Monday, November 23, 2020

Sometimes, a little bit of random is what makes the difference

 For a while, Leo Colovini’s Alexandros was considered the epitome of a bad (or at least disappointing game) While it wasn’t really the worst game any if had ever played, it was a very frustrating and disappointing experience and our opinion of Leo Colovini never really recovered.

The problem was that you could basically either set off a scoring round (where everyone had a chance to score points) or build up your hand of cards to take advantage of a scoring round. Simply put, we always for it disadvantageous to set off a scoring round. It had all the disadvantages of crafting in Puerto Rico with none of the possible benefits.

(And, yes, I’m sure that if we had taken the time to play a lot more, we would have found out how the game is supposed to played. However, the experience was so not fun we never wanted to go back)

Colovini has another, similar game, Masons. Likewise, you divide a board up into closed areas and set off scoring rounds where everyone has a chance to score points. However, unlike Alexandros, scoring happens automatically after a closed region is formed and everyone has secret scoring conditions. There is a random factor that makes scoring a risk worth taking.

A friend who is more of a gaming purist considers Alexandros to be the more elegant, better designed game. However, he will also admit that Masons is more fun and more playable. And while Alexandros was banished, Masons has seen some decent play for me.

Alexandros is a more precise, calculating game. You can have a pretty decent idea what people will get out of a scoring round. Masons is looser, more random. But that random factor makes the game more playable, more enjoyable.

I had a similar experience with Sid Sackson’s Bazaar and Monad. Well, except that I think Monad is a good game, other than being really hard to play when you’re as colorblind as I am. But that random factor of the die roll in Bazaar made the game looser but more fun and easier for me to get folks to play the game.

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