Isn’t that the age old question? Faced with a wall full of board games (or in our groups case, a spreadsheet of game requests), negotiations ensue as to what game is going to hit the table. It feels good as a host to be able to provide at least one option to satisfy any audience, be they a gaggle of children, your regular gaming group, or a dinner party with guests of dubious gaming cred. This post carries on from Part 1 by applying the lens of who you are going to be playing games with as a filter to assess your current collection of games. Your mileage may vary, but I am going to look at what I think will be the 4 most common player types you will run across and think about how that would affect the games I buy.
Player 1: Your regular gaming group
This should be low hanging fruit. First the nuts and bolts: How many people are in your group? If there are 5 or more, you are probably not going to want to invest in many games designed for 2 players, and may want to actively search for games that have a higher player count. Some examples would include classics like 7 Wonders by Antoine Bauza and Alhambra by Dirk Hann. Many party-style games accommodate higher player counts as well. Codenames by Vlaada Chvatil , Colt Express by Christophe Raimbault and Jordi Valbuena, and Captain Sonar by Roberto Fraga & Yohann Lemonier are all excellent games that play well at higher player counts. As an added bonus these games can fit nicely into both a regular games night and a post-supper party game! If your gaming group is only 4 people, then the world is your oyster! The vast majority of games are designed for a player count of 3-4, so that would likely comprise the bulk of your collection.
Colt Express is a beautiful game that accommodates higher player counts
Presumably you know the people you play with regularly, and you have a sense of the types of games they like. Ironically, the more like-minded your group is, the fewer games each of you would need to buy! As you all favor the same types of games, there would be less spread across genres, which would reduce the overall number of games required. Also, if everyone in your group enjoys discovering new games, you can spread the load of acquisition, which helps keep each individuals game count manageable. Personally, I enjoy playing my friends games more than mine, mostly because I have a lousy memory, so whenever we trot out one of their games, it’s like I’m playing it for the first time again!
Player 2: Your partner (or not)
If you have a partner, they will presumably want input on the games collection, whether they are into games or not. If they aren’t into games, they will probably want some input on the amount of space your collection takes up. As touched on in Part 1, this negotiation will put some sort of cap on the volume of games you can acquire. If they are into games, then you are a fortunate individual, because, every night could be games night! In this scenario, your partner would probably want some input into which games get purchased. This brings games specifically designed for 2 players into play (pun intended). A game specifically designed for 2 players tend to play much better than a 2 player session of a game that plays a range of players. Some fine examples of well designed 2 player games include Patchwork, by Uwe Rosenberg, 7 Wonders: Duel, by Antoine Bauza & Bruno Cathala, and for those that like a denser game, Twilight Struggle, by Ananda Gupta & Jason Matthews.
One of the classic games designed for 2 players: 7 Wonders Duel
For those of you who don’t have/want a partner, or have a partner who hates games, then you may want to consider having a few solo games in your collection. Games with solo variants have exploded over the last decade or so, and they range from simple roll & writes like That’s Pretty Clever!, by Wolfgang Warsch, to longer, more complex games like Terraforming Mars, by Jacob Fryxelius. While That’s Pretty Clever! plays more like a competition against yourself, trying to better your previous score, a solo version of Terraforming Mars puts you up against a turn limit, which keeps the decisions in the game tense and exciting.
2 player games certainly have their place in a collection, but they are by their very nature limited. Unless you live with a fellow gaming enthusiast, you may want to limit the number of 2 player games to single digits. If you are interested in learning more about solo games, check out our “I am not a Solo Gamer” articles.
Player 3: Non-gamer friends
Believe it or not, but there are people out there that aren’t that into games. You may know some perfectly nice people that, when asked if they want to play a game, shrug and say, “Meh. I guess.” These people require careful handling, as they have the POTENTIAL to become gamers, but you don’t want to to scare them off by coming on too strong. It is for these people that party games were invented. Almost anybody can be drawn into an after dinner game of Pictionary, by Rob Angel, and of course, there’s always Cards Against Humanity by Josh Dillon et al for an adults only gathering. Concept, by Éric Azagury & Cédric Chevalier is like Charades, but uses pictures instead of actions, and is almost as popular with my non-gamer friends as Cards Against Humanity. There are plenty of other options, and you should have at least one or two in your collection, as they also fare well with our last player type:
Player 4: Relatives
Now you may be fortunate and come from a family with a rich gaming history, in which case, congratulations! Your biggest challenge may be carving out time for your aunt and uncle to try out your latest and greatest find. For the rest of us, most of our relatives still equate board games to Monopoly or Risk. Your best play here is to convert the nieces, nephews and cousins. I bought my nephew Dungeon Mayhem by Jordan Comar & Roscoe Wetlaufer for his 7th birthday and now he’s hooked. The next year I got him Kingdomino by Bruno Cathala, and most of the subsequent Thanksgiving playing those two games with him. With any luck, we’ll be playing the likes of Spacecorp:2025-2300AD by John H. Butterfield by the time he’s 13! Qwirkle by Susan McKinley Ross is another hit with small children, with its high contrast pieces, and simple mechanic, and it has enough strategy that the adults could play it once the young ones are in bed. If you ae wanting to have selection of games to break out with family, you will want at least one of the above games, and possibly a few of the modern classics, like Ticket to Ride by Alan R. Moon. Games for this Player type will take up more or less room in your collection depending on how often you have family over, and will likely evolve over time as the kids in the family get older.
A well loved copy of Dungeon Mayhem that has entertained both adults and children on many a family game night
One other impact on your collection that I could mention is not so much a player type, but a game type. I’m talking about Event Games. These are games that take several hours to play. If I had to pigeon hole this game, I would probably put it under Player 1: Your gaming group, as that would be who you would most likely play this sort of game with. Event games are usually only played a couple of times a year, if that, but they are well loved by those that play the game. Some examples of Event Games would be Dominant Species, by Chad Jensen, Agricola, by Uwe Rosenberg, and Battlestar Galactica, by Corey Konieczka. These games do tend to take a disproportionate amount of space in many collections relative to the amount of play time they receive, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and something I want to explore further in another post.
Now as you look at these Player types, I am sure you will see that there is a lot of potential for crossover, with some games working across the board. Those will be the games will become the core of your collection. People’s lives change though, and what is an ideal game now, may have lost a lot of its charm in a few years. We delve into that more in Part 3 of this series. In the meantime, please let us know what games are the core of your collection right now and why! What filters do you use when choosing a game? Which player type has the biggest influence for you? Please let us know in the comments!