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I Play Board Games Wrong

More on the Dark Art of Remixing Board Games

Frankenstein was an anarchist. He cobbled his creation together from parts originally belonging to disparate owners. Note that the Creature wasn’t “resurrected”. The Creature was never alive before. It was an original life form. Something new made out of discarded bits.

It’s like this. Board games BEG to be altered, rearranged, and house-ruled. “Rolling you own” is a common practice in RPG circles. Gamemasters tweak systems, throw out rules, and rebuild core mechanics all the time. Board gamers, on the other hand, seem to abhor the practice. They might make their own variants or scenarios, but rarely mess with with the mechanics.

Candy asses.

Building Suburbs and Ignoring the Rules

A-Town

Fortnite was designed to feature fort-building as a central component of the game. But when they added the Battle Royal mode, the campaign, with its focus on scrounging materials and building structures to ward off, trap, and destroy monsters, almost of fell off the radar.

That said, some players ignore the BR mode and focus almost entirely on fort-building. Their forts are more than just part of winning the campaign. To them, the forts are the whole point. They ignore the designers’ intentions and play how they want to play. Some people call this practice “de-gamification”.

C-Town

Suburbia isn’t particularly fun. The puzzle aspect interests me, and building itself is fun, but the mechanics make the whole thing almost not worth it. Even when I play it with other humans (which is rare), it’s tedious. So, I ignore the rules and turn it into a sandbox experience.

The first time I did this, I put some limits on myself. I plopped down Border tiles and scoring tracks to mark the boundaries and pen myself in. Then I used tiles from one pile only for a town. A-Town was built with A tiles, and C-Town was built with C tiles. Both used Basic tiles, and 3 Investment markers each.

But playing a game wrong still requires rules, if only a few. Without going into too much detail, tiles were counted from the top left to the bottom right. If tiles referred to things happening earlier or later in the game, I took it as tiles above and to the left or below and to the right. On the off chance that you’re curious about their stats:

A-Town

  • Population: 40
  • Reputation: 8
  • Income: 30
  • Cost: $275
  • Cash: $316
  • Surplus: $41

C-Town

  • Population: 141
  • Reputation: 27
  • Income: 19
  • Cost: $444
  • Cash: $39
  • Dept: $405

In short, A-Town was created with the basics in mind. People aren’t flocking to live there, but it’s self-sustaining. C-Town, on the other hand is an oasis for the upper-middle class, but it’s buried in debt.

But I couldn’t stop there. There was still too much “gameness”. So I skipped putting the border tiles first and just built the borough I wanted. In the end, the numbers boiled down to:

  • 16 Basic Tiles
  • 21 A Tiles
  • 30 B Tiles
  • 25 C Tiles
  • 6 Boarder Tiles
  • Population: 326
  • Reputation: 86
  • Income: 67
  • Cost: $846
  • Cash: $272
  • Debt: $520

[My original plan was to expand on the logic of turning games into toys here, but what’s the point? Either you grok it or you don’t.]

A Perfectly Reasonable “Shuuro”/”Loka” Mashup

Considering the horrible things I’ve done to chess in the past, this one’s pretty tame. It’s just ALL the pieces from Shuuro, plus the terrain counters from Loka.

  • Form the Army: Ignore point values. Both players will use all the pieces available.
  • Prepare the Battlefield: Determine Plinth locations per the normal rules. Then do the same thing with the Terrain counters for Loka. You cannot place Terrain on top of a Plinth.
  • Deploy: Deploy your armies normally. Armies may extend to the fourth row.
  • Fight: Play according to the normal Shuuro rules.
  • A Note on Terrain: Loka Terrain traditionally gives defensive bonuses. Ignore the values (you’re not playing with Loka’s dice rolling mechanic). Terrain now protects pieces on the Terrain from capture according to the Loka rules, depending on the Terrain and piece in question.

This monstrosity started as Loka played with Shuuro pieces. Then I realized why Loka uses dice: Loka has fewer starting pieces (because it was designed to make the players buy more pieces in expansions!). The dice mechanic draws the game out. But with 46 pieces on a side, this variant is long enough.

It also subverts the elegance of chess. In chess, it’s not uncommon to checkmate an opponent without taking a lot of their pieces. But, like most chess variants, this one ends with both sides decimated. The well-known tactics and patterns are irrelevant, making everyone a newb again.

No wonder ranked players hate my kind.

One more hiccup. I found that if you’re slouching, you can miss a Terrain counter hiding behind a Plinth. And if both players are slouching in their chairs or sitting on the floor, both can move through Terrain several times before realizing it.


The Game That Played Itself

A while back I ran a game of Power Grid in which the Robots played each other. I was just there to carry out their directives. But I suppose you can think of it as a game that played itself. Not literally, of course. Unlike video games, board games need a player to actually move components around. But I was just a slave to the robots. I made a grand total of three real decisions, and two of those were just interpretations of the robot instructions.

Then again, you could also say that the game played me.