits my first play, but after reading the rules I already note it has several elements which set it apart from San Juan.

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Brad said...

Just added this feed to my feed reader, and then noticed that you're a fellow Mainer!

--posted from Portland, Maine.


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