Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TIMELY TOPICS - Fear of the Unknown Box (Games I Have Avoided Playing)

Howdy! Glad you could stop by today. I've kinda been busy and haven't posted here in a bit. What have I been busy with? Work. Kids stuff (soccer, dance, etc). Attending part of the EGG game day. Being sick. And creating a new Ticket to Ride map. Yes, a new map. Days of Wonder is holding a $10,000 contest for the best new map submitted and will be part of an anniversary box (or some such thing) that will come out next year (for DOW's 10th anniversary). My wife, Lynda, came up with an idea and I started running with it. I'm not saying anything else until we've submitted and it's past the April 15th deadline. Not that you'd copy our ideas or anything, right?

Anyhow, so I've been somewhat busy with that. We've barely play tested it though and I need to revamp the map and the tickets again but it's been a blast seeing it come together and having fun doing graphics stuff.

But, I've also been thinking about a topic that has intrigued me. I have noticed that there are certain games I've had a 'fear' of playing and tended to avoid. By 'fear' I mean having trepidation around playing them. I get that funny twisty feeling in your stomach when I think about playing them and I'm not sure if I really want to. I've been wondering why I was avoiding certain games because, when I finally got around to playing them, I often really enjoyed them! It is silly to avoid them because THEY ARE JUST GAMES! And, if I had continued to avoid them I might have missed out on the great fun and experience of playing them.

So, here are some of the reasons I've come up with for having 'Fear of the Unknown Box' and the games that fell into that category for me.

"IT'S TOO POPULAR" - Dominion
Some people are extremely averse to popular culture whether it is games, music, etc. I'm only slightly averse to pop culture. I avoid some of the more popular music much more than I used to but am still drawn to some of it as well. Games are the same for me. I tended to avoid Dominion for a long time after it came out and likely would never have ended up purchasing my own copy had not a friend of mine forced encouraged me to play (thanks Bob!). I'm not really sure if I had a specific reason to avoid it - maybe because it was Deck Building which I'd never really done before and maybe because it was just the 'hot thing' and avoided it as a result.

But once I learned it and then tried out Intrigue and Seaside I decided I liked it enough to have it myself. AND, later I taught it to my Dad and he instantly loved it and immediately bought his own copy. I've had a lot of fun playing with my family as well as many of my friends - it is one of my daughter's all-time favorite games, so I'm glad I gave it a go.

"IT'S TOO COMPLICATED" - Web of Power, Age of Steam
Now, here's the thing that I think has affected me the most: I get an idea in my head about what the game is about and end up making it out to more or different than what it really ends up being. In other words, after learning the game and playing for the first time I went "That's it?!" and I wondered why I avoided it to begin with.

Just last week I finally played Web of Power for the first time. I admit I was intrigued by it, but I had in my mind that it was a negotiation game and had all these complicated rules and powers in it. What it turned out to be was a fast playing area control game with a card driven mechanism. When Cary taught it to me I literally thought "That's it?" as I was expecting much more. Now, the 2-player game is a bit more complicated than that, but really not all that much more. 3-player this game really shined AND it's a pretty easy game to understand in terms of the rules. Of course, how you play the game is a bit more complicated. BUT, this was a game I was nervous about playing and then found my fears were unfounded.

Age of Steam (which I finally learned to play last year) was another game I imagined in my head to be more complicated than I thought. When you read through the rules and play a turn or two you realize there's really not that much to the system itself. You take shares (money), bid for turn order, build tracks, build cities, improve your shipping capabilities, ship goods and earn income. It makes sense. The money is really tight and you have to manage it carefully, but the mechanics are pretty straight forward. Again, it comes down to the game play and the interactions that are more complicated BUT there's really nothing to fear in the game itself. I found I loved it and, even though I got trounced my first game out, I have learned to love the game to the point of buying my own copy and several expansion maps.