Friday, May 20, 2011

CLASSICS CLOSET - Doubletrack (Review) - Reliving a Game from my Youth

When I was a kid we actually had quite a few games around our house that I remembered playing. A good number of them really. However, I'd kind of forgotten the extent and variety until I first discovered and started looking around on BGG back in 2008. As I ran across them/remembered them I started marking them as Previously Owned and, in this case, 'Want in Trade'. Some others I remembered included: Inner Circle, Leverage, Touring, WaterworksSurvive!, Stay Alive, Operation, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Tri-Ominos, Quadominos, Pictionary Yahtzee, and many more. And, I'm not ashamed to admit it that we owned Monopoly and it was one of my favorite games!

So anyway, last year I picked up the version of Cave Troll with the figures and I marked my version with the chits for trade. I wasn't sure if I'd ever get any bites on it, but recently I did as I received a trade request in exchange for Doubletrack. I'm sure not everyone has heard of this game but it was one I certainly remembered.

Doubletrack box (this is a fairly large box at 12"x20"x1-1/2")

In this game, I recalled there being plastic gates attached to the board that controlled access to certain paths on the board and you used a physical (cardboard) 'pass' that had to be inserted into the gates to open them up. I always found this functionality intriguing both the gate itself as well as the concept - each player controls a gate pass (or several in some cases) which gives them more control over who can go through them and when. I don't recall seeing this sort of feature in more modern games (if you've seen it I'd be interested to hear about it in the comments)

I also remembered the mechanic of using a Big pawn on an outer track that moves and then affects what the Small pawn on the inner track is doing.

So, I accepted the trade and thought this could be fun to play again.

Soon it arrived. It was a bit more beat up than the copy we used to own, but it had all the familiar components to it. There's something about getting your hands on a game you remember from your childhood that brings back warm memories of simpler days. You get this sense of zipping back in time, remembering where you would play it (on my bedroom floor with it's bright red carpet - no really, that's what I chose, much to my mother's chagrin), who you played it with (my sister mostly, sometimes my friend Jeff), and some vague memories of really enjoying it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TIMELY TOPICS - Tension in games - Ratchet it up, please!

I love tension in games. I'm sure you know what I mean, those games where the tension builds and you can feel your adrenaline start to rise. You get that little bit of shakiness as you are about to pull off what you hope is a big move, but afraid of how the other person might counter.

The other night I got to play some good, tense games with my friend Cary. It's amazing how something as simple as a game with just cards, bits and a handful of rules can have such an affect on you. Your blood starts flowing and you get an almost euphoric feeling. Like I'm feeling right now after playing several tough games.

Tension is probably the biggest draw for me in a game - the tensest games are the ones I seen to remember and enjoy the most. Every move you make seems crucial. You can't let your guard down one bit or it will be the end of the game for you. You are engaged and focused on the game throughout.

What kind of elements seem to make a game tense for me? I'd say its a handful of things:
  • The ability to plan ahead and make a clever move that surprises your opponent.
  • The ability to quickly turn the tables then have it turned right back on you again.
  • Racing to meet certain conditions in a set period of time (not just 'time' itself, but in the depletion of cards or resources)
  • Multiple possible paths to victory.
  • Auctions where every auction has value in it, either for what's in the auction or for the need to prevent someone ELSE from getting what's in it (or at least making them pay the price).
  • Brinkmanship - taking a chance and putting yourself out on a limb in the hopes of achieving a goal before others can stop you (hopefully)
  • Tight two-player games (this isn't crucial for me, but I love head-to-head competition and find it the most interesting in games. Don't get me wrong, multi-player games can also be tense and terrific at those higher numbers, but 2-player to me is where it's really at.
So, what specifically got me so amped up in these games we played? Well, let me tell you...