Friday, December 15, 2017

Why I am keeping Through the Desert

Many years ago, a friend told me that he considered me the Through the Desert guy. For three years running, when he’d run into me at GenCon, Through the Desert would be in my bag and he’d somehow be there when I’d pull it out for a group game.

It has been a surprisingly long time since my last play of Through the Desert. However, it is a game that I have absolutely no intention of getting rid of my collection. I both really enjoy it and I think it’s a great example of a multi-player abstract.

Not that I thought of it as an abstract when I first got it. No, not because it had a theme but because it had a random set up. For the me of ten or so years ago, an abstract meant no hidden information and no random elements. Games like Qwirkle or Ingenious need not apply.

I’ve lightened up on the subject. Being told over and over that Ingenious is an abstract will have the effect :P

Back in the day, I read that Through the Desert was Go for multiple players. Since then, I spent three or four years trying to play Go seriously (which isn’t nearly long enough and I hope to revisit it again someday) and that’s pretty ridiculous. Other than placing stones (or camels) on the board, the games don’t resemble each other. And it’s not even useful as a teaching tool. I can make an argument for Monopoly being like Catan to convince someone to try Catan. I don’t see myself getting a serious Go player to try Through the Desert with this argument :D

Which isn’t some kind of flaw in Through the Desert. Go is like a fundamental building block of the concept of board game. I’ve heard serious Go players scorn Chess as a serious game. Through the Desert is a strong, fun, accessible game. Just because it doesn’t recreate the hydrogen atom doesn’t make it bad.

What is a major problem in for me is that I am quite color blind and it uses eleven different colors if you have a five-player game. Good lord, that’s rough. And I somehow still managed to learn and teach and play the game. That’s how good it is. I did that despite the color issue!

Still, that makes it harder for me to get on the table. And when that table might have cats with batty paws, that’s an additional issue. But I know I will play it again!

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