Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Hip Pocket Line and the path it paved

Back when I was first starting my tottering steps into board gaming, Cheapass’s Hip Pocket line served as a starting point for me. Cheap and portable and many of them had more game to them than some of Cheapass’s larger games.

They might also mark my fascination and love of micro games. They might be a bit high in the component count for the modern definition of micro game (particularly the several that need extra components) but the idea is still clearly the same. Small, short, portable, affordable.

While micro games have long been with us (Hi, Ogre!), Love Letter really marked the start of the golden age of micro games. And looking back at the Hip Pocket line, I think that doesn’t just mean commercially viable but innovative as well. 

I look at Love Letter or Buttonshy’s Wallet Games or Perplext’s Pack O Game line, there’s a lot of variety and even innovation. In comparison, all but one of the Hip Pocket Line was some kind of tile laying game. To be fair, they really explored that design space but later micro games went so much farther.

I’m not trying to bash the Hip Pocket line. Some of them still hold up very well today. I think they mark a watershed for James Ernst’s game designs with more refined mechanics. I think they an important step in micro game design and development. And, someday I will finally play Time Line, which has to be the deepest game in the line!

And to be even more fair, while I think the best of the new generation of micro games are amazing, Sturgeon’s Law is still very much in effect. There’s a lot of bad ones out there. By that standard, the Hip Pocket line is a statistical wonder :D

When I look at the Hip Pocket line now, I appreciate how much fun they gave me years ago and how they helped pave the way for more games down the line.

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