The more games I play, the fuller a picture I develop of which board games concentrate on the aspects of play I like best. I lack the vocabulary of game theory, so this is more than a bit of fumbling around on my part. But I’ll do my best to lay out what does and doesn’t appeal to me about board games.
For example, Puerto Rico, Caylus and Agricola taught me I’m not a planner. In games like these, you really need to know not only what you need to get your engine of resources and currency moving, but what you’re going to do when someone takes the action card you counted on having for yourself. Those kinds of game mechanics don’t really do anything for me. I spend enough of my life planning and managing resources that doing so for relaxation doesn’t really appeal.
The irony of this is I’m resolutely a huge fan of Arkham Horror, which, in its way, is all about managing resources: Stamina, Sanity, clue tokens, money, doom track, rift tokens, terror level, open gates versus closed gates and the Dunwich Horror and Deep Ones Rising tracks. Fortunately, it’s also dripping with theme and story-oriented elements. It’s practically a GM-less roleplaying game. So games that build narrative, like Arkham Horror, tickle that pleasure center for me. Most of my enjoyment of Illuminati comes from the story element of conspiracies jockeying for control and influence over fringe interest groups. Additionally, that culmination of a storyline makes me feel like I’ve achieved something, which games about accruing victory points never do for me — even Agricola‘s family building and feeding leaves me cold.
Tactical games like Risk and Diplomacy tend to frustrate me for similar reasons. Tactics are really procedures built to achieve a goal. It’s also often about chaining effects together, like finding units whose special abilities work in synergy. This ties back to that need to plan ahead and construct resource generation schemes.
So what I have learned from all these games? I like to:
- Think fast and not worrying about planning turns ahead.
- Feel engaged with a developing storyline and narrative elements.
- Have a sense of accomplishment at the end.