Monday, February 4, 2008

Board Gaming: Catan & Lost Cities

Today was definitely a game of gaming. In addition to some Beautiful Katamari and XBLA trial versions, I watched the Superbowl and played the "analog" versions of Catan and Lost Cities.

As per usual, Catan took way longer than usual. It was a fun game that was exciting to the end. And it was fun to play in person with good friends. But still I can't help but think that I like the swifter pace of the electronic version. It's a tough trade off. I actually had much more fun playing Lost Cities, which is a great 2 player card game. It's quick and seems to have a bit more depth than Shotten-Totten, with the main trade off being that it is a bit more spreadsheety and requires pencil and paper to score.

All three of these titles qualify as the classic "quick to learn, difficult to master" variety of German strategy board games. The mechanics are crisp and simple and games can be turned over relatively quickly if people are in it for fun and not computing every last possible cell of the spreadsheet (which is what happens when you play against pro board gamers). Each of these games have just enough randomness to keep them interesting and entertaining (and sometimes frustrating) and yet more than enough strategy to engage the brain.

One of the things I like the most about these games is that they are easy to teach in a sandbox tutorial mode. Simply explain the basic mechanics and then run through a few turns (or a game) for practice and players will quickly grok some of the basic strategy and learn the few avoidable "never do this" kinds of mistakes. No need to run through the boring process of reading rules. Just learn as you play.

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