Game Night

Yesterday evening was spent mainly playing board games (and a card game). Specifically, Quoridor, Hive, Onitama and Sushi Go. I have talked about Quoridor in the past and keep meaning to post something about the other games at some point, but for now all I have is an observation about the type of games I enjoy most: Abstract strategy games.

These are games that, in general, have no — or very little — theme. They are also games for which the rules are tend to be very simple allowing for complexity to emerge from the gameplay itself.

The perfect example of this is probably Go, a game that can be summed up with about four rules and one that remains fiendishly to get to grips with. This is a game I started playing about 18 months ago, and I’m still rubbish.

Games with a strong theme can be fun, but for me the emphasis on the theme can get in the way of the gameplay. These games often come with thick, comprehensive rulebooks that attempt to make the theme come to life but which also require you to keep checking the rules. Complex rules can also give rise to ambiguities and, in the worst case, rules-lawyering.

Abstract games avoid many of these problems. A simple and clear set of rules removes ambiguity and, once understood, never need to be looked at again. This allows me to focus purely on the gameplay and become fully absorbed in the complexity that emerges from the game.

These types of games also tend to either remove or minimise luck as a part of the gameplay. When I lose, I can usually see exactly when and why I lost — if not immediately, then eventually. This gives me a clear route towards thinking about strategies and towards improving my game — whatever game that might be.

I’m not particularly exclusive in my game-playing and will try pretty much anything at least once. But over time, I have developed a clear preference for abstract games that allow me to focus entirely on how to beat (or not lose too badly to) my opponent.

5 thoughts on “Game Night

  1. I’ve never heard to any of these games… 😯 … My favorite is scrabble, but we play without the rules so it’s just about making words. It much easier with the kids…


    1. I used to play Scrabble quite a bit when I was younger. These days, though, being a monolingual dad in a trilingual household, I suspect things would get very confusing quite quickly.

      One of the things I do like about abstract games that I didn’t really make clear is that simple rules mean that any of the kids can easily get involved. And once they get the hang of a game, it’s surprising how often they can win at it.

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      1. Sounds good… We only get to pay board games on Sunday as it’s the day I ban gadgets in my house! Otherwise during the week, the only games that get played are on the Playstaion or mobiles!


        1. Hah. We do it the other way around — Gadgets are banned on school nights so the tablets and Wii U come out on Friday evening and are (generally) put away again on Sunday after lunch.

          And then we still drag the boys out for weekend activities 😉

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