A part of the second assessment we need to evaluate critically the games we played in class and their features. This is slightly different for me as I did not attend week 2-3 due to illness, but have still played two more games which rose in complexity with my roommates in isolation. These games were Codenames (in class), Risk and Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate (both at home). In this blog, I will be breaking down mechanics and experiences I have played through the games before continuing on to my second post outlining my personal project, with those thoughts in mind.
Game 1: Codenames
This game was played in class, it was pretty simple; two spymasters, one from each team of two, alternates between giving hints on select tiles placed in front of themselves. the winner is the one who gets all their team’s codenames first. that’s pretty much it for the rules, although it has one really interesting mechanic in the ‘double agent’ card which either team can collect. So the question becomes do you use a suggestion your team can pick up to get ahead or play it safe and go one by one? This puzzle game from Czech Games was developed by Vladamir Chvatil who has also worked on board games like Galaxy Trucker and Merry Men of Sherwood. Although considered a mechanical genius for his work on these other titles the simplistic addictiveness of Codenames brought him commercial success.
My experience with this game taught me about how to interact with a target audience, and how to respect a players intelligence. A game with simple rules allows the player to better manipulate HOW they have fun. In the case of our group, it was the implementation of running jokes within our guesses and the use of double entendre to get laughs. Also finding neat ways around the rules, such in the case of my team, were my prompt for my partner became the word ‘Three’ after we had eliminated all non-three letter words on our side. We won with this trick but could only do it once as soon as we had done it our opponents could do the same. The question in regard to the lessons learned became do you want to allow these loopholes in your game for interactivity and strategy, or take them out for a more strict set of rules like Uno and the infamous stacking rule? Something to consider for my personal project.
Game 2: Risk (Lord of the Rings Edition)
Of all the games played during this assessment, the mid-tier complexity one was by far the most competitive and was spoken about in my house for several days. This trilogy based turn on a classic Parker Brothers game is obviously not set on the tradition Earth but in fact on a board of Middle Earth, with dragons and shipwreck featured on its fantasy-themed map. Illustrations are taken straight from the books for setting like the Gates of Moria and Bag End. Like all Risk Editions, the goal is to strategize the best way to total conqueror the entire map, or at least that’s how we played in. Strategy games like this often call for out of the rules style game bending, in this case: Alliances.
The red team and the black team, made up of myself and my roommate Tom formed a solid alliance prior to the game even starting with the goal of destroying the other two teams, both in-game… and emotionally. Our goal was to trick them into attacking each other with one of us pretending to join them in an alliance so we could turn around and crush them in one massive set of battles. The addition of extra rules such as event card and Leader Token which influenced dice roles and troop placement, meant that even if you had only 5 troops left, with a little luck you could come back. Which is exactly what happened as the two force Tom and I sought to defeat early came back to challenge our rule towards the end of a length campaign against one another. The target audience of this game is different to that of regular risk. It takes advantage of fans and fan groups to selectively sell to people who like fantasy elements and LoTR lovers.
What I took away from this game was the importance of Role Play in board games, if this game had just been numbers, troops moving, and territory taken it would have been boring. What was fun was pretending to have reasons for taking certain villages, Orcish minds telling us to take the most powerful enemy first, and goblin cunning allowing our alliances to bloom. I decided here I wanted RP elements to find a place in my final project.
Game 3: Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate
This game was a play on Betrayal on the Hill which is a horror semi-team based game in which the players expand the game map by moving while slowly gearing up for the second half of the game. Each player has a character with several traits that help them in combat, skill checks and event card issues. This DnD themed remake was made by Avalon Hill in accordance to Wizards of the Coasts marketing team. It features two halves the First of which is the Exploration, during which player moves around drawing from the room deck to see where they appear when going through doors or passing along the street. After a while a player will land on Haunt tile and roll badly to begin the Haunt. The One who failed the roll is the betrayer and reads through a separate book within the game box. There are sixty individual scenarios in this book each determined by which combination of rolls and rooms the haunt was started in. Each Haunt is utterly different depending on this mechanic and as such allows for replayability.
Set in the ever-interesting Baldur’s Gate; a famous Dungeons and Dragons city setting, magic and monster litter the scene, with the scenario we played featuring the betrayer controlling the Dragon Rod and summoning an evil green dragon from outside the city, forcing a sudden game of hide and seek to win back the magic staff.
It uses, much like the LoTR Risk game, direct art from the setting source, DnD and the Wizards of the Coast assorted worlds, with some of the Haunt scenarios being links to other works like a portal opening to the Magic the Gathering Realms.
Personally, I loved this game but my roommates found it slow and uninteresting, an example of a sharp and focused target demo, and a warning to the dangers of limiting said audience. Only issue I had with the game was the quality of the minis it came with, the plastic figures were bent and morphed and poor quality but passable as game pieces.
These games taught me a bunch about game design and mechanics as well as setting, theme and genre, allowing me to focus on my personal project and really streamline my second blog post. Look forward to is guys!