Casual Gaming

The other night Alex brought over an old Ragnar Brothers game to our Tuesday evening game night.  I had played it once before with him about 8 years ago.  The game was Backpacks and Blisters.  This is a mild game of strategy where you need to manage a hand of cards and count spaces on the map.

This is not a heavy thinky sort of game.  Instead it is a game I envision you could play with most anyone.  A game you could enjoy a beer over, and chat with your neighbor when others are taking their turns.  The theme is charming, about hiking in England.  The cards include various movement cards, but also the heavy rucksack and a few blister cards.  The heavy rucksack is a penalty card, causing the holder to have an inhibited movement allowance.  Both it and the blister cards give the holders the excuse to bitterly complain.  I took full advantage of this, and while it hurt my score at the end, it enhanced my enjoyment of the game.  “Oh my feet hurt!”  “God, this rucksack is sooo heavy!”  I hammed it up, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

However at least half of the participants panned the game.  Zack was actively telling the table what a lousy game this was.  And at least a couple of players were disturbed by how uneven the various ways to score were.  Why would you ever take tea instead of taking the ferry, as the ferry is much better?  And they are right – the game is uneven, and perhaps even unfair.  If a player gets to a site just before you, you can’t go there until they leave.  I can agree that as a strategy game there are numerous flaws.  But it didn’t matter to me.  The theme is fun.  The game plays just fine.  And I had fun playing.  I’m just sorry it isn’t a game the club can enjoy.

Earlier in the evening I had asked folks to play String Railroad.  Here’s another game with serious strategy flaws.  But I am amused by the idea that a game can consist of a few cards and a few lengths of string.  Sadly this quirky idea failed to amuse some of the players.

Some of my recent enticement with Silverton comes from the heavy theme.  To be sure Silverton does have some strategy to it.  But much of the fun is being swept along with the (a)historical narrative.  Silverton is likely too long of a game for a single game night, so I wouldn’t generally offer it for consideration.  But my recent experiences has me questioning how much of my collection is really of interest to the game club.

I enjoy having a wide range of games.  I really like strategy games.  But I also like these more casual games I am discussing above.  I have collected quite a few Jean du Poel and Reinhold Wittig games because they were handmade – a joy to behold for the artisanal work embedded in them.  I have older family games from the 50’s and 60’s which are fun to see because they exhibit stepping-stones to modern designs.

If I were to try to classify my games into various buckets, I wonder how many categories I would come up with?  Hmmm… perhaps this will be the next entry for this blog!


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