Friday, March 30, 2007

Playing Favourites

There is a unfortunate trend in modern society to try to "top ten" everything, from books, to songs, to stupid dog tricks. Although certainly fun, it also over-simplifies and narrows the qualities of things - a movie might be admired for its direction, while lacking somewhat in a script, or a book might have a fantastic set of characters, but lacks pacing - as examples.

As widespread and reductive the trend is, one thing that "top ten" and "best of" lists and articles force you to do is really sit down and evaluate what you really like about something. After listing to a number of Board Game Geek "GeekSpeak" podcasts over the past few weeks, I've decided to come up with my own answers to their "hook", as well as defining a few other favourites.

Derk and Aldie's "hook" is to ask an interviewee about their favourite game for two, three, four, five and six or more players. They usually say that for the six or more player category, that you can also specify a "party" game.

Understanding that preferences can change over time, here are my game favourites:

Favourite Game for Two

Hard question, since I play wargames, many of which are intended for two players. My favourite Euro for two at the moment is Lost Cities. My favourite wargame for two is a toss-up between Firepower, which is an all-time favourite, and the newcomer, Twilight Struggle, which is sort of a "weuro" (Euro-game mechanics with a wargame-like feel). Forced to choose, I would go with Firepower, just because with only three plays of Twilight Struggle under my belt, I can't really call it a favourite with conviction yet. I also enjoy Zero! for two, but I prefer it with four. Combat Commander: Europe was making a strong play for this category to displace Firepower, but after additional plays, the bloom is off the rose for me - I still enjoy it, just not as much as Firepower.

Favourite Game for Three

Three is a very difficult number for games, for balancing reasons - it's too easy for two to gang up on one. I actually don't own many games which work for three. Probably Tigris and Euphrates, even though it's not one of my favourite games in general, and Colossal Arena, which is a little light for my tastes. China is also good, but I'd rather play Tigris and Euphrates over China unless time was limited. In the wargame category, Doom is a lot of fun for three. I haven't really played many others which work for three - Axis and Allies: D-Day and Axis and Allies: Pacific being the principal ones, neither of which being stellar in my opinion. None of the answers feel satisfactory for me with three.

Favourite Game for Four

Another hard call but for the opposite reason of three-player games, because of the sheer volume of games which work well with this number. Probably Power Grid as the front runner, with Tikal and Princes of Florence coming in very close second and third respectively. A dark horse in this category is WildLife - with additional plays, it may creep up past Tikal and Princes of Florence to vie with Power Grid for first place. Louis XIV may do the same, once again, more plays would determine the eventual winner. I think a lot of people list El Grande in this category; I like and appreciate El Grande; it's just not something I jump at playing. In the wargames, my favourite four-player game is Zero!/Down in Flames series, pretty much hands down. I love that game. Duel of Ages is not exactly a pure wargame, but I enjoy it for four as well.

Favourite Game for Five

At the moment the clear winner for me in this player-category is Railroad Tycoon. It's unbalanced, somewhat random and has a number of other flaws, but I just love it, conceptually and during game play. I also like Ticket to Ride for this number, but it's a little light for me. I also like Draw Poker (I prefer draw poker to Stud variants) for five or more, but in the board games category, Railroad Tycoon wins out. I used to love Shogun (Milton Bradley version) and Axis and Allies in this category as wargames, but I played those to death in my teens. With additional plays the new Shogun (Dirk Henn) may also feature as a "waro" (a wargame with Euro-mechanics).

Favourite Game for Six

Until I play more six-player non-party games (doesn't happen often, really) it's probably Railroad Tycoon again. I'd like to be able to say Twilight Imperium, but having only played it three times, and only once with six, I can't really say for sure. Same with Civilization - I've never actually played it with six, but I imagine it would be terrific (if long). Bang! works well with this number, if a shorter game is needed. Firepower works well with almost any number, but I'd love to try it with six sometime, with each player controlling a squad. Duel of Ages is a lot of fun with six as well.

My favourite party game for six at the moment is Wits and Wagers, which is really quite good for almost any group of adults and I've played a lot. I've only played Times Up twice, but I really enjoyed it then, so additional plays of Times Up might bump Wits and Wagers out. Same with Werewolf, which I've only played on three evenings (with one or two plays each evening). I've heard Smarty Party mentioned a lot in this category, but I've never played. A close second in the party games category would be Things... which is a lot of fun with the right group of people.

Derk and Aldie also typically ask the following quesions:

Favourite Book

Hard question, for the reasons I listed at the beginning of this piece. The books I've probably read most often is the Narnia Chronicles, followed closely by "The Lord of the Ring". I'd have to say "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco.

Favourite Movie

My favourite movie is Blade Runner, for reasons which are too complex to go into here. Close runners up are Aliens, Apocalypse Now, Seven Samurai and Once Upon a Time in the West.

Favourite Word

I enjoy the sound and the meaning of "sibilance". Similarly I enjoy "serendipity" as well. Probably "sibilance".

Not on Derk and Aldie's list is favourite TV show...

Favourite TV Show

Another difficult choice. Almost a dead tie between DaVinci's Inquest, Band of Brothers, Deadwood and Firefly. Of those, probably Deadwood and Firefly and if I had to pick between them, Deadwood. Fantastic cast, direction, writing, acting... just fabulous. All of them are great. If Firefly had gone another season or two, it might have been Firefly. As it is, there isn't quite enough depth with just the 14 episodes.

I'll probably be shot if any fellow Browncoat reads that.

In any case, I'm burning up the last minutes of my lunch hour, so I'm going to finish playing favourites and turn it over to my fellow WAGSters for comment.

1 comment:

  1. This should be fun:


    I enjoy Lord of the Rings solo. Not a crowded field, however.

    2 player:

    I don't get to play 2 player games much. I like Duel of Ages best with 2, and Rommel in the Desert and Wilderness War are both 2 player wargames I wish I could play more often. I recently purchased Goa and San Juan in the hopes of interesting my wife, but I'mnot sure if it will lead to anything. I haven't played much of Dungeon Twister, but I think I'd really like to play more.

    3 player:

    This one's easy. Ra is my favorite game, and it plays best with 3 players. China is also best with 3. Tikal plays well with any number of players, but 3 seems to be the sweet spot for interactivity without too much downtime. Carcassonne also plays best with 3, for similar reasons.

    4 player:

    Tigris and Euphrates is a great 4 player game (it's also good with 2, but lopsided with 3). Taj Mahal plays well with 4 and 5, but I suspect it's probably a bit less harrying with 4.

    5 players:

    With 5 players, I have the burden of choice. El Grande and Princes of Florence would take top spot, but Railroad Tycoon is also right up there. This would likely be my favorite category of game.

    Antike, Railroad Tycoon and RoboRally are great games at this number.

    Party games:
    Things..., Time's Upand Apples to Apples.