Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Which Abstract Games are Fun?

I recently read a great post from Nick Bentley, a connoisseur of abstract board games.  In it, he argues about concretely defining the properties that make a ruleset fun.

Unlike standard board games, abstract games are usually lacking in a tie-together theme.  This can be a barrier to enjoyment for some because players are not immersing themselves the role of a megalomaniac field general or a real-estate cartel in Atlantic City.

What, then, is so attractive about abstract games?  Nick references an article by J. Mark Thompson about what properties of good abstract games.  Nick then adds his own property, speciousness, a False Clarity about good strategies.  From Nick's post:
The greatest games pull this trick over and over – just when you think you’ve learned everything, the scales fall from your eyes yet again, and yet again you realize the game isn’t quite what you thought it was. And then, even after you know better, you’re sometimes tempted to make suboptimal moves because they just feel so right.
This goes beyond a standard of computational hardness and connects with a more psychological aspect. 

My inclination is that speciousness is more common with partisan games than impartial.  Hmmm.  Go enjoy Nick's full explanation to see some examples and follow his thoughts.