“A great game should be able to defend itself even if it’s made of two pencils and a sheet of paper”, I was told a few years ago by a game buddy. I agree with one caveat: defending oneself is very different from being successful.
While playing games hither and tither I encounter different gamers with vastly divergent approaches. Among them, there still persists a surprisingly large group of people, who really don’t care for theme or the quality of components. What they care for is the game itself.
Games are physical things. I like moving actual tokens, cubes or minis around and actual board. I like shuffling and holding cards. The fact that board games are physical makes all the difference in the world to me: it’s one of the main reasons I choose board games over multiplayer video games (okay, that and my unwillingness to babysit petulant teenagers with huge egos and unbelievably foul mouths). I like all that falls under the “components” term, but it does not determine my final assessment of the game.
Or so I like to tell myself.
I won’t try to deny people the ability to completely separate their opinion of game mechanisms from how those mechanisms are delivered in terms of art, style and general component quality. I only know that I am often not one of those people. I am just able to hide it better.
I like games with a relatively small footprint, and I have been heard to say that I actually prefer it when a good game has a more manageable table presence, but I am still not completely immune to the charm of a box full of miniatures instead of simple tokens. Plus, a more wholesome presentation of a game will also influence my opinion.
And it will probably influence your opinion as well.
The gaming world can provide us with a few examples of games that rose to glory, and reached its full potential only after they had been overhauled with better components. After all, CMON’s Blood Rage was a remake of a Midgard, a game from 2007, which never reached the heights Blood Rage has.
Midgard and Blood Rage are not the same game, obviously. Blood Rage offers more gameplay, it offers a fair amount of new content, but it also offers a level of visual appeal that is simply immeasurable when compared to its “first iteration”.
There are also those games that were never re-made, simply made into what they are already using a wealth of truly amazing components. Without its amazing component quality, would Zombicide be where it is today? Would Rising Sun get over $4 million on Kickstarter? We can only guess.
The fact is, however, that CMON became absolute masters at blending uncomplicated mechanisms with component quality that invites you to play. Touch the miniatures, place them on the table, and get a rules explanation in five minutes – or less.
A similar question could be posed when interacting with Scythe. This Stonemeier’s hybrid phenomenon gained traction due to its evocative and original art, to later prove its mechanical worth to many a gamer.
Many but not all.
There’s one final thing I must mention when tackling this specific topic. Beautiful – and expensive – games have a tendency to play on our sense of guilt, making us rationalize the purchase a bit more than we would a game with a much less hefty price tag.
The truth is that we can only be aware of our own reactions to newer, better and more beautiful games – at least until someone decides it’s time for some solid research and experimentation. Until then, we can do but one thing: ask other gamers.
So, what is your opinion?