Monday, August 31, 2015

Gaming Materials: "Microgames"

Haven't done one of these in awhile.  I could go back to In Transit Monsters (I still am working on polishing up part 15), but decided to opt to write on a few games I've tried out in the last few months.  Gaming Materials, Reading Materials- these are my attempts at reviews of things.  I tend to be positive, and I try to offer ideas for how to use them to enhance a tabletop game experience, be it RPG or board game.

Love Letter and Coup are part of this new movement in tabletop stuff: "micro" games that aim to take up tiny space, and tiny time while still scratching that itch.  The first benefit of the move is that they take small amounts of time to play.  It's a matter of economy of time- if you can scratch certain itches before a bigger game, you get more gaming in.

Each of these are recent additions to my library.  They've become useful pre-game appetizers.  Like the microgame movement itself, I'll try to be brief about each.

Sushi Go is a drafting game, most likely you heard of it already- it appeared on Tabletop.  I had already wanted the game before that, though, after I had read its rules.  I should explain that I like Magic: the Gathering, and my favorite format of that TCG is drafting.

Drafting's appeal is in how players can interact by the choices they make.  In MtG, draft removes a good chunk of reliance on card and decklists.  It involves more skill and luck, rather than raw ability to find synergies and guess metagames.  In Sushi Go, I like interacting with other players by choices.    Sushi Go rewards you're ability to see how and be able to guess ahead of other players.

I haven't yet won a game of Sushi Go, yet I want to play it again and again.  For some reason, my inability to guess other players accurately drives me to want to experience it again.

Also on a horror level: the sushi in this game looks somewhat sentient.  They have faces.  And sushi is eaten raw, so... yeah.  You are collecting living, sentient sushi to swallow whole.

Age of War I picked up on a whim.  Normally I don't do that.  I try to spend my board game dollars with research and foresight.  I'm paranoid about being burned about a game I know nothing about.

Age of War's box got me to pick it up.  I purchased it on impulse.

The interesting part is that Age of War is a dice game.  It sort of catches the taste of a war game without the time or work.  The downside to it, though, is that it lacks any real endgame.  It slows down to a snail's pace toward the end, and you can clearly see who is in the lead.  This is something I think could be house ruled around- instead of playing for points at the end, play for a number of castles or some other measure that doesn't drag the game out.

It also came with a set of neat, weird, unique Samurai themed dice.  If I ever get around to L5R or running John Wick's Blood and Honor, I think they might be fun to insert in.

And here is the bizarre drug of a game I really have enjoyed for my tabletop group.  Welcome to the Dungeon is a game of chicken, where you compete to get someone else to stumble stupidly into a
dungeon unprepared for the monsters within.  It makes you giggle.  Hysterically.

The game goes faster as players drop during their dungeon crawls.  It's entertaining to watch others play.  And for someone who likes tabletop RPGs, Welcome to the Dungeon is easily sold to my players.

Its funny.  Hilariously so.  You will do something brazen, and others will all of sudden throw you into the dungeon to have to deal with it.  You have to be subtle, or at least willing to think before you get too far ahead.

Micro-games play into a part of my GMing tools I try to use each time I start a session.  Players, myself included, need time to get warmed up for a game.  Its hard to just dive right back in without some sort of way to get the groove going.

Board games that are longer than half an hour are detrimental- they don't help get things going.  But micro-games, they get the job done.  These are the bread and butter of my warm up pre-hangout stuff for session (that and watching TV series of one kind or another, but that's a different conversation).

I'd love to find a way to also work one of these micro-games into a sort of pre-game setup for stuff doing the session later on.  Welcome to the Dungeon has that sort of angle; one could write down monster orders of cards for ideas of encounters to use in the session later on.

And you could do the same with Age of War, to at least think of background material during a session set in medieval Japan.  Sushi Go doesn't have much use for setting material, but it is light enough I think a modern game could have a bunch of characters play Sushi Go during a session.