An Interesting Thought Experiment

Premium User

I was going to wait until I had more time for a nice long post...but I didn't find any in my couch cushions so here's my inking of an idea and some tiny discussion starters...

 

What if there were a "perfect" game...what would that look like?

 

1. With subjectivity being what it is I am approaching this more from a philosophical side and not a "can you design the perfect game" side.  I realize the arguments are sort of "splitting hairs" but, I was still intrigued by the thought.

Some considerations:

Gloomhaven...I think the two-card mechanic might be a chunk of what makes it special?  Also, the ability for the game to be constantly dynamic and not get old.  Having no two games fee alike is a nice feature I think.

#Brass: Birmingham - I am not sure yet what the most satisfying feature of this game is?

#Scythe - Well balanced 4x game?  Again, hard to say?

Hopefully you see where I going, trying to take top-rated games and narrow down a feature that makes them great.  The "perfect" game would have all these features.

Discussion started....go!

 

Like| 22 comments | report | subscribe

Please log in or make an account to post a comment.

Premium User43 days ago

I think it can boil down to this statement:

A game is perfect if it keeps all players entertained and engaged from beginning to end.  

Of course that is so generic it could be anything.  It could be a movie or a video game.

The problem is that games are very subjective so terms like "entertained" and "engaged" could mean "keeps me laughing" or "keeps me thinking" or a variety of other things.

I think in some ways the generality of the statement is a sign to the huge variety of games we have now and the fact that there are people that love all kinds of games.  

Thoughts?

Supporter42 days ago

It's interesting to think of.  In general I agree with the main thought that if players are engaged from beginning to end, but I think it would depend on how one defined entertained.  I remember Cole Wehrle saying something along the lines of not caring about making a fun game but a memorable game.  I would generally tie the word entertained to the word fun... but perhaps others wouldn't.

I've had gaming nights that I've absolutely loved but can also be extremely frustrating.  But I enjoy the frustration.  I've also had people make a perfect play that total throws off my plans, but again that is something I really enjoy.  

Also, (I'm getting longer winded than I anticipated), I don't always see active engagement in the game to be a necessary component (even though I do value high player interaction).  I prefer the engagement to be between the people, so in a game with lower direct interaction, does it allow for away from the game interaction?  If so that's also a big + for me.

Premium User42 days ago

It's why I left the statement so vague.  It's "entertained" and "engaged" for a persons definition of what those mean.  

Add in the "all players" and you realize that such a thing can't exist unless "all players" completely agree on what "entertained" and "engaged" means.  Good luck with that!

Supporter42 days ago

Totally.  Although I will say I've been blessed with a really great group that has vibed well with the games we've gotten out together so far.  No dissapointments and everyone is always really engaged in the game.

Premium User42 days ago

I have a good group too.  We'll pretty much play anything from the hardcore euros to hilarious party games.

Supporter41 days ago

For sure.  We don't usually do a lot of party games but probably would if we were having like all the families get together, like all husbands and wives and kids.

My new group really has a similiar taste in theme and mechanics which is great.  No one feels like they are playing a game they don't want to play just to be a good gaming buddy.

Premium User43 days ago

I would agree that it has to maintain full engagement throughout the gameplay to be considered "perfect".  If there was a weak spot to #Scythe or #Wingspan it might be that as higher player counts tend to lead toward significant downtime.  I think this is where a game like #Castles of Mad King Ludwig or #Brass: Birmingham shine as you really have to monitor what's going on a little more closely.  

Premium User43 days ago

I agree.  Although I have played a 7 player game and if there wasn't one AP player the turns would be super fast.  We would sometimes whip around to them before they had decided on the bottom half of their previous turn.  If not for that the game would have barely been longer than a 3 or 4 player game.

Premium User43 days ago

There's always one....

43 days ago

I agree it would be very hard to define the perfect game. I'd say Scythe is my #1 game, I think the player board mechanic of improving two things with each upgrade is the biggest stand out feature in a game that doesn't have any major weak point IMO. Several worker placements (Architects, tzolkien, anachrony) or deck/engine builders (clank, terraforming) are a close second, but that is definitely due to our preference. I'm certain the dungeon crawlers that we absolutely despise are some else's perfect version of a game.

Supporter43 days ago

#Root there is nothing else, 😂

43 days ago

I have six perfect games in my collection:

1. #Race for the Galaxy

2. #Welcome to...

3. #Century: Golem Edition

4. #The Quest for El Dorado

5. #Colt Express

6. #Codenames

I have much better games than those: #Agricola, #Mage Knight, #Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game, #7 Wonders, etc.

But those 6 games are, in my opinion, unbeatable from a pure design standpoint, each one on their own category. That doesn't mean that they are our favorite games or the ones we would keep if we had to drastically reduce our collection. Perfection is not always the only trait desirable in a game, just like a perfect circle may not be the best painting to hang on a wall.

Premium User43 days ago

Knowing that there is much subjectivity to this thought experiment in general...what is it about those games that you think attributes to their "perfect" nature?  What aspect of the game might you pluck from them to place in the "perfect" game.

I haven't played all those games but #Codenames is a good one as it is so excellent in a group and the dynamics are well coordinated for the social interactions it promotes.  If I was to try and extract what singular aspect makes it that way, I might say the tension built around common knowledge as the clue giver devises words that might lead to multiple guesses.  The real kicker is...I think it's the presence of a wrong guess that can lead to instance loss that really makes the magic word.  

That's just shooting from the hip...what do you think?

43 days ago

It's very difficult to describe. When I say a game is perfect I mean that everything has a clear purpose, there are no loose ends, no superflous mechanics, no fat to trim, everything clicks and fits where it should. Perfect games, the way I describe them, have no rule exceptions (or very few), no special cases. Also, they must enbody, as well as possible, the spirit of their style of gameplay. Like I said, that doesn't always result in the best or most entertaining games.

This can also be applied to movies or books. For example, some Kubrick or Wes Anderson films might be deemed perfect from certain point of view, but they are unsufferable to me, even if I can admire their technical prowess. Another example, in my opinion, would be The Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I think that is a perfect book and, for a change, I love it to bits.

Premium User43 days ago

there also has to be some discussion on what the games goals are, and who is playing it. I don't want to play Monopoly, but it does what it is designed to do. Also, no mater how good Gloomhaven is, most of my game group doesn't like it.

Premium User43 days ago

Yes, the perfect game would go exactly what it is designed to do.  A necessary feature.  I did try to take into consideration folks that don't like a certain game as well and why.  Becky doesn't like Gloomhaven because she just doesn't engage the story and without the story, the game can fall a little flat between turns.  Becky wants to focus on her turn and not be subject to what other folks do.  She didn't like #Brass: Birmingham for much the same reason.

Premium User43 days ago

The aches and pains are setting in as I recover from my 2nd COVID shot.  But that gives me time to type a little and dive into this "perfect game" idea.

has touched on two things that I think are significant.  One being the upgrading of two things for one action, or, I think in broader terms, this would be getting a lot for a little, or each action feeling it has some weight to it.  The second thing is the game not having any major weak points.  This could fall into that subjective category but I think, to some degree, an avid gamer can appreciate even a game they don't really enjoy playing based on it being well designed.  I think of this in terms of judging a beer style I don't prefer but still being able to look at it objectively without taking points away just because of my style preferences.

So let's dive a bit deeper into this rabbit hole, shall we...

I touched on #Gloomhaven and #Scythe has been touched on starting things off with a few "perfect game" features...

1. Game progression that allows each game to feel a little different or have a twist of some sort and matches experience (Gloomhaven)

2. The feeling of accomplishment from turn to turn and no weak areas (Scythe).  Or a higher payout in points or resources than investment (Wingspan).

3. Natural gameplay interactions between players that match well with the theme and don't feel forced.  Even in competition, players must interact successfully with opponents.

4. A pleasant tension (or difficulty) that creates enough challenge to breed stories and memories over the course of multiple games.

5. Art that is captivating, blends smoothly into theme and gameplay and draws the players in further.

#Wingspan has shot up the charts since it came out and has maintained a high ranking despite a theme that might have caught a few folks off guard when it came out.  I think the theme is actually quite approachable and may contribute to its success to some degree.  However, the gameplay seems to be what keeps people coming back to the table.  I think the engine building aspect of this game is its magic with there being several different types of engines that one can build.   I'm not sure it's the engine-building in and of itself that hits the right notes but maybe the same bit from #Scythe in which players can see how their actions pay off and may get a good payout from one action.  I simply added to 2 on this one.

I think with #Brass: Birmingham it comes down to the tight interweaving of interactions that influence point games and resource management.  This likely falls into the lack of a real weak area as in Scythe but also feels like something more social.  I'd add a social factor to the "perfect game" that allows space for self-deterministic gameplay (as in Brass, I can interact with others or try to create my own space on the board to some degree)

#Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 is rated very highly and while I have not played it I know there is a glorious tension with this game that draws players back to the table over and over again.  I think I would enjoy playing this but have a feeling that Gloomhaven gives me the same experience with a pit more autonomy of character.  One aspect of Pandemic and other games like #Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island and #Spirit Island is the challenge and difficulty.  These are all co-op games as well and I am not sure that the "perfect game" would be co-op, but I do think it will be quite challenging and force players to make difficult decisions over the course of gameplay (Do I move and hit the monster with a huge swing or sit here and heal my ally who is down to two health?)

#Terraforming Mars brings my thinking back to Scythe or Brass and the idea that some form of player collaboration is important in the perfect game.  You should have to pay attention to what other players are doing to one degree or another. #Castles of Mad King Ludwig uses this well with the auction mechanic to make income and determine room prices each round.  

#Everdell #Scythe #Brass: Birmingham all have great art.  The "perfect game" would have the absolute best art.  It should be aesthetically pleasing in every way possible.  I would argue that the "perfect" game would use art in a meaningful way in the game.  Something like #Canvas but even better. #The Gallerist has a unique feature the allows the tiles players' place of the art they purchased to blend in with their player board.  Something along these lines should be incorporated.  

 

I could likely go on for a while down the game list.  I will stop here with these five takeaways and a few questions:

1. Game progression that allows each game to feel a little different or have a twist of some sort and matches experience (Gloomhaven)

2. The feeling of accomplishment from turn to turn and no weak areas (Scythe).  Or a higher payout in points or resources than investment (Wingspan).

3. Natural gameplay interactions between players that match well with the theme and don't feel forced.  Even in competition, players must interact successfully with opponents.

4. A pleasant tension (or difficulty) that creates enough challenge to breed stories and memories over the course of multiple games.

5. Art that is captivating, blends smoothly into theme and gameplay and draws the players in further.

 

What game aspect do you think I have missed that would be in the "perfect" game?

Do you think the perfect game already exists, and if so, what is it?

What game falls outside your normal game choices but you have found it is very good despite being outside your preferences?

43 days ago

You are making a lot of good points, they also illustrate how the perfect game will likely be very subjective. You used pandemic as an example of tension, a lot of people love the tension in pandemic, but we found it sucked the fun out of the game, striving for the perfect move because the tension never relents,  instead of enjoying the mechanics and player interaction. On the other hand the push your luck tension while drawing from the bag in quacks of quedlinberg is very rewarding to my group, or the tension in clank where you must decide if you will push your luck and try for one more treasure before your luck with the dragon runs out. I think those are examples of choosing your level of tension rather than having it forced on you which to me is crucial to the perfect game.

That also leads me to think about how the perfect game would allow for a variety of play styles and strategy, all that could legitimately lead to victory. 

Premium User43 days ago

You hit on a great idea there with the degree of tension. #Diamant has a push your luck tension I don't like because the downside is just too much of a downside. #Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure has a very similar tension balanced differently and one that I like as it doesn't seem as punishing.

36 days ago

We've played dozens of games of clank, and only twice I think did a player suffer the full effect of the dragon (once was me the other was my son), neither of us minded though because we new we chose to take the risk to get one more treasure that would probably have winnus the game if we had at least got out of the depths (you only get a partial penalty if you are in the upper section of the dungeon). That's what's so great about the choice of tension in clank, we could have started out as soon as the dragon attacks were going to automatically start, but we chose to riskniy and up the tension, especially great if it looks like you'd lose without taking that risk. Many other times (most in fact) those that take the risk of staying below longer win.

Supporter43 days ago

I do find that some "rough edges" or "grit" can make a game more satisfying. For instance, this is, probably, subjective, but I find the conflict in #Scythe to be a bit rough around the edges. However, I do think that bit of "roughness" is a helps give the necessary "texture" to elevate the game.

And, in answer to your question about whether or not there is a perfect game, of course there is a perfect game, it's called #Pax Pamir (Second Edition). It has, for me, all the 5 areas that you mentioned, in spades. In all seriousness, I don't think there is such a thing as a universally perfect game. One thing that differs hugely between players is what sort of "tension" they prefer. I hate the "tension" that comes with most point salads. I don't want that particular sort of puzzle. Some people love it. I love the harshness found in #Agricola (Revised Edition), many people hate it.

Premium User43 days ago

Those are excellent points on the tension dynamic and preferences. I'll have to take a look at Pax for those areas. Intriguing...