Games are an ancient form of communication. From Classical Games such as Pachisi to video games like Skyrim, games are deeply embedded in our culture. They are integral in teaching us behaviours like waiting to take turns. And, despite the rise of the video game, the analogue gaming community remains stronger than ever.
Being a casual video-gamer myself, I had my reservations about how much I would enjoy the experience of playing analogue games. However, throughout the past two weeks I exposed myself to table top games ranging from simple one-mechanic physical dexterity games to complex social deduction game play, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The tables below outlines the two games I would like to analyse: Sushi Go! and Avalon. One of these gaming experiences was highly enjoyable, the other, not so much.
|Genre||Family Card Game|
|Target Audience||Kids 8+|
|Game Mechanics*||Card drafting|
Simultaneous Action Selection
|Genre||Party Card Game|
|Target Audience||Ages 13+|
Interested in fantasy genre
|Developer||Don Eskridge Gen|
|Publisher||Indie Boards & Cards|
|Game Mechanics*||Hidden Roles|
Roles w/ Asymmetric Info
Simultaneous Action Selection
Variable Player Powers
Sushi Go! is a sushi-themed card game that is fast-paced, intense and cleverly designed to replicate a sushi train as players pass cards to each other each round. Developer, Phil Walker-Harding, takes “the card-drafting mechanism of Fairy Tale and 7 Wonders and distills it into a twenty-minute game that anyone can play” (BoardGameGeeks, 2020). It aims to teach kids strategy and probability by reinforcing visual discrimination and strategic thinking (BoardGameGeeks, 2020). But, this is not to say that is not enjoyable for adults because it was very fun!
The game’s combination of Agon elements that lean heavily towards the Ludus end of the spectrum made this an enjoyable game experience (Caillois 1961, p. 71). Although, it was a rough start. The meaning of each card and the mechanics were unclear after reading the rule book, so we called on Peter to explain the rules and help us with a play-through. After one play through we were able to rapidly adopt the rules and continue with intense and successful gaming experience. We also chose to incorporate music into the game to heighten our experience, selecting a soundtrack that we thought matched the game world: lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to.
Overall, there was an effective relationship between mechanics, rules, theme, setting and story, but I would prefer a different rule-delivery method, such as the videos below.
Within Avalon’s magic circle, good is pitted against evil in a battle to control the future of civilization. It draws on the myth of Merlin and is set in medieval times, using a combination of cards, game tokens and game board. Avalon is a “race game”, where teams aim to finish 3 quests first (Woods, 2012, p.17). Albeit there is a confusing mechanic where the winners can be overturned if Merlin is correctly identified by the Assassin. The rules of the game are VERY specific and delivered via an instruction booklet. Our team struggled to understand the rules of play, even as we played-through. For example, Suzie, [pictured below] got confused and revealed her secret identity and unknowingly lost us the round.
The game serves as a semi-Role-Player-Game, (Moore, 2020) where players adopt the character that is randomly selected for them. But, it was difficult to immerse ourselves in these roles, because of our confusion over the game rules, which often broke the magic circle (Huizinga, 2002, p. 10-20). Furthermore, the team-selection mechanic lead to distancing players from the game experience. It was possible to be entirely excluded from play if you were not chosen or voted in for quests, so many players lost interest.
Ultimately, Avalon required a robust contextual knowledge and had rules that were too complex for table-top novices to fully grasp, producing a frustrating and uninteresting game experience.
What has your experience with table-top gaming been like? I’d be interested to hear about it in a comment below!
BoardGameGeek, 2020, ‘Sushi Go!’, Board Game Geek, viewed March 18 2020, <https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/133473/sushi-go>
BoardGameGeek, 2020. ‘The Resistance: Avalon’, Board Game Geek, viewed March 18 2020, <https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/128882/resistance-avalon>
Caillois, R, 1961, Man, Play And Games, The Free Press of Glencoe, Inc, pp .27-71.
Gamewright, 2020, ‘Sushi Go! | Gamewright’, Gamewright, viewed 18 March 2020, <https://gamewright.com/product/Sushi-Go>
Huizinga, J, 2002, ‘Homo Ludens’, Routledge, London, pp. 10-20, 77.
Moore, C, 2020, BCM300 Mass Market Games And The Niche Games Industry, online video, 16 March, Chris Moore, viewed 17 March 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9JCSz6j5IU> [Accessed 17 March 2020].
Sicart, M, 2008, ‘Defining Game Mechanics’, The International Journal of Computer Game Research, vol. 8, no. 2, online, viewed 20 March 2020 <http://gamestudies.org/0802/articles/sicart>
Woods, S, 2012, Eurogames, McFarland & Co., Jefferson, p.17.