I have an odd relationship to games. I’d like to say that I don’t care whether I win or lose, but that’s not quite true. I have the most fun when everyone playing is doing well and enjoying the game. I have found, however, that some games are more fun than others if you aren’t clearly winning.
Let’s take 7 Wonders for example. As I touched on previously, it has a lot going for it: it’s quick to play and the rules are simple once you grok them (to name just two). It is also a game that I am happy to lose. Which is to say that my enjoyment of the game is not derived from winning an individual game. More than that, it’s a game where I think anyone playing goes through uncertainty about how they’re doing relative to others during play. I remarked while playing last night that sometime in Age II everyone feels like they’re doomed.
I think uncertainty about how well I’m doing is a feature I like in games. I love Agricola, but I don’t think I’ve ever played a game of it where I wasn’t certain that I was doing poorly for much of the game. The difference between such games and others I enjoy less is that everyone’s in pretty much the same boat. Experience has taught me that, when playing Agricola, how I feel about my success during play isn’t a strong indicator of how it will actually turn out in the end. On the flip side, I have played many games, notably of Settlers of Catan, where I was able to identify that I (or another player) was pretty much doomed from the start. In the Catan instances, the early predictions almost always turn out to be true. So repeated plays of a game can teach you whether the feelings that the game elicits from you during play are indicative of the quality of your playing or are simply part of the experience.