Friday, June 12, 2015

The Religion Against Game Variants

It's not the bible. I'm not going to go to hell for changing the rules.

As a game designer, I know how arbitrary a game's final design is. It's a collection of components and mechanisms; they don't come from god (well, maybe Go does, but your game doesn't). If it's a good Eurogame, I'm sure they were play-tested, and I'm equally sure the final result included several arbitrary decisions to end "here" instead of  "there", with 40% of the testers thinking "there" was better.

I like many of the mechanics and ideas of some games, but personally I don't like that little luck mechanic that trashes all of your plans. We can play the whole game taking different paths, playing about equally well or not in each of the different areas of the game, but then the whole game comes down to the die roll or card flip that lets you get 20 points and not me.

There is no reason that I shouldn't take a game, that I would enjoy but for one mechanic that ruins it for me, and tweak it so that I now enjoy it. I test the change for several games until I'm satisfied that the play experience is basically the same but nicer. Then I sometimes post it. Immediately I am hit with "That change destroys the ENTIRE game", "You obviously don't understand how to play", "You can solve your so-called problem by playing in this very specific way", "Why do you want to change the game? Just go play something else". Every time.

Why play this game? Why not? Because I enjoy it. How does it offend you for me to change the design slightly to make it more enjoyable, not only for me but for any other like-minded people?

Yes, it changes the game, but all of this hooplah about HOW MUCH it changes the game is rubbish. My tweak doesn't greatly change the game, and I know because I've actually tested it, and the majority of the game mechanics are left intact. Furthermore, I wouldn't care if it greatly changed the game; it makes the game better. For me. Better for me. I understand that if you like change. Don't play with my variant.

I don't understand this obsession AGAINST tweaking games to make them more enjoyable. Like it's a religion of some kind and I'm sinning.

Bernie, you're obviously not speaking loudly enough.


Anonymous said...

couldn't agree more! i'm not nearly (i am sure) as thorough as you are, but i enjoy tweaking games to my tastes. dominion gets tweaked (the depth of the green cards) depending on #players and whim, really. especially for a game with new players - better 2 short games i find than 1 looong one.

but i've been taken to task on this - i don't understand the game. 12 or 8 provinces is SACROSANCT. (hope i used that word right! another thing to be corrected on.) apparently. oh, and i can only comment on a game if i have played hundreds of times online. sigh.


Anonymous said...

Hi Yehuda,
My wife and I always tweak games because essentially zero game designers (perhaps excluding me!) make games the way she wants to play them. I believe we have played "Settlers of Catan" exactly once by the rules as printed before replacing the Robber with a Market mechanic.

Tweak on, good sir! :)


Richie Sevrinsky said...

Completely agree -- I don't think I've played Puerto Rico with the printed costs (particularly for Small Market) since I've read your series on PR tweaks.