Monday, July 1, 2019

Alas, some abstracts won’t convert non-lovers

I have been spending perhaps an unhealthy amount of time dwelling on abstracts and abstracts I that folks who get hives from abstracts will still enjoy. Well, at least in my own arrogant opinion. Nine times out of ten, my reasoning probably breaks down to ‘I like it so you should too!’

However, there are some abstracts that I like that I’m absolutely convinced that only abstract lovers would enjoy. None of ‘Hive is the abstract for abstract haters’. Some games are ‘you don’t like abstracts? Yeah, you won’t like this’.

There doesn’t seem to be a formula to this. If simple and accessible were what it takes, Edward de Bono’s L-Game would be the gift for converting folks to abstracts. Each player gets one piece and there are two neutral pieces. Block your opponent from making a move and you get to win. But the game is so dry with the potential for the endless stalemates, I consider it more of an intellectual exercise in minimalism than a game.

Amazons, on the other hand, is a game that I think is cracking good. (I don’t actually know where that phrase comes from. I just stole the adverb from Bertie Wooster.) You move your queens on a ten by ten board, blocking off squares with every move. The board grows smaller and smaller and if you can’t move, the other guy wins. 

Amazons is a head cracker of a game and a really smart design. But it seems to be only the darling of abstract lovers. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I know but I can’t see myself trying to convert someone to abstract games with Amazons.

(Okay, maybe the fact that it is such a brain burner is a reason)

Then, there is the likes of games like Alfred’s Wyke, which is a weird abstract lover’s weird abstract. You either remove or add tiles in order to control a grid and there are five different types of moves. And you can’t use a move that’s been used in the last two turns.

Honestly, I have never found a game even remotely like it. It’s never been published outside of a magazine article and the website Super Duper Games has probably given it any exposure it’s had. It’s brilliant and almost unheard of and just plain weird. This is a game I’d struggle to get other abstract lovers to like.

A lot of the abstracts I’m interested in are games that I think folks who aren’t into abstracts can still enjoy. I’m an Everyman of abstracts for the most part. But apparently there are some exceptions.

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