Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Clever is cool but not enough

I recently tried playing Heaven & Ale for the first time. It might not be the only time but it’s not a game I see myself getting my own copy.

This isn’t actually a review but here’s the thumbnail of it. Which might have terrible errors in it, seeing as how I’ve only played the game one time. You control the lives of medieval monks trying to make beer. Everyone has their own mat where you place tiles that will either give you money or brewing components.

And here’s how you get those hexes. There’s a track with different types of tiles of on it. You take turns going around, going as many spaces as you want to. And some of the spaces let you get bonus tiles and  discs that let you activate tiles. 

Your game end score is the lowest supply multiplied by the level of your brewmaster after you use your brewmaster to rearrange your supplies, plus bonus points.

I figured that it was going to be just one paragraph and I still left out so much that you could never play the game from my description.

Okay, here’s the thing about the game. It’s very clever. It’s terribly, terribly clever. But I’m not sure if it’s fun. Oh, I had fun trying to parse the game but I can’t help but really think I’d get bored with Heaven & Ale fairly quick.

And, looking back, I know this feeling from other games I’ve played back in my game binging days. Neuland and Toledo are two such games that come to mind. Exploring the process was more interesting than the game part of the game.

Heaven & Ale is a game that I’m glad to have played and I wouldn't mind a couple more plays. But I don’t see myself feeling the need to go beyond that. Which is fine since I didn’t buy the game and don’t have to store it. But I used to be that guy and having a game like this was a bit itchy. It wasn’t a good investment but it was an interesting learning experience.

A friend who lived through my binging said that it was like getting an education in game design. We went through a lot of games and some of them were so clever but didn’t draw us back. 

But what I learned was that wanting to play a game over and over again was more important than how clever it was.

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