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"What Makes a Great Game Great?......." Topic

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Action Log

10 Jan 2022 9:55 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Crossposted to TMP Poll Suggestions board

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2022 9:05 p.m. PST

"Everyone has their own opinion on what makes a game great or even what they would uphold as the epitome of a 'great game'. However, it's a lot harder to actually describe -why- they think a game's great. Even for me, it can be extremely difficult to explain why I do or do not enjoy a game (hence why I scrapped my Fallout: Wasteland Warfare review), but today's article won't be about any game, for a change, in particular. It'll be about all games.

As someone who's spent a lot of time critiquing games, I figured it was about time I finally wrote out what I enjoy and don't enjoy about games. This will obviously be more of a meta piece, analyzing tabletop gaming as a whole, rather than any specific game or even genre. I feel as someone who's been reviewing and critiquing games, it's important to be upfront about what I'm looking for in a game to consider it 'good' and enjoyable for me. This way you can continue reading my reviews/critiques and understand the bias that I'm writing from and say to yourself "pffff, Pride of Rodina! Of course you'd say that, because you love your illusions of choice, you rascal," rather than "What the heck, PoR? Why would you think it's a good thing that Legion has a bunch of upgrades that you'll almost never take except in niche circumstances?" I've always thought it was important to understand the bias of a reviewer to help frame their work and I wish more folks would do that (I understand the irony of me typing that sentence since it's been about a year since I wrote a review and know this piece, but I definitely planned on writing this a LOT sooner). Maybe it's because I come from a social science background, that I think understanding bias is important? Who knows, but let's get to real prime rib of today's meal!…"
More in Pride of Rodina Blog


Durban Gamer11 Jan 2022 4:10 a.m. PST

Time and again I was surprised to discover that one doesn't need a big table and lots of figures to have a perfect game. The biggest buzzkill is an opponent driven by an intense need to win at any cost, rather one with a sense of humour who plays to win, but in the spirit of a shared tabletop adventure.

mildbill11 Jan 2022 5:01 a.m. PST

The players involved above all.

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 6:02 a.m. PST

From reading the article, the author is talking about game systems, such as Star Wars Legion, Deep Wars, etc. Not about what makes a great game on the tabletop.

For my money, a great game means:

* Nicely painted toys
* Well-made and presented terrain
* A well-designed scenario that gives both sides a chance at victory and involves all players
* A GM who knows his rules and works to keep the game moving and fun

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 8:48 a.m. PST

It is all about the people. I am not a WW II land gamer, especially when I'm playing Nazis. Despite this we've had three great games, win and lose, so far because the people are great. They point out advantages for the opponent, crack good jokes, refer to obscure movies, and work to make the game move and fun. The same is true of other games in the fantasy/weird war genre. The people make or break the game.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 8:57 a.m. PST

For the question in general, I agree it's the people.

From the perspective of game deisgn, I think it is a game where the decisions, and thus peoples' discussions, focus most on strategy and tactics for the forces represented and very little on the mechanisms of the game itself. That's my goal in game design.

Personal logo Cardinal Ximenez Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 10:03 a.m. PST

The players
Having to make challenging decisions

wargamingUSA11 Jan 2022 12:35 p.m. PST

Its all about 1) the players, 2) the game master, and 3) the scenario. Nice toys just add to the experience.

JimSelzer11 Jan 2022 12:42 p.m. PST

friendship fun and food

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 3:06 p.m. PST



Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 3:10 p.m. PST

For me, it is the tug of the battle, each side vying for success, against difficult odds. I want an epic struggle in the game, I want to hang my hopes on some die rolls, cheering loudly when they succeed, and moaning equally loudly when they fail, miserably. I want an emotional investment in the action, not just for me, but for each and every player in the game! THAT is what makes a GREAT game, for me.

I've had plenty of them, over the past 30 years. I remember some, exceptionally well. A number of them were convention games from the 1990's, which I still recount here, on TMP, in appropriate discussions. I was just a walk-on player in them, not an organizer.

I ran a floor game, in my garage, for my three sons. We were playing Plastic Wars, an Army Men game I wrote up for them, in 1998. It was epic! We were all emotionally invested into the game, hanging on multiple die rolls, to see what would happen. Now, some 20+ years later, that game still comes up in discussions with my sons. They remember it with gusto -- especially how they blew up my Tanks as they rounded a corner, and became sitting ducks for their Bazooka Men… We still laugh about that wonderful game. They love that they, mere children, beat the author at his own game… It was incredible -- for all of us. We played hard, we laughed hard, and we had more fun than a human being ought to be allowed. Cheers!

UshCha12 Jan 2022 12:59 a.m. PST

I think it was an interesting look and an honest one. Personally it indicates a review by Tango1 would be uselaess to me. That not a negative comment just a fact that Tango pointed out.

Why, I play wargames for the simulation aspect. On that basis my list of assessment croiteria would be much wider:-

Groundscale and how it is delt with is key.

Command and control structure did the overall result represent a credible time lag compared to the real world it is moddeling.

Do optimum game tactics reflect optimum real world tactics, or even if they are reflected at all in the game.

Without such things to me a review is woirthles. You do need the game to be optimised to achive what is required with the minimum clear rules but with the caviat that over simplification will cause failure to achieve the above.

Perhaps as a general piece of review, an assessment of whether this game is for the occatioal player or the dedicated. An example may be ASl a great game but only for the truly dedicated.

Mr Elmo12 Jan 2022 4:52 a.m. PST

the author is talking about game systems

People have been mentioned but people follow games with an active "scene"

Star Wars Legion, Flames of War ,and 40K have a universality of walking into a store and finding players. The same cannot be said of <insert dusty old game here>

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Jan 2022 6:20 a.m. PST

People have been mentioned but people follow games with an active "scene"

And Ray Kroc created the world's largest fast food chain (and fast food as a modern inudstry) by creating an everpresent and consistent dining experience. Not necessarily a good one. There are tons of consumer goods that have the business strategy "convenience trumps quality".

Also, there's a difference between what people do the most and what we see people do the most. When I played corporate sponsored games at stores every other weekend, it only represented 5-10% of my gaming. Unless you knew me and came over to my house, you wouldn't see the other 90%+.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2022 7:52 p.m. PST

I generally agree.

UshCha19 Jan 2022 10:13 a.m. PST

I guess the trick is to define a universally accepted definition of a great game. To me commercially successfully is probably not a criteria I would even include, who cares if it sold lots or a few. Critically acclaimed trumps (card game reference not political) successful in my book.

rampantlion20 Jan 2022 3:23 p.m. PST

Rules that are not too tedious. After the game did it feel like I played a game in that time period or was it just a set of rules? The people always matter also.

Der Krieg Geist16 Mar 2022 1:01 a.m. PST

We can wing all the rest. :D

UshCha18 Mar 2022 7:42 p.m. PST

Fun and friends is universal and not evem specific to games so are in defining a great game of no use in defining what is specific to a great wargame game; so I will dwell on that no meore.
To me a great game is one where the complexities of the scenario make it a real test of generalship, not mastery of the rules thst id tsken as read. Scenarios that put you in the hot seat, making decisions commanders have to make at all levels based on incompleter information knowing that if it goes wrong ther is no quick way of changing your mind. They will be exshausting, you only get out what you put in, but testing your limits is where the great games are.

On the other hand one a year is enough, the rest of the time a good game is fine.

Great game may take many evenings to play. You can go for a good ride for a day on your bicycle, but it takes a tour to make it a great experience. Bimbleing in many periods would neven make a great game to me, Jack of all trades master of none, comes to mind. Figuers are the representation anything within reason is fine, to us they are just tools of The Game.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2022 10:59 a.m. PST

Without pleasant people, any game is a chore. But if we're talking game design--
At the rules level, clear, not subject to varied "interpretation" and not needing constant reference during play.
At the scenario level, each side needs at least a one in three chance of victory, good decisions have to improve that, and there needs to be a steady stream of new decisions to be made.
At the tabletop level, castings and terrain which are not distractions, and whose meaning is clear to the players--no fussing over who gets the melee bonus or whether the terrain penalty applies.

Anyone remember the movie definitions? A good movie is two or three good scenes, no bad scenes. A great movie is three or four good scenes, no bad scenes. Something similar applies here.

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