Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hardcore Ludography is dead

Seriously, you guys, could you at least have posted an "hey, on indefinite hiatus" notice?

That sucks. Don't just throw all those posts away.

Since Hardcore Ludography is dead, here's what I would have posted there, if I were a member of Hardcore Ludography:

Clown Car Syndrome

So you're getting together at your local board game night, and it happens that there are 11 people there. If your group's like mine, here's what happens:
1. It is presumed that everyone is willing to play anything, unless otherwise brutally known. This is completely fair, since my group spans a large section of Houston, and everyone's minute preferences can't be memorized, beyond "Todd hates trick-taking games" or "Michael hates Cranium."
2. It is presumed that bigger is better.
3. As a corollary to #2, it is presumed that games are best when maxed out at their absolute highest player count, possibly even including one more player if the physical room at the table is there.

I'm moderately fine with #1, but #2 and #3 are fighting words to me. I think most games have a sweet spot at about (max players -1), and beyond that number, you're only increasing the annoyance level for everyone. More players means more opportunity for downtime, lack of control, and overall lowered fun.

In the example above with 11 players, it will be presumed that a 6-5 split is optimal, and that a 6-player game and a 5-player game are ideal. The idea of breaking into a 3-3-3-2 split is anathema. (Do I get any points here for pointing out Ray Mulford's Anathema? He's in my gaming group so it seems like I should.)

Games that immediately leap to mind: Merchant of Venus, El Grande, Duel of Ages, Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Unexploded Cow, and Shadows over Camelot. The first and last are huge mistakes, but for very different reasons. Merchant of Venus actually shines as a 2- or 3- player game, and adding more people only increases the downtime, but Shadows over Camelot sucks and should never be played, so adding more people only increases the pain.

Games where adding more players may-or-may-not-work: Apples to Apples, 6 Nimmt/Category 5, Nuclear War, Werewolf/Mafia, and poker. All these are party games, and nightmarishly group-dependent in any case, but can be expanded out quite a bit, since the action in the first two is simultaneous, Nuclear War works out quite nicely ("You, blue shirt dude. Lose 25 pop!), Werewolf scales if you've got access to additional special roles, and poker is heavily skill-dependent.

Maybe I've been a tremendous coward all these years, for not attempting to push forward a 3-player Merchant of Venus game at every session, but the collective groupthink in favor of condensing tables is extremely strong.


Anonymous Chris Norwood said...

You're right that #2 and #3 are total crap, but you're embarrassingly wrong about Shadows Over Camelot.

My group actually seems to prefer to split into groups of 3-4, and the big, mega-player games are more of a rarity. However, just the other night, we did play a couple games of Bang! that went over very well...

1:20 PM  
Blogger Todd D. said...

Okay, let me try it in a more charitable way: Shadows Over Camelot is an interesting game, but it's twice as long as it needs to be. I also ended up once playing the-knight-whose-job-it-is-to-fight-siege-engines.

Pandemic scratches the same itch for me, and is short enough that you can generally get in a second play of it right away after a first victory/defeat.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Chris Norwood said...

Ah... Sir Kay. I always love having Sir Kay in my band of knights, as long as I don't have to play him. But, of course, you are entitled to your opinion of the game.

And actually, I agree with you that Pandemic is superior. I just enjoy the theme of SoC, and I've found that most other people are attracted to it as well.

3:39 PM  

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