I don’t own a copy of Einfach Genial anymore, but thought that it was a fitting title for this post. The Daily Prompt asks “what are you snobbish about?” In true snobbery, my answer is brettspiele. (Anyone from Germany is free to laugh at me.)
Brettspiele is German for board game. I like my boardgames “euro”. That simply means that my favored games are primarily those of European flavor, usually of German heritage. These games are sometimes called “designer boardgames” if only because American companies in the past never allowed the game’s designers to put their names on the box. That’s why a lot of people will be familar with the games Acquire and Can’t Stop (published by 3M/Hasbro and Parker Brothers respectively) but won’t know that they were designed by Sid Sackson, a gentleman from Chicago, IL. The Germans gave him the prestigious Spiel des Jahres, the Game of the Year Award in 1981 for a game called Domination, also called Focus.
Board game designers are like rock stars in this particular subculture. My personal favorite designer is a man named Reiner Knizia, a German doctor of mathematics who now lives in London. The type of game design that I enjoy involves as little unmitigated randomness as possible. Think of it this way – chess is one end of the spectrum. It has no randomness at all. If you can memorize all the finite positions of that game, you cannot lose unless you make a mistake. Diplomacy is at this same end of the spectrum. There is no randomness; the outcome is entirely dependent on the decisions of the players. Card games like poker are somewhat in the middle. There is a fixed number of cards, which makes techniques like card-counting and calculating probabilities powerful.
At the other end of the spectrum are games that rely on randomness to make them “fun”. I hate Monopoly. I consider it a terrible game. Since the dice decide where each player ends up each turn, a bad streak of luck can sink a game for someone. I hate Risk as well, since how well you do is dependent on how well your dice rolls come out. Even the best-laid plans can be shattered by consecutive rolls of 1s and 2s. A Game of Life is definitely a child’s game, on par with Snakes & Ladders and Candyland which can barely be called games at all.
Also, to earn my favor the games had to be aesthetically pleasing. As few cheap plastic bits as possible. Lots of elegant iconography. Wooden pieces that represented things. Thick cardboard tiles. Designer artwork. Games I loved were beautiful games, as can be seen by the pictures in this article. Games that have a lot of cheap plastic figures and rely on a lot of dice rolling are derisively called “Ameritrash”. I won’t play those games.
To emphasize the snobbery of the elite low-luck board game connoisseur, I will list some of my favorite games here: Euphrat & Tigris. Die Fürsten von Florenz . Puerto Rico. Amun-Re. Goa. Taj Mahal. Die Macher. Torres. Pueblo. Einfach Genial. YINSH. TAMSK. Java. Durch die Wüste. Samurai.
If you’ve never heard of any of those, that’s ok. Neither have most of the people in the world. If you have any interest in knowing what this is all about, I used to frequent BoardGameGeek (yes it’s as bad as it sounds) when this was my hobby of choice years ago. It’s terribly organized, but the crowd there is generally helpful.
By the way, Einfach Genial means Simply Genius, or Ingenious as the English version of the game is called. It’s another Knizia creation.
I blame The Daily Prompt for provoking the diatribe above.