You’d be amazed at some of the email conversations that get started with a simple off-the-cuff question. Here is a (somewhat edited) thread which popped up last week while all of us should have been working…
From [a recent] game day invite:
“Do you have new games you got over the holidays you are eager to try? Are there new Essen games you want to play before buying (and before the new Nurnberg crop comes out next month)?”
See, this is what I’m on about. I like new games. It’s fun to explore a game you haven’t seen, or to try out (hopefully) new mechanisms and themes. But that’s only part of the gaming experience for me. I also like exploring games I’m familiar with but haven’t played to death. Further, I enjoy playing amazing older games and looking for hidden depths, or at least playing with a comfort level that allows me to think beyond “ok, what am I allowed to do” easily. Why is gaming so much about new new new for so many people? What is it about the new quality that overrides all else? I simply do not understand. Can anyone help explain this?
[Edit: Made clear in the original email, before personal stuff was removed, was that I wasn’t saying anything bad about my friend that wrote the invitation above, but was more talking about the fact that she was expected to sell the game day this way, and that her audience was receptive to that pitch. Note also, most of the people that were invited have a steady stream of new games coming in, so new games aren’t any kind of novelty to them, and yet “day of new games” is clearly more appealing than “day of games”. – Nate]
I think you are misreading it. I have many games that are new to me. Longer game days are best for long games and games where you need to read the rules and sort stuff out. I would have no problem raising Amun Re at an event like this. Unless the only games you got for the holidays are newly released games, in which case, that is your issue…
I think Thursdays (a regular weekly game night) are great for sitting down and playing games we all know, but game days are great for more experimental experiences. Also, Nate, your rule about learning games in advance is not that widely held. You don’t like spending Thursdays sitting around while someone reads the rulebook. Most others apparently don’t feel that way.
I’m part of the cult of the new. Not sure what about new games interests me more than old ones – but I do love the experience of exploring a new game.
For me, there are not many games which hold my interest long enough to play them enough to find the deeper meaning. If I wanted that, I’d play Chess or some sort of game that I will study. I do not want to invest that amount of time in Puerto Rico or Race for the Galaxy.
That being said, I do like getting back to old familiar games. I think there are fewer of those chestnuts in the past few years mostly because there are too many games coming out. Think of the old games that you love. They came out in an era when 10-15 games would be available to you as “new” each year.
Now, I get that many new games in a month sometimes (damn you, Kickstarter). You don’t get the same consensus about awesomeness in games because you can’t even guarantee that everyone will have played it.
Heck- I love Helvetia and Walnut Grove. They are 2 of my favorite games from Essen.
Yet, I know plenty of accomplished gamers who have not played them yet (or even own them) – simply because there are too many other games that they are looking at.
If either were released 10 years ago, they’d be like Ra, Settlers, Carcassone for me – I’d want to always have them in my collection, and I’d play them over and over. These days, they made it through the first cut (i.e. were not sold by Xmas), and the jury remains out if they survive long-term. Who knows if they will be played much after next year’s Essen.
i.e. I kept 9 games from Essen 2010. Olympus and Magnum Sal were among my favorites. Neither has been played since at least August because I’ve got new games to play!
There’s a kind of excitement about playing a new game that’s absent from playing something familiar. It’s like opening a Christmas present. There’s the anticipation – we’re going to play something new that may be really great – and there’s the surprise when the present is opened – when we play the game and experience it.
Contrast that to playing an old game. The anticipation and the surprise are no longer there. In it’s place is a different kind of excitement – that of exploring the depths of the game. IMO, the anticipation and the surprise of a new game is simply a more enjoyable experience for most people.
Add to that one other thing. I personally enjoy – and others may as well – the mental gymnastics of learning a new game and figuring out the strategies. With an older game, you probably know all the strategies and the enjoyment of figuring them out is not there. With an older game, the enjoyment comes from taking the strategies and employing them as best you can – not as much fun.
And one aside. As we experienced on Saturday, choosing what game to play from among old games can be a pain. People like what they like and it’s can be tough to find something all can agree on. If someone suggests a new game, though, it’s usually pretty easy to get people to agree on it. First, people generally like playing new games, and secondly, the game is (probably for the most part) unknown – people can’t object to it because they don’t know what it is yet!
So Dale understands. This mentality is real – it’s not a figment of my imagination. A long game day for me is a chance to play longer games if I want (not always), but they may or may not be new. Descent, Dune, Die Macher, Mage Knight, Merchants and Marauders, all would be selling points for me for an invitation to a game day because those would be hard to get out on a Thursday night.
Dale, I get why the situation exists to form a cult of the new. But my real question is, why aren’t people fighting against that? I find that extremely unsatisfying to jump from one new game to the next, playing everything at a surface level. Maybe I’m dense, but two or three plays of a game is not enough for me to feel like I know everything about it. Usually I just barely have the rules internalized by then.
Nate, I think that people aren’t fighting against it, because most of them are on my side :)
I would ask you to take a poll at the next game day. A piece of paper with two lists on them.
A: Settlers of Catan, Euphrates+Tigris, Ra, Carcassone, Twilight Struggle, Agricola, Through the Ages, Power Grid, El Grande, Age of Steam
B: Helvetia, Vanuatu, Walnut Grove, City Tycoon, Fistful of Penguins, Eclipse, Trajan, Tournay, Hawaii, Dungeon Fighter
Both have 10 games, with an assortment of styles/lengths/genre. Tell your subjects that if they had to limit themselves to either list A or list B for the entire weekend, which would they choose…
I’m guessing that 80% would go for B.
That’s not right or wrong, I just think that there would be that many gamers who would want to play the new stuff as opposed to the old.
I kind of disagree with your conjecture that 3 plays isn’t enough to fully understand a game. I think many of the new releases can definitely be played through in 3 passes. Hell, a lot of the games I have don’t even get 3. More importantly, likely due to the dilution of overall game quality — since these days, we definitely have sacrificed quality for quantity — there aren’t many games that I WANT to play 3 times… There are so many games that are out there which could be so much better with only a little bit of developing/playtesting prior to release.
If it helps, I find that it usually only takes one play to grok the rules and at least examine basic strategies. It may be accelerated by the fact that I usually choose whichever basic strategy comes into my head when learning the game, and then I just take that to the end – win or lose. Yes, I often lose, but taking an approach usually helps me figure out what to do in future games (if there are future games).
This is just supporting my argument further (and I agree) – newer games aren’t expected to be played into the ground, so they don’t put as much time into development. Generally, they’re not as good. So why would a person want to spend all their time on most of the newest games that are by your statement above not as well thought out as most of the older games? This is what I’m failing to grasp. Yes, there are still good games coming out, even some with enough development time and energy. What I don’t understand is why people would be so eager to suffer through all the mediocre rest to get to them. Is there some joy in playing a string of uninspiring games that I’m not seeing? Is it cool to unwrap the present if you go in knowing that three quarters of the time it’s going to blow?
One play to grok the rules, maybe. But you’re spending that play grokking the rules. I want to get to a point where I can spend a play trying to outthink my opponent, or work the corners of the game. Generally, I’m not smart enough to do that fully on the first play or two. I still find myself having to think hard to do well at PR, Agricola, Princes, Taj, Stone Age, Vegas Showdown, Power Grid; even though I know the rules pat on all of them.
Nate, I don’t agree with your assertion that most new games are poorly developed. I have absolutely no statistics to support my beliefs, but I find the vast majority of new games released by established publishers to be very well designed and developed. Oh, there are the occasional exceptions, but for the most part, I have been pleased with the finished product. That is not to say that I actually enjoy all of the games released; far from it. Usually, however, this is a matter of personal preference rather than a statement on the quality of the game. For example, I tend not to care for a game that has numerous auctions, so 20th Century does not appeal to me. I do recognize, however, that it is a quality game that doesn’t have serious development issues.
Now, back to your original discussion: Why do I tend to favor playing new games as opposed to older games? Several posters have summarized my feelings well, particularly Rick Thornquist. Rick states:
“There’s a kind of excitement about playing a new game that’s absent from playing something familiar. It’s like opening a Christmas present. There’s the anticipation – we’re going to play something new that may be really great – and there’s the surprise when the present is opened – when we play the game and experience it.
Contrast that to playing an old game. The anticipation and the surprise are no longer there. In its place is a different kind of excitement – that of exploring the depths of the game. IMO, the anticipation and the surprise of a new game is simply a more enjoyable experience for most people.
Add to that one other thing. I personally enjoy – and others may as well – the mental gymnastics of learning a new game and figuring out the strategies. With an older game, you probably know all the strategies and the enjoyment of figuring them out is not there. With an older game, the enjoyment comes from taking the strategies and employing them as best you can – not as much fun.”
I could not have said it better myself! I also enjoy variety in my gaming experiences. It is similar to the reason why I enjoy watching different movies as opposed to seeing the same one numerous times. I would much prefer to play six different games over the course of several weeks than play the same one over-and-over again.
So, while I still enjoy playing older games, reviving old strategies and perhaps exploring the game a bit deeper, the thrill I get from learning, discovering and experiencing a new game is usually more exciting.
Nate, If I read what you’re saying correctly… you’re saying why don’t people go with the tried and true more often? Good question. I can’t say I know the answer to that one.
I actually quite enjoy learning new games. If every game played in an evening was new, I wouldn’t mind that at all. It doesn’t feel like work to me.
That being said… Generally, I’m with you – I like the variety as well. Some people just don’t like variety. Different people like different things.
Hey, on the other side of the ‘cult of the new’ coin are people that play the same game over and over, endlessly. I wouldn’t like that at all, but if that’s what they like, good for them!
Other than your enjoying learning new game after new game, Rick, I think we’re in complete concordance. I also don’t enjoy the “always the same thing” side of the coin. There are old games I like and feel comfortable with. There are newer games I feel like I want to explore more. And there are new games I know nothing about but am keen to try. Throw in a dash of old games that I didn’t like but feel like I should revisit because of their overwhelming popularity, and that sounds like a good mix for a gaming weekend. Not “new Essen, new Christmas, new Nuremberg”.
I guess for me it is simply the sexiness of learning a new game.
The chance that this might be the next great game.
Yes, it only happens once or twice a year, but I keep waiting to find the next Agricola or Dominion. Something that completely takes my imagination.
And, I’d take that crapshoot over playing something over again that there isn’t much left to discover. I love Age of Steam. It’s one of my top 5 games alltime. But I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to play it unless there’s a new board.Yes, I’m sure that there are still nuances of the Rust Belt board that I don’t know — but I don’t want to find them out either. But that’s just me.
This might be the what it comes down to. I feel that pull, but it is not overwhelming. It does not drive my gaming choices, solely. And when you find it? Does the quest end? Can you play it for years to come? Getting Agricola to the table now is like pulling teeth, even though I love it. Haven’t played Dominion in ages, because there’s no call for it. Everyone’s too busy playing the Elder Signs, Ninjatos, and Discworlds of the world.
That’s why I asked. :)
One more little thing I’d like to add…
While I was doing Boardgame News, I played almost every new game. It was my job, and I actually enjoyed doing it – even with the mediocre games (the bad games were a whole other thing).
These days, I rarely play a new game unless either a) it’s getting good word of mouth or b) it’s rated pretty high on BGG. I don’t automatically jump into a game just because it’s new. That helps bump up the batting average of the new games significantly.
Rick, you’re lucky. I play more new games than I’d like in some groups. I’d go with one in four or one in five to hit my ideal, probably. And even better if they came pre-screened like that (though my tastes dont always match those of my friends, so that wouldn’t work a lot of the time).
I’m the other way around. I want to play about one chestnut per every 5-6 new games.
Which is what my group usually does. 2 weeks of all new, and then we usually go dig up some dusty box to see what’s inside it again about every 3rd…
(Well, maybe not around Essen time. Then it’s new new new)
I’m closer to Dale than Nate :)
I think most people in our groups are, which is why it keeps coming up. I guess I just don’t value the trait “new” as much as everyone else, and see downsides with it that others don’t care about.
I think that most games don’t have that much depth. Even Agricola is so different each time that I’m not sure you ‘get better at it’ after 5+ plays.
I’m not sure it’s always about getting better. With something like Agricola, the question for me is “given these cards, and the cards you see opponents playing, and the style and play of your opponents, can you come up with and execute the best plan”? I’m not sure I always do, but I always try. That’s what keeps pulling me back to it. That’s what keeps pulling me back to all the games I love.
If you are not going to get better/see more/experience greater depth, then that pushes me even further towards the new. For me, a new seven is better than an old seven. A new six is better than an old seven. I don’t have that many 8+ games and if I reranked them, I’d probably have even fewer.
It is the games that I play and see different or new potential strategies (as opposed to tactics) that I most want to replay.
But you’re giving priority to new rules over new situations. Both are “new”. Why is the one better than the other? I guarantee you that if I deal you a set of cards in Agricola that you will never have seen that set, never have played with anyone who had that set, and that and everyone else’s hands will drastically effect the gameplay and outcome of the game. That, along with the players, the mood, the time of day, the room, will all be part of a completely new situation. You will have to think in new ways about the game to take advantage of your cards and try to do well. That’s a golden game experience for me, given that I already love the ruleset. But you guys would prefer game X to that, given that game X has no other known feature other than being new to you. I think I’m beginning to understand, even though I don’t share that at all.
Looking for the next big thing feels to me like an impossible quest, because when you do find a gem you’ll soon leave it behind in the search for the next one. Anyone ever seen Blow Up? There’s a scene where the protagonist is at a Yardbirds show, and Jimmy Page smashes his guitar and throws the carcass into the audience. Our hero, along with dozens of other audience members, fights scrapes and claws to get at it. Sure enough, he comes away with the guitar neck and makes his way out of the crowd, only to find himself standing there with a hunk of broken wood in his hand. What was so exciting and so important moments prior was already worthless junk. He quickly tosses it aside and goes about his way. In the movie I think what I take from it is not what was necessarily intended, but it so reminds me of the cult of the new in gaming that it always comes to mind.
And if it’s all about the journey, the path of the known good is usually more fun to me than the path of the presumed awful (and occasionally pleasantly surprised). But it sounds like it really comes down to the fact that you guys get a rush out of “newness” as a trait that I just don’t. I surely once did, but I’ve seen so many games over the years that even “new” is just another feature of a game, like “auction” or “two player” – it alone doesn’t do much for me. Newness does excite me in travel. It excites me in movies. It excites me in friendships. But it no longer does much for me in games. Until I see it proven otherwise, a new game is a 6 waiting to happen. Maybe this is about our respective tolerances for bad experiences, and our love of the unknown – but specific to games. For instance, I would happily act as a film festival screener, watching countless awful movies looking for the few great ones. To me that would be fun. The thrill of the hunt. I don’t have that for games anymore, but when put that way I can see where you guys are coming from. Consider me sated, for now.
Let me turn the question back to you — why are you fighting against playing the new games? Do you not enjoy learning the new ones? Is it frustrating to have to continually be learning new rules? Do you not like the increased time that learning games inevitably take?
I think I’ve answered this already, but I’ll take another stab. First, yes, I don’t always want to learn rules. I don’t enjoy learning new rules. It’s a process I go through to get to the game. Most people are not good at teaching rules, and it’s made worse if they don’t know them cold themselves and are doing it from the book. Plus, I’m a hands on type learner, so until I see how things work I have a tough time internalizing rules.
But in my ideal world, there is some amount of rule learning, and that’s ok. If I have to sit through rules explanations one after another, I do get tired of having to concentrate so much. I’ve done it, and I can do it. But it’s not enjoyable to me. I don’t like playing a game where any strategy I come up with is mooted because I missed a rule during the explanation, which I’d say happens about a third of the time with new games. By the second or sometimes third play, that almost never happens. Of course, I don’t think we got Egizia played the way the designer intended until about the fifth or sixth play, so there are exceptions.
But more than that, a game I know and like is at a certain level of enjoyment for me. Call it a 7.5, if it’s a game I’m going to suggest we play. There was a time, ten years ago or so, that half the new games I played were at roughly that level or higher, and the other half probably weren’t for me (or at least were just ok). Nowadays, because of the situation you describe above, I’d say closer to one in ten is probably at that level or higher. The vast majority are just ok, and all the rest are real stinkers. I’m still waiting for my first 8 or more from this year’s Essen crop. Hawaii is pretty good – probably a 7.5 for me. But it’s flawed, too. I thought Helvetia warranted more exploration, but I actively disliked the lack of control. Principato was a novel idea, but I think the start positions aren’t balanced. Kingdom Builder is nice for a light game. I even like it and think there’s more to it than you allow (we will see when we have a chance to play each other). But none of these feel like hits to me, and they’re the best of the best in my opinion.
So that’s it. I like to mix in new games because I too like the idea that inside one of them will be something very cool. But I don’t like getting hit in the mouth repeatedly by the overwhelming majority of them that are time wasters. So I search for balance. I’d choose A AND B from your list for my ideal gaming weekend, and probably two thirds old if I’m honest, because I already know I like them. Something new, something old, something light, something heavy.
New game cons: downtime of learning rules, learning game slowness and screw-ups, the game probably sucks in the end and even if it doesn’t it may not be to the taste of some or all the players
Old game cons: lacks shininess, harder to get to the table because some people know they don’t like it (this is a pro in my book, actually, because people don’t end up playing something they will hate)
Seems to me the cons are much worse for new games, and thus my going in not understanding the mentality (which I agree, Dale, is the majority’s feeling -making it all the more a mystery to me).
[end of the original email chain]
What do the rest of the Opinionated Gamers think?
An interesting dialogue you all have been having. But I’m amazed by the extreme positions you seem to have driven each other to. I’m all for extreme positions and enjoy taking them just for the fun of arguing something a bit out there (see, e.g., the greatness of all expansions, which is actually something I’ve argued against in the past), but in this case I have to take the boring middle ground.
I really do find that my feelings on this subject fluctuate in phases or waves. Some weeks or months, all I want to do is play new game after new game after new game. At those times, I love the thrill of the hunt for the next great thing; I love exploring new rule systems and seeing how they might have reimplemented a familiar concept in an innovative way. But then there are weeks or months where I just want to sit down to a game that everyone already knows and enjoys. Those are the times when I am so happy that we can just dive right in and there’s no time wasted explaining the game and checking the rules to resolve questions (or even the forums, when the rules are apparently still in beta as sadly seems to be the case so often these days). Those are the times when I’m happy to revisit a game system that I know I like but that may have new situations and possibilities to show me. At least for me, these feelings really do tend to alternate in a sort of wave pattern that tends to be synced up to the gaming calendar. In October and November, I tend to be eager to play as many of the new games as possible. But by the time January rolls around, I’m often sick of learning new rules and ready to just play something tried and true and familiar.
I enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on this, but kept feeling like you were talking past each other a bit or that something was missing. I think it’s this mindset, schizophrenic as it may be, of alternating between a month or two cramming in new games, followed by a month or two of revisiting old favorites. It sounded a bit like some people might like to do this in a single game day, which I suppose makes sense. But for some reason, I tend to be interested in one mindset or the other for longer stretches before ultimately finding that the switch has flipped in my brain and my priorities have suddenly inverted. With that being said, and after a weekend of Hawaii, Tournay, and City Tycoon, I think I’m ready for some good ol’ fashioned El Grande and Nexus Ops, who’s with me?
I think Rick Thornquist hit things on the head for me when he spoke about the mental gymnastics involved in learning a new game. I love the Sci-Fi genre of literature. Sure, there are great stories there, but what I love best is encountering an entire alien (but hopefully well thought-out) culture and back story and then slowly uncovering and understanding its implications as I explore the book or series. I do the same with new boardgames. It is almost like solving a puzzle (but they are rarely thematic nor multiplayer affairs). It helps that I also have a very positive outlook on life and thus can get enjoyment out of most games I play – even if they’re somewhat sub-par. I also play far fewer games (in total) that it seems many hard-core gamers around here (this site and others). This can result in large disparities in my local gaming group. If 3 or 4 people have played a game 4 or 5 times already, I’d rather put in the time learning a new game together so we all start on equal footing, as it were. I don’t mind losing, but I don’t enjoy heading into a learning game when I know most of the other players have a big lead in understanding and strategy. (The clubbing I received in my first game of Phoenecia, just last month leaps to mind.) Limited play time also implies I can play “cult of the new to me” games simply by trying “pre-approved” games that are more cream-of-the-crop since I don’t have the time or finances to chase down games upon overseas release. Often, by the time they arrive for sale in the US, I have a pretty good idea if they’re reasonably good and not a “stinker”.
Finally, I often have the privilege of receiving a review copy of a boardgame. That does wonders for my opportunities to game on a limited budget, but it often forces me into a “cult of the new” mindset since I need to churn through as many of my review games as possible just to stay ahead of the stream. Perhaps when I can regularly play games in the evenings with my sons I’ll be able to get far more repeat plays in… For now, put me in the cult of the new camp, because I love exploring new game combinations in my head. Shoot, for a long time I was under-supplied with opportunities to play games at all, and would sometimes only be able to satisfy my gaming itch by reading through the rules cover to cover in the hopes I would one day in the future get the game to the table. One of my best friends once observed (correctly) that he was very good at coming up with interesting uses of rules/opportunities, etc… While I would take his “discoveries” and then take them to the next level by applying them right back to win our games. I love the satisfaction of bringing that sort of “new” strategy to fruition. In games that have seen far more play time, I’m less likely to have that sort of a-ha moment, and far more likely to see strategies I developed (or helped develop) come back to bite me in the backside…
I am very much a member of the Cult of the New. To me, there is nothing better in gaming, absolutely nothing, than getting to play a new, anticipated game for the first time. And the second and third times are almost as good. I’m still exploring, you see, and it’s still exciting.
I agree with the other CotNers that there is a special thrill to learning a new game. But in my case, it’s not just finding new strategies. I also love checking out new and innovative mechanics and seeing how they work in action. That’s what makes the new game experience so enticing to me.
One additional reason for why I’m drawn to new games is that I don’t play just any new thing that popped up at Essen. My gaming group is reasonably large, so if someone has a new game that doesn’t interest me, there are usually plenty of other folks willing to try it. Thus, most of the new games I play are those that I think I’ll have at least a reasonable chance of enjoying. To date, I’ve played 40 new 2011 titles. Of those, I give a rating of at least a 7 (which means I like it and want to play it again) to 24 of them (60%). Only 4 of the games (10%) were truly poor experiences. So I’m just not seeing the levels of crap that Nathan is describing. Part of that, I’m sure, is my love of trying out new stuff. But I think a bigger part is that I have a pretty good idea of what I’ll like and what I won’t and am very often able to concentrate on the former category.
There are other positive influences for me. I love learning game rules–always have, from the time I was a kid. Moreover, just about everyone I play with is responsible enough that if they bring a new game, they will have read the rules ahead of time and will be able to teach it without reading out loud from the rulebook. That’s a big plus, but one that thankfully I can take for granted.
I should make it clear that I don’t want to play a game just once and then move on. My goal is to play just about every new game at least twice, and the ones that I like at least three times. Ideally, the game will enter the rotation and I’ll get to play it 5-10 times over its first year. Unfortunately, my game time is limited and to some extent, you’re at the mercy of what others want to play. But I’ve been doing better with that for the past year or so, which is quite satisfying. At the same time, there’s a reasonable amount of old favorites which are played, which I also like. But I gotta say, the thing that really gives me a charge is that first play of a new game.
Count me in as another not so secret member of the Cult of the New. I love trying new games and seeing how the mechanisms mesh together, or not as the case may be. For the most part my game group is very receptive to playing new games. There is even one guy who is probably a more dedicated cultist than I, believe it or not. On the other hand I am a lot more selective in the games I buy-I know my game group probably doesn’t thinks so but I am!
I agree the challenge of a new game is to find your very own winning strategy. I shun strategy articles on BGG because I’d rather figure them out for myself. I also love being able to form my own opinion of a new game before there is too much buzz or too much hate. I often stay away from games that receive excessive hype prior to production because many fail to live up to it. I also love bright and shiny bits or interesting illustrations.
On the other hand, my passion is not restricted to newly published games, I love to play new to me games as well. I also love hearing about some long since forgotten game and digging around to see if I can find a copy or make one. Yes, the games today are more sophisticated in many respects ,but it’s also cool to see the predecessors of the modern game and how things have evolved. For example it’s kind of cool to play Airlines, Union Pacific and Airlines Europe within a few days of each other to see what happened to the game over the years of development.
A new game is a big success if I play it at least 5 times over a year. This does not include popular games that I play many times because I volunteer to teach. Sure I wish I could play many games more often, but right now I don’t have the time so I have to figure out which ones to keep for later!
New games are exciting and fun, but my group often seems to emphasize the new to the detriment of really learning a game. We’ve played it once, on to the next thing.
But wait, that game was great–can’t we play it again?
Sorry, too much new stuff to play.
And heaven help you if they played the cool new game on the game night that you missed.
I pass up opportunities to review games because I am afraid I might not be able to get a game to the table more than once a year with my game group.
The new is all well and good, but I find making novelty the most important value of a game group a little annoying.
As I arrived a bit late to the German Boardgame Party (yes, even after having lived here for several years), every game I played at my game group was new to me. It was so exciting to discover all that I had been missing, that I just had to play “catch-up.” I still am: over the past several months, I’ve finally been able to play my first games of such classics as Princes of Florence and Goa. Because of that, I think I’ve been conditioned to be a member of the “Cult of the New” (with a associate membership in the “Cult of the New-to-Me”). I enjoy that experience of discovering something new, and playing new releases even helps me remember the thrill of being introduced to the hobby. It’s a bit like taking my wife to a new restaurant or theater: we both feel like we did when we were dating, exploring the city together.
Still, as I follow the conversation above, I have to agree with Tom that there is quite a bit of room in the middle between the two extremes. Those groups who specialize at playing the same game every week are not for most gamers who read this site, and I even find it hard these days to be in groups that focus only on new games. A balance of both is probably the best solution for most gaming groups, and the best way to keep everyone happy.
As a game designer, I find myself in a bit of a paradox. On one hand, with a high demand for new games, it may be easier to find a publisher for my designs. On the other hand, however, it is much more difficult to get the games noticed, and they are not even promoted or supported by the publishers as much. The thing that struck me the most about my first Essen experience was how many recent games were already in the deep discount bins. Counter editor Stuart Dagger event mentioned the thought that entered his mind with some of the new releases: “Do I get the new game this year or wait a year and get it on clearance?” When an Essen 2010 release is being sold a year later by the publisher at a 60% discount, there is definitely a problem.
The whole trend actually pushes both publishers and designers to emphasize quantity over quality. If someone wants to make a living from game design, they need to release lots of games (including variations of the same game for different markets), as most will only sell a few thousand copies before they are out of print. The solution? I think the bubble is destined to burst at some point. Most people will stop buying so many games (perhaps, it’s already begun), and publishers will either limit their new releases to 1 or 2 every year or they will go out of business. Competition among designers will grow, but that will also force all of us to work harder in distinguishing our games from our competitors rather than producing so many games that work well but feel similar to those already out there.
There’s a learning curve to each game … steep on the first play, plateaus severely for subsequent play. I get the most fun/satisfaction out of riding that first play curve. If given the choice between playing my favourite game of the year a second time vs playing something I know will be crap for the first time, I’ll choose the latter because I’ll enjoy the (learning) experience more, riding that new game thrill curve once again, like a roller-coaster whooshing downhill compared to simply trawling along the flat. And I’ll have fun playing anything because we’ll bring fun to the table regardless of what we’re playing. I’m quite content to play something once and then move on forever to new stuff, no matter how good it was. I have little interest in mastering something – it leads to me mattering too much that I win. That process actually detracts from the fun social experience I want in my gaming where you play to win but it doesn’t matter who wins.
I agree with Patrick with regards to mastering a game. It’s never a goal of mine and is probably something I’d prefer not to do (assuming I’d even be able to do it). It sounds too much like work and if I felt I always knew how to react at every point of a game, it would take away from much of the enjoyable and immediate tension. Obviously, I want to be able to play any game well, and that usually takes several plays, but the often expressed concept of playing a title many times so that it can be mastered just isn’t a consideration for me. So that’s another reason (besides my love of variety) why I like playing lots of different games, including many new designs.
Heaven help me, I’m agreeing with Rick Thornquist: Playing a new game is like opening a Christmas present. I will never, ever turn down a game of Ra or Traumfabrik (among others), but there is something special about the anticipation of playing a brand new game. Especially when someone else (here, I’m talking specifically about James Miller) explains the rules.
Late to the party but I have a somewhat unique perspective on this thanks to recent events in my game group. A good friend of mine who also hosts sessions has made a resolution to only play games from now on that will get a minimum “3 game guarantee” in the next 3 months by ALL WHO ARE PLAYING. And, to assist him in choosing which new games to explore, he has amassed an enormous group of Geekbuddies on BGG whose tastes are well calibrated to match his own. In other words, the only new games that will get played by him in the future are games that a) make it through the very strict GB filter and b) will get played at least three times.
Now, there are other people in our group. Including more than a couple who like to explore new games every chance they get. It remains to be seen how this will work itself out, but the most likely effects will be to split into two tables as much as possible and reserve the new games for those times when my friend can’t make it and/or has already left.
Where do I fit in the mix? I’m mostly getting tired of the same old derivative crap. Too many publishers, too much Kickstarter letting half-baked ideas see light of day. So I can sympathize with my friend and mostly agree with his position. But that doesn’t help me get all my new unplayed games to the table, since the annual Essen mania still gets me going…
Where it all leads for me is similar to what Rick said above: I try to let let others with higher crap tolerance play all the new games first. The trade-off of leaving the “early adopter” crowd is to hopefully play a smaller group of games more frequently – and hopefully ensure that the average quality of those games is higher too. And apart from Essen, I’m pretty good at holding that line!
We were pushing to the edges. I am probably a 2 new to 1 old gamer. Nate and I have been having this discussion for at least four years, so I think we end up each taking stronger positions, especially in conversations we don’t think more than four people will see.
[Nate: Aye. It’s strange being categorized as having an extreme view, when we all said multiple times that we like a balanace of old and new. But Jonathan’s right, this is an old discussion for us, and we skipped a lot of intermediate steps.]
Another angle that we blew past was the Euro/AT spectrum. I have played Runebound/Prophecy/Return of the Heroes more than Agricola/Le Havre/Loyang. I have played St. Pete/Race more than shorter AT games because I like longer thematic games and shorter Euros.
My game acquisitions per year have been plummeting. In the past year, I have also dabbled with rpgs (Fiasco!), Magic: the Gathering (with my son), and war games (Popular Front). I am not sure if this is boredom with my former core games, or just serendipity, but I find them enriching.
I reject the idea that the love of the new is encouraging the flood of games, at least for me. Of the 900 games from Essen, I might end up playing 40 of them – the same 40 most of you will play. Please don’t blame CotN for the other 860.
How you learn/are taught a game plays a huge role in your old/new balance preference. If you are a visual learner or a tactile learner, the rules teacher can start to sound like the teacher in Peanuts. If you are a perfectionist, then if the teacher misses a few minor rules and you plan your play around a misconception, the game can feel worthless. If you need to see the rules to understand the game and the teacher is using them to teach, it can be agonizing. Then there are folks who want to ‘just start playing’ while others want to understand why rule 5.3.6 has the exception 220.127.116.11.
On the idea of getting better, nothing gets me to replay a game more than thinking about it more than 30 minutes after the game ends. To me, that means there is more there than met the eye while I was playing. I might not play better the next time, but thinking about what I would/should have done differently during the game is a signal to myself that it is more than disposable.
In conclusion, for the same reason that I like exploration games, I like exploring games. The feeling of exploration when playing new games is part of what keeps the hobby exciting to me.
What do the rest of you think? Do you want to play new games all the time? We have also posted a poll which poses the question whether you’d rather play new or old games… Please give us your vote!