Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The "Problem" With Toolkit Games
It's pretty simple, really... all those lovely delectable options are intoxicating. If you're not careful, you can take a relatively elegant game & turn it into an overchromed monster. It was our Monday night game of Epic Battlelore that helped coalesce my thoughts on this... you can read my detailed response about that game over on BoardgameGeek. I won't go into that here. I just want to take a minute to comment on the whole "greatest strength/greatest weakness" dichotomy when it comes to certain game systems. And just so I'm not too vague here, I'm referring to some of my favorite games: Memoir '44, Battlelore & Heroscape. (I think it's probably true of Descent: Journeys in the Dark as well, but I still don't own the game, so I'll refrain from comment.) All of these systems have, at their core, a very simple combat system and a variety of unit types. (So far, so good.) Each game also has different types of terrain & objectives, depending on the scenario. (Still good.) These terrain types, unit types, various objectives & other rules can be combined in nearly limitless ways to create a stunning array of game experiences. (Excellent.) Hence, the moniker "toolkit games". Yet it's at exactly this point that the wheels come off the proverbial apple cart... because far too often, we (and yes, I'm including myself here) become so enamored of all the special features that we want to make sure all of them are included in the same scenario. So you get Heroscape boards with lava & ice & castles & trees & roads & umpteen glyphs... or Memoir '44 scenarios with mountains & dams & mines & snipers & 10 different terrain types... or Battlelore battles with high-pointed War Councils & hordes of figures. Just because the options are there does not mean that they should all be included at once. For me, the best way to avoid this tendency is to play primarily with playtested scenarios. For all three of the aforementioned games, there is a great online community with ample resources of playtested scenarios. So, whadda you think?