Swimming in the Array

When playing games I rarely choose the obvious or tried and true path to victory. Take Dominion for example, with any given card setup there is usually at least one clear path to victory, and that is exactly the path I’m not going to take. Why just win when you can win by some crazy route that should not have worked. Usually I lose, but when I do pull off a win it can be that much more satisfying.

This same thinking went into my planning for opening a game store. One of the mantras of experienced game store owners is that once you have your own shop you will play fewer games. That was the paradigm, so of course I had to try something different. Heck, if that mantra were true, what would be the point? I wasn’t opening game store just to make a living, there are far better businesses for that. Oh wait, owning a game store is a rough way to make a living? OK, let’s try that too. So I set out to see if I could run a successful game shop and continue to wallow in tons of gaming goodness.

Well, over 3 years later, I’ve played more games than ever and somehow we’re squeaking by when the first of the month comes. Just this Wednesday night I was able to play City of Remnants and a few rounds of Quantum, two great games enjoyed with great people. Last week I was able to lose miserably at Terra Mystica on Wednesday night, then shirk some duties on Thursday to play a round of Babel and a few rounds of Corto with some awesome customers. Sure, I nearly spent the night at the shop to finish all of my work afterwards, but it was worth it. Oh yeah, then on Friday I did some game design and got in a game of Caverna. Kirsten’s been getting some gaming in too. Most notably, she was on fire Wednesday night with Star Realms, a great little deck-builder recommended by Ben, and Splendor, a game I’ll talk more about below.

Should we feel guilty? Nah, as I said, this was part of the point. We also view it as a very important part of our jobs. Nearly everyone who walks through our door asks for suggestions and opinions. If there is one thing I really don’t want to do is send you out the door with a product that won’t work for you. We’ve been accused once of recommending a game just to make a big sale, it took me a few days to recover from the sting of that false accusation.

So in the spirit of full disclosure, and to impart some of what I’ve learned from the smorgasbord of gaming this month, I’d like to discuss 4 different games I’ve been enjoying that I believe share some similarities. For lack of a better word, I’m classifying these games as ‘array’ games. Not a very sexy title perhaps, unless you’re like me and the thought of acting as an array processor sounds like time well spent.

The 4 games, in loose order of approachability, are Continental Express, The Builders, Splendor, and Targi. All of these games are setup as rows and columns of cards that form an offer, or array. Two types of cards are found, some that provide resources, and others that convert resources into victory points. On any given turn, you are scanning the entire array to find the optimal connection between resource collection and victory point generation. For some this can be a very intuitive, from the gut activity. I, however, like to try and recreate the entire array in my noggin and let my squishy processor do its thing. Whatever your style, these games always feel light, fun, and fast.

They all make great 2-player games as well; Targi, in fact, is strictly a 2-player game. With just two players, it is much easier to try and foil your opponent’s plans. I find Continental Express to be a particularly fun 2-player game, and it is by far the easiest of the batch to introduce to new players. With The Builders and Splendor the calculations can get a little mind-bending at times, in a great way if your into noggin-twisting. Targi takes the array concept even further by allowing you to build your own array with the cards you take from the offer, crazy good stuff.

Lucky for you, we have all of these games either to rent or to demo in the shop. I highly recommend doing either of those if you’re looking for something casual that still gets the grey matter clicking. Have a great weekend everyone!

New Arrivals: Myth


Posted: April 18, 2014 at 4:35 pm
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