Monday, July 24, 2023

Where I damn Streets with faint praise

Learning Streets on BGA felt a little like stepping backwards in time for me. It doesn’t feel like a game that is influenced by games designed fifteen, twenty years ago. It feels like one of those games.

Streets is a tile-laying game where players are building up a growing town by creating streets.  Each tile earns points when a street is enclosed (ending on both sides) based on the number of meeples it has and scoring  conditions based on the other building on the street.

There are touches that I like and add to the gameplay experience. You get a hand of tiles so you have choices. You are limited to five property markers (which is really the same as Carcassonne giving you limited meeples) The meeple redistribution rule is called the FOMO rule. 

If I had played Streets in 2004, I think I would have been more engaged with it. I wouldn’t have fallen in love with it but I’m sure I would have made an effort to get a physical copy. (To be fair, that was my reaction at the time to any game I thought was good)

I have asked myself why I’m so indifferent to Streets. I’ve certainly played lots of games that bring nothing new to the table and enjoyed them.  I think it’s because Streets limits how much you can pull off a big move by limiting the size of the streets and it limits the degree of conflict. Other people can get in on a street you’re working on but they won’t take points away from you. The most aggressive move you can make is ending a street to limit someone else’s points and using the FOMO rule to hog meeples.

And I asked myself, how does this compare to Carcassonne (from 2000, which is actually younger than I thought) because all tile-laying games need to be compared to Carcassonne. (Because Scrabble, which started the genre, gets no love) And I realized that Carcassonne does both the things I felt Streets doesn’t. Lets you go big and lets you have direct conflict. Seriously, for one of the major poster children of European family games, Carcassonne gives you room to be vicious.

Streets falling meh to me wasn’t because I’d seen it all before. I have gotten into lots of games that didn’t reinvent the wheel. Streets doesn’t bring enough stakes to the table. There’s absolutely nothing broken but the tension just isn’t there.

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