Saturday, October 25, 2008

Games Mechanics that I dislike

This is a list of game mechanics which are not necessarily bad, and which other people may like, but which I personally dislike.

I loathe the diplomacy game mechanic, where agreements between players rather than gameplay determines who will lose the game. The classic example is the 3 player game where 2 players agree to team up to destroy the third player before turning on each other to decide the winner.

I loathe the outguess game mechanic, exemplified by rock paper scissors, where each player's best action depends primarily on guessing what the other player’s action will be.

I don't care for the memory game mechanic, exemplified by concentration or gin, where it is important to remember which cards were played previously.

I don't like highly relative games, like chess, where each move has no independent meaning beyond what the future moves of each player will be. I much prefer games where you are performing clearly beneficial actions like building up a town or moving through a race or damaging another player, and the element of skill is in choosing the best move to make.

Similarly, I don’t really like games where it isn’t really clear whether a given move is good for you or bad for you without performing a deep analysis of both players’ future moves.

I don't like games where is futile to gain the lead because the other players will simply attack the leader until he is brought down to the level of the other players. On the other hand, I like games where the losing players can act to slow down the winning player and prevent him from snowballing into inevitable victory. There is no clear dividing line between these concepts, it is a matter of precisely how well things are balanced.

I don’t like “time-based” games where the first player to shout out what they are doing has the advantage. I like taking turns better. A corollary is that I’m not super-fond of the mechanic where it is beneficial for two players to trade with each other, and it is arbitary who trades with who, so the first player to agree to a trade wins out. But I guess I don’t really mind too much, it just isn’t my favorite mechanic.

1 comment:

  1. Not too surprisingly, I share several of the same tastes, although there are some differences.

    I don't really mind the Diplomacy mechanic, as long as it is in games where I feel it's supposed to be the focus of the game. I kind of like Risk for example. One memorable (for me at least) 3 player game of risk I quickly was in the losing position. However I was able to extend the game a lot by talking to the player in 2nd place and telling them that I would spend all my forces attacking them unless they agreed to ally with me against the leading player. This caused them to switch places, whereupon I switched sides and the situation repeated. Eventually I lost, but in that case I liked the mechanic.

    On the other hand, I pretty much refuse to play the old Civilization game because I feel the trading rounds are dominated by this kind of deal making but it doesn't fit in with the game.

    Pure rock paper scissors isn't interesting to me, but the game theory of a slightly asymmetrical version appeals to the math nerd in me. It's not a mechanic I particularly like, but not a deal breaker.

    I very much dislike memory mechanics in any board game, but that doesn't mean I don't like Mah Jong. It's just different.

    I used to be interested in Chess, and looked at Go a few years ago. I don't want any mechanic like that in a board game though.

    I agree that rules that directly penalize the leader are distasteful. Especially when much of the game becomes about how to work around them.

    Any game where you want to "shout" over others to get them to agree with you quickly I dislike.

    For what it's worth I don't like games like Pictionary or all the variations either.

    Similar to the rock paper scissors comment, I don't like any mechanic which boil down to a basic match problem. It doesn't have to be that complicated to be interesting though.

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