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The Wonder Found in Abstract Games

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Anonymous

The Wonder Found in Abstract Games
A short essay
By Tyler Tinsley

Though there is a large sense of wonder found in games with good themes, the wonder instilled by the very fact that short of actually doing the actions in the real world, you will never get a closer or better experience with any of the other mediums. So than what is the appeal or wonder of an abstract game with no theme? It is something that themed games usually have difficulty attaining as real world or imaged situations do not lend themselves to it. That is, simple actions with large far-ranging effects. In most popular abstract games the key mechanism allows for many things to change based upon a simple action. In a game of chess the players may setup a large and complex series kills and counters but the move of one piece can upset the whole game. Or in a game of Othello the placement of one chip can change a large number of not only chips but possible moves and counter moves. This is where the wonder of the abstract game leys. In the fact that all outcomes of a single choice are difficult to see until they occur and your opponent has a chance to respond. The games truly give players more than they put into it at the start. The thinking and pondering over possible moves and grander strategies gives these games the powerful wonder of play. Different but most certainly comparable to the wonder of experience found in themed games.

Tyler Tinsley

what do you guys think?

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: The Wonder Found in Abstract Games

super wrote:

Though there is a large sense of wonder found in games with good themes, the wonder instilled by the very fact that short of actually doing the actions in the real world, you will never get a closer or better experience with any of the other mediums. So than what is the appeal or wonder of an abstract game with no theme?

Tyler, I think you should start with a definition of what you think constitutes an "abstract" design. Is it just any game without a theme? A lot of cardgames have no theme, but would you call them abstracts? What about games that have a theme, but are often classified as abstract, such as Clans, Through the Desert? Even Chess has a theme...

Quote:

It is something that themed games usually have difficulty attaining as real world or imaged situations do not lend themselves to it. That is, simple actions with large far-ranging effects. In most popular abstract games the key mechanism allows for many things to change based upon a simple action. In a game of chess the players may setup a large and complex series kills and counters but the move of one piece can upset the whole game. Or in a game of Othello the placement of one chip can change a large number of not only chips but possible moves and counter moves. This is where the wonder of the abstract game leys. In the fact that all outcomes of a single choice are difficult to see until they occur and your opponent has a chance to respond. The games truly give players more than they put into it at the start. The thinking and pondering over possible moves and grander strategies gives these games the powerful wonder of play.

An this is not true in themed or non-abstract games? In Puerto Rico, whatever role you choose also has a far-ranging impact on the game. In Euphrat & Tigris the placement of a single tile can also radically change the outcome of the game. In Ra, calling Ra or not on your turn can also have a dramatic influence on the outcome. In Taj Mahal, folding or playing another card can mean the difference between first place and last place. In this sense, these non-abstract games have the same quality of abstract games.

Although I understand where you want to go with this essay, there is a large grey area between "abstract" vs "themed" which you missed and in general I think you are oversimplifying things.

- Rene Wiersma

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Wonder Found in Abstract Games

I think all of the things you describe as being part of the wonder of abstract games are the things that are the wonder of all good games.

Tic-tac-toe (naughts and crosses for those across the Atlantic) is an abstract game and includes none of that. Checkers and Chinese checkers are both abstract games and only include a small part of those things.

And there are lots of themed games that include all of those things.

I think it's a good essay on what makes an enjoyable strategy game, though.

Anonymous
The Wonder Found in Abstract Games

This short essay is vague in some points as short essays are. But anyway thanks for bringing up your points.

Quote:
In Puerto Rico, whatever role you choose also has a far-ranging impact on the game. In Euphrat & Tigris the placement of a single tile can also radically change the outcome of the game. In Ra, calling Ra or not on your turn can also have a dramatic influence on the outcome. In Taj Mahal, folding or playing another card can mean the difference between first place and last place. In this sense, these non-abstract games have the same quality of abstract games.

Although I have sadly never played these games I think if you read a portion of the essay with emphasis it would help you understand better what I meant to say.

Quote:
In most popular abstract games the key mechanism allows for many things to change based upon a simple action

The idea is that it is a really simple action that causes change, I don’t know those games you listed but I really doubt that they have actions as simple as chess. What I mean by simple actions is one that is not only simple to do physically (move a chess piece, place a chip) but also the rules regarding that action are simple as well. So does this make more since?

What I consider an abstract game or a themed game is really more of the intent of its maker. Are they trying to get you feel as if you are really doing something in the game world or are they presenting interesting game mechanics for players to mach wits with.

Really the whole reason I wrote this essay was to try and sell one of my abstract games to a non abstract publisher.

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Wonder Found in Abstract Games

Tyler, I understand your point, I simply don't agree with it. Like FastLearner said, there are abstract games that don't have the qualities you describe (Tic-Tac-Toe for example) and there are many themed games that do have those qualities.

I agree with the points in your essay, but they do not apply only to abstract games, but all good strategy games in general.

Perhaps an important distinction between what you call abstract games and themed games is that in most abstract games intricate 2D (or 3D even) patterns are formed and a simple action can upset the whole pattern, whereas a lot of themed games also use other things such as cards, resources, victory points, etc.?

- Rene Wiersma

hpox
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Wonder Found in Abstract Games

Perhaps you should experience the Wonder found in designer's games? :D

Anonymous
The Wonder Found in Abstract Games

Quote:
a simple action can upset the whole pattern, whereas a lot of themed games also use other things such as cards, resources, victory points, etc.?

That’s the whole point! It’s not that the essay excludes designer's games or strategy from having the "wonder" or appeal of play, but the fact that "abstract" games just use really really simple methods of achieving it.

Quote:
there are abstract games that don't have the qualities you describe (Tic-Tac-Toe for example)

the essay said this
Quote:

In most popular abstract games the key mechanism

so really I know there are some abstracts that don’t apply to this essay.

thank you all for you comments.[/b]

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