Game play frequency and go-to games

Eminent Domain

Last night I played some games for the first time in over 5 years.

After playing the new game Clank!. I agreed to play Eminent Domain, a space theme civilization deck building game. After that time was running short so we needed something quick and easy. Jon suggested the bluffing party game called Skull. I soon realized that although I own all of these games. It had been years since I I had not played the latter two games.

Eminent Domain, with two expansions, is an evolved game. With so long having elapsed since I last played I knew I needed help with both the rules and the strategy. Ted and Jon were past-masters at the game so they helped answer questions once we got going. It did not matter to me that I was not going to win. Just trying to get some synergy in my strategy was enough for me. While mostly ignoring what Ted and Jon were doing; Alan, John and myself competed in our own 2nd tier contest. Even before the game had ended I was itching to drag out my copy of the game, read the rules and play it again. Perhaps I should not wait 5 years before I play it again. Luckily, that will not be a problem as Eminent Domain is one of the regular games in my local gaming group.

The game called Skull was fast light and fun. This was a good game to round out the evening. Despite the long time since I had last played I still sort-of remembered the rules, and (more importantly) I had a grasp of the fundamentals of the bluffing strategy required. The 5 people playing were all long time gaming opponents which meant the table talk was rather lively. Some of the other gamers gathered around to watch the game and listen to our banter.

There is little in common between these two games. To master Eminent Domain it would need many plays to develop effective strategies. Regular plays are required to learn all the possibilities within the many cards within the game. On the other hand, Skull is quick to teach and relies more on reading people than understanding detailed game mechanics.

This made me reflect on my own game replay habits, and that of my local gaming groups.

My local gaming group, the Ventura County Strategy Boardgamers Meetup  have been holding a game night on Tuesday nights since early 2010. From a few people meeting in a Borders Books the group has flourished into a large and active group that has held over 1100 meetups. Currently 2-3 meetups per week are being held across different locations. Many gamers attend more than one of these weekly meetups, yet each meetup location seems to have developed their own game preferences.
For a many years the most regular game on Tuesday nights has been Battlestar Galactica (BSG) by Fantasy Flight Games  It is no surprise to have 2-3 games of BSG being played during an evening session. Almost by accident, BSG had evolved into one of the go-to games for the Tuesday night group. This go me thinking about some of the other go-to games in my gaming circles
The current go-to games across a number of game groups that I frequent include:
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Stone Age
  • Wizard
  • The Game
  • Codenames
  • Vegas (dice game)
  • Eminent Domain
  • Star Wars Rebellion
  • Love Letter (various versions)
  • Eclipse
  • Napoleonic Wars
  • Sword of Rome

That is quite a variety of games.

Having a number of go-to games has proven to be useful in all of the groups. Having variety in your go-to games allow the players some choice in what to play. The available time, and number of players are major factors in choosing which games to play.

Advantages of go-to games

Here are some advantages of having go-to games in your gaming circles. These are  especially advantages for the more evolved, longer games.
  • There is no need to teach the game. Teaching a game takes time and effort.
  • Players have evolved past just simply playing the game – they know different strategies and can play the game competently.
  • The game is setup and running quickly.
  • The time it takes to play the game is shorter.
  • Not everyone always wants to put the time and effort into learning a new game. This is especially advantages on a weekday evening.

Repetition is good for newcomers

It is hard to remember what it is like to be a new gamer. Gazing with wonder at stacks of snazzy game boxes filled with counters, cards, and meeples. Old hands introduce you to a game about something where you need to earn some fancy mechanic called worker placement, and there are cards and cubes everywhere. Just when you get the hang of it, the game is over. And may never see that game again.
Compared to experienced gamers, newcomers to gaming need more repeat plays for the game to sink in. Newcomers have to learn a myriad of new game terminology and game concepts. Simply playing the game well takes practice. Experienced gamers are quicker to look past the game mechanics and see strategies. Put yourself
Please take that into account when suggesting games to newcomers. It is more satisfying for all the gamers in a group that the newcomers find their feet quickly. I believe this helped by regular, repeat play of go-to games.

Going forward

My resolution is this: I will add more go-to games to my own game choices. This may mean I play BSG a little less often. I will ensure that newcomers are exposed to more go-to games.
8th March 2017
Eminent Domain is pictured top.

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