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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New England

Shannon Appelcline: You know, when I wrote, "you never want to get in a position where you can't buy two items on your turn", I did immediately wonder if that was true or not, but then just shrugged my shoulders and let it be because that's how I've always played the game. That huzonfirst also offers that question up for consideration brings it home again.

Economic systems in games can be tricky things.

On the one hand you have a game like Santiago where there's a very clear cost/benefit analysis. You can quickly calculate the value of your holdings before and after a particular move, and thus know the value of that move.

On the other hand you have a game like Ra where there's sufficient chaos based on what other players are doing and on unknown factors (the drawing of the Ra tiles) that all you can do is move in the best direction based on generalized cost/benefit considerations. (E.g., I'm ahead on pharaohs, so that pharaoh that maintains my lead is probably of high value to me.)

And then on the third hand you have games where the economic workings are sufficiently hidden that most people can't manage a cost/benefit analysis. I'm pretty sure that Fifth Avenue fits into this category, and that's why it largely failed. And I think the auction of New England might too. That even those of us who like the game can't say exactly what's a good move and what isn't is somewhat worrying.

Is that because no one has enough experience because the game just didn't reach critical mass out of the gate, or is the game sufficiently opaque that it could never have hoped to reach critical mass?

I dunno.