Thursday, 12 April 2007

Mechanical Mechanics

I've been reading Franklin's recent posts about aquatic wildfowl with some interest, not just because they address the increasingly less nebulous question of what markers we can use to peg a game as "ameritrash" but also because the process of doing so, for obvious reasons, also encompasses the margins of what markers can be used to classfiy games as wargames or eurogames. The oft-quoted central signifier of a eurogame has often been quoted as "elegance", but what does this actually mean?

My take on this is that designers who sit down to design eurogames do so with the primary goal of extracting as much depth of gameplay (defined as number and difficulty of decisions) from the minimum amount of rules. The absolute, absolute poster child of this design paradigm is the oriental classic Go which I am entirely convinced will never, ever be beaten in terms of the depth versus complexity ratio. Some of the other markers of euro-ness look to me like just side effects of this approach - it's bound to result in games which tend run to reasonably short play times, favour the use of non-random mechanics and are usually light on theme. There's nothing essential wrong with this - indeed as time goes on I've begun to appreciate that this goal in game design is actually a fine and noble thing, but sadly it generates another side effect which has a much more negative impact.

Now I'm hardly going to be offering any great insight if I comment that the strategy of all games are based on maths. The degree varies, but usually there is a significant component of mathematical analysis involved in successful play. Frequently in games that have significant random factors these are there in part to mask the amount of maths that lie behind the game, but even in these cases a good player will be constantly weighing up the odds during decision making. The point of this brief digression is that if you were to take pretty much any strategy game and distil it down to its bare essentials what you'd be left with is, in most cases, a logic puzzle. And of course stripping a game down in this fashion is exactly the process required to create a game which is rules-light yet deep creating another side-effect and marker for the eurogame - the strategy in many of them is almost entirely dependent on mathematical analysis. They are in effect stylised accounting exercises.

This is not to denigrate the skill required to play games of this nature - frequently the amount of number crunching and level of analysis required are fiendishly high. It's not easy to keep that many numbers in your head at one time and woe betide those of us, like me, who often struggle with maths in the first place. But I feel it is a valid criticism to say that the end result is a bunch of games which have a tendency to play in strikingly similar fashion and which can often be "solved" or "maximised" by the best players offering paths to victory which, while not exactly scripted, can nevertheless be charted or otherwise defined in mathematical terms. There are exceptions and, unsurprisingly these tend to be the eurogames I enjoy most. Probably the best example is Ra which bypasses heavy maths through the ingenuous means of making the value of things dependent entirely on the value of other things, making assessment of the best play more than just a matter of cold statistics. Others manage it by throwing in negotiation elements (Traders of Genoa), randomness (Settlers) or aggressive positional play (Attika).

This is the primary point of critique that I have against eurogames - if I wanted to solve maths puzzles then I'd go get a book of maths puzzles. If I wanted to solve them competitively then I'd gather a group of like-minded people and compete to be the one to finish the puzzle fastest. To me this is simply not what gaming is about - gaming is about sitting with your friends, enjoying the game as both a social experience as well as a thinking excercise, glorying in the drama of dice and the sweep of the narrative. I don't like maths, I'm not terribly good at maths and since I work in IT to some extent I have to contend with maths most working days. I don't want the damn stuff intruding into my leisure time but I still want my games to be dependent on skill rather than pure luck. This, for me, is the essence of Ameritrash.

When I've tried to describe this in the past I've used the phrase "organic strategy" to try and convey what I was talking about. My original meaning was that I liked games where the approach to strategy was something that had to be arrived at in a more creative fashion than the hard logic that so many eurogames required. I eventually came to realise that the phrase actually had a second and more literal meaning - organic in the sense that it takes an organic being to formulate a good strategy. It follows that if eurogames tend to run very close to their mathematical roots then it should be relatively easy to write artificial intelligence routines for them. A glance around at freeware boardgame software would seem to support this - many euros and abstracts have had software versions built with very powerful AI opponents - witness how hard it is to beat the infamous Puerto Rico Evolver for example. For ameritrash games (and wargames) on the other hand, it should prove a correspondingly difficult task and again a search through game software appears to prove the point. Take Axis & Allies for example: I've often been beaten by human opponents yet the two software version I've played, once of which was created professionally, I can beat with almost trivial ease playing as either side.

When I first came across BoardGameGeek and started to frequent the forums and ask for recommendations for new games to try I always felt under pressure to be seeking out and playing games that were seen as "heavier" and "gamers games". After all at the time I didn't have a family who might want lighter games, I had a solid academic background and plenty of time to game so I had no reason to shy away from these games and I felt it would be embarrassing to try. The initial results of this were disastrous - I started playing games that I really disliked and at which I was constantly beaten and that's no fun at all. So here I am going to make an admission - my limited maths skills mean that in most cases, I'm not a great games player. Even for those fine euros and ameritrash games where maths isn't the primary skill I'm still at a disadvantage because we have to acknowledge that maths lies at the heart of nearly all design in strategy games. So one of the reasons I prefer the AT canon is simply because those games offer me a greater chance to win. If you're in denial about this, like I was, it's time to admit it. You'll pick up a lot more great games and have a lot more fun playing them if you do. And for that tiny, tiny minority amongst the Euro fans who belittle and sneer at those games which don't require perfect logic to beat and the flawed mortals that champion them I'd say - fuck off back to your computers and calculators and let the rest of us get on with living full lives and combining friends, beer, and lightweight strategy games into having a damn good time.

44 comments:

Ken Bradford said...

Nice article...but who is Franklin?



I knew that BGG id would get me in trouble. Believe me, if I could change it, I would. When I signed up for the site, I didn't know I would stick around, and also I assumed that the name everyone would see would be the alias instead of the user account.


Anyway...


Great read!

brumeister said...

Good read - interesting points.
I especially liked the point that many Euros (some of which I even like - gasp) can be converted into good online games, while AT games are few and far between.
That to me perfectly illustrates the fact that Euros are math (is maths the British word?)based and just giant math puzzles.

Malloc said...

Matt,

Well said and I think points out some of what my own personal dislikes about a lot of games are. For me its not that I am no go at math, thats not true, its just that I don't find doing math fun, and fun is what I want in a game. I think it is also a the reason so many euro games suffer from the "I would have won but that idiot over there made a wrong move, so you won instead" syndrome. If someone doesn;t get the math they can supply advantages to a random player who does.


-M

Professor Euro said...

A fantastic article!

Presumably, you Aters are products of the American public school system, and I can certainly understand that you would shy away from games that make your brains hurt.

Matt Thrower said...

Presumably, you Aters are products of the American public school system, and I can certainly understand that you would shy away from games that make your brains hurt.

Wow. The last few sentences of the last paragraph are just for people like you. Enjoy.

Professor Pac-Man said...

Ghost monsters scare me.

Malloc said...



Presumably, you Aters are products of the American public school system, and I can certainly understand that you would shy away from games that make your brains hurt.


Ummm... Matt lives in England.

-M

robartin said...

That's just a suburb of Am'rica, ain't it?

hughthehand said...

Presumably, you Aters are products of the American public school system, and I can certainly understand that you would shy away from games that make your brains hurt.

This is funny no matter what types of games you like.

Nice article Matt. You guys are really keeping the good writing coming. Thanks, from a euro fan.

Isn't playing odds, like in poker, doing math to? Sure you don't know the outcome of a particular battle or dice rolls, but you certainly formulate the best possible way to maximize your odds so that the result is in your favor. Or, how many guys can I move into this attack position while still leaving enough behind to survive an attack myself?

I think both euro and AT games use math, just in different ways.

Also, while I am very much into euros, don't take this as defending the euro genre or attacking AT. I agree with a lot of what you said. I just tend to favor games that are not scripted or seem to be pre-programed (Tikal, Amun-Re are two of my favs). I do like games though that seem to be heavy math related. I enjoy solving a puzzle, and trying to do it better than my opponents. But, when I play those games, I might be doing math, it doesn't feel like that is what I am doing.

Again, good article sir.

brumeister said...

Well, it definitely is NOT a burb of Deutschland, which it would have been if not for the Yanks and to a much lesser extent, us Canucks.

hughthehand said...

I think it is also a the reason so many euro games suffer from the "I would have won but that idiot over there made a wrong move, so you won instead" syndrome. If someone doesn;t get the math they can supply advantages to a random player who does.

I can't think of many games that I have played that suffer from this. PR is the only one that comes to mind, and that is usually at the end of a game that is close. And it is rare that someone made one wrong move that did it. It is usually I made several bad decisions PLUS one move someone else did...BUT I'll agree that PR is one that you are talking about.

As to your second sentence. I don't see that people "don't get the math" part. Again, people think differently, and see things that you do not. I see this as the randomizer that AT people really seem to enjoy. If your opponent is playing in an unexpected way, you have to adapt to that kind of play. I have seen many a game of Tikal won by someone playing very intuitively...not planning, just looking at the board, and moving their guys where it looks good at the moment.

But, in fairness, it could just be me that is the weird one. I tend to blame myself and analyze how I played than blame another. Euros punish mistakes, and if I lose, I look at what I did wrong and see how I could have played it differently.

Sorry if I am typing too much. You guys are just putting up some really fucking good discussions. And honestly...this shows that the AT "crowd" can discuss things in a civil manner. I hope more of us euro snobs see that.

Michael Barnes said...

The whole time I read the article I imagined Thrower wearing his mortarboard with his degree in a frame on the wall behind him. "Doctorate of Ameritrash Studies". Well done.

Math sucks. I fucking hate math. I know more about black magic than I do about math. I made straight A's in college but I got a square D in algebra. And you're absolutely right- a lot of the Eurogames revel in their mathy-ness, and like Thrower I suck at those.

I think among the many fissures we've wound up unearthing amongst gamers one of them is that there's a sharp contrast between the "math" gamer and the "creative" gamer. Which is why we have armchair intellectual yokels like Clearclaw who argue that all games are essential math problems- because they games that folks like that play usually are and I'm sure they enjoy the living shit out of them and more power to 'em for it. I like to create and be creative- I prefer to solve a problem with ingenuity, intuition, and a little luck versus figuring out the way that statistically offers me the best chance of success. I guess that's probably why the math gamers tend to get pissy when they lose- I would too if I squandered all that brainpower trying to win some stupid board game.

It also goes back to my argument that a lot of the more egregiously mathy Euros are soulless efficiency exercises...there's plenty of brains and hard numbers, but no passion and zero heart. And for the pocket calculator set, that's probably just about right.

AT games have some math, sure...but it's much more sublimated and never becomes the game itself and the mechanics never rely completely on computation

Patrick H said...

The problem with "great" game mechanics is that the very design forces a winner - usually by a narrow margin - while keeping everyone in the game. The bean counter paying the most attention will be rewarded but will rarely ever trounce the opponents. If you pay little or no attention you will still be in the game and hell -might even win if someone has a counting lapse at the wrong moment.

I much prefer the option of burying my opponents, or being trounced than feeling as though I'm still in it even though I might not understand what I'm doing (or care).

Julian said...

I think you are dead on about AT being organic. In AT you have to take into account the personality of the players. Most AT games could not even be played against a computer, because negotiation is an essential feature of the game. You can turn Axis and Allies into a computer game (but not a very good one) because it doesn't have much deal making, but you couldn't turn Shogun into a computer game because knowing who's a dick, and who you can talk into making stupid moves, etc are a part of the game. I actually don't mind the math much, its just I like dealing with the player personalities.

Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that Shogun got to be Shogun aka Samurai Swords on that other web site until a certain other game was realeased, and now its Samurai Swords aka Shogun. Can't have our games tarnishing the reputation of a Euro. People might accidentally play it and have fun.

Michael Barnes said...

I much prefer the option of burying my opponents, or being trounced than feeling as though I'm still in it even though I might not understand what I'm doing (or care).

I think my favorite anecdote about this subject comes from the first game Robert Martin and I ever played- Michael Schacht's INDUSTRIA. Rob came into my store with his wife. I was tired, distracted, and not terribly enthusiastic about learning the game so I didn't put much effort into trying to figure out the strategies and processes. I literally had no idea what was going on throughout the game between my general apathy toward the game and having to tend to customers between turns. And somehow, I won the game. I guess I followed the rules the best. Least satisfying victory ever!

Franklin said...

Attention Ken Bradford. I am Franklin. Stop using my name to post your nonsensical Ameritrash jibber jabber. Viva Caylus!

Shellhead said...

That organic distinction that Thrower made is important. A game with organic play allows or even encourages players to enjoy the game as a social occasion. A game that is focused on mathematical efficiency discourages that social interaction and rewards quiet analysis instead.

I'm good at math. In fact, I'm an accountant. But when I'm not at work, I don't want to bother with math. That's definitely one reason that I love AmeriTrash games.

In fact, I prefer to play with a more instinctive style, playing from the standpoint of whatever my side represents in the game. If I am playing the role of a hero, I play with reckless courage. If I am instead a god, I will be smiting some unbelievers with an angry vengeance. In Fury of Dracula, I play a dangerously unpredictable Dracula, playing quick, decisive and even impulsive turns, going for animal cunning instead of cold analysis. Even when I lose, that faster pace gives the gain a more dramatic intensity.

ubarose said...

If I am playing the role of a hero, I play with reckless courage. If I am instead a god, I will be smiting some unbelievers with an angry vengeance. In Fury of Dracula, I play a dangerously unpredictable Dracula, playing quick, decisive and even impulsive turns, going for animal cunning instead of cold analysis. Even when I lose, that faster pace gives the gain a more dramatic intensity.



Math: Not Sexy.
Heroes, Vampires, Soldiers, Gods: Sexy.


"I get 12 points. Hon, can you can you record that on the victory track for me.": Not Hot.

"Baby blow on my dice and we'll smite this M****rF*****r": Hot.

Michael Barnes said...

Ubarose: Total badass.

TheRankO said...

You're killin' me, Ubarose.

One of the first things I had to tell new game group members was that they should be ready to hear me use the word "M****rF*****r" [sic] every session.

Michael Barnes said...

At our regular meetup (at a local university, my horde actually got moved down the hall since we're "experienced gamers". That actually means that we're incredibly foul mouthed, loud, and obnoxious.

Like Theranko, if you game with me, I'll probably say "M****rF*****r" a couple of times, and probably a "You G*d D****d Son of a B***h" too. [sic]

Jeb said...

I think the debate boils down to where the fun comes from. For some, the fun is in the bits. Little guys, the satisfying clack of dice, the name-calling and domination of opponents, etc. For others it's in the nuanced decision, the well-laid plans, the urge for perfection (however that gets defined). I see a lot of overlap in games like BattleLore, where the perfectionists can paint their little guys just so, and the other guys can move them around and blow shit up.

I admit a move away from "heavy" games though. I've read session reports about Die Macher and just wonder--who wants to play this? It's seems more like work, which I do all damn day.

Alan Polak said...

Swearing: essential. people may think it's childish and immature, especially when doing something so cultured as playing a game, but fuck em. The whole organic thing is spot on I think. It's all about having a new experience every time. Fury of Dracula is a real good example too as you can play Dracula in a load of different ways. This would seem to be the very opposite of the math exercises where you end up with the whole statistics thing. Boring! Gaming is about risks and management of those risks true, but sometimes you just gotta grow a pair and take a chance and go for it even when the "chances" of success are slim. Seems like this is the thing that the naysayers to this style of gaming are afraid of.

Patrick H said...

You guys are hostile. Now I'm scared. I'll be packing up my abacus, chalkboard and flowers and be leaving now.

Michael Barnes said...

Hey, is this your Members Only jacket? There's a calculator in the front pocket. Don't leave it behind or we'll throw it in a fire.

Wait- yep, written on the tag "Patrick H"

Steve said...

I'm a whiz at math, in fact I work with numbers at work all day. When we play Euros at my local gaming store, I pretty much win or come close, even if it's the first time I've played.

At first I just thought they were letting me win, but then it clicked that I could figure the shit out quicker than those who were more experienced in the game.

I was bored to tears. Math = boring, it's not meant to be fun.

I yearn for playing a game where I can stand up, point and call someone a M***** F*****. Now that seems like fun. I want to go to bed that night and actually remember what I did the past 5 hours.

Patrick H said...

That's Ok - you keep it. I have another one that came with my copy of "Joyful Non-confrontaional Building & Trading 2".

You will likely use it to count all of the casualties in your violent dice throwing melee's.

I did leave my fanny bag though - could you kindly pass it to me without a thowing motion?

Michael Barnes said...

Is this it here? The one that says "Amoritizing motherfucker" on it?

Jeb said...

Even Euro lovers can enjoy AT games. When beaning someone with a keenly tossed d6, an AT player might yell, "Bullseye, asshat!" A euro player would think: But, soft! what die through yonder window breaks? It is the west, and Amer'Trash is the fun.

Clarissimus said...

Why can't you darned foreigners get it right? For the last time, THERE'S ONLY ONE MATH!

brumeister said...

So,
Are we allowed to say
"mother-fucker" or
"god-damn-it" or
"son of a bitch"?????

Or does it have to be edited in some wierd, no vowels allowed kinda thing?
"m*th*rf*ck*r" or
"g*d-d*mn-*t" or
"s*n *f * b*tch"

(I chose not to capitalize god because there are many gods out there) ouch

neonpeon said...

You know, the first (and only) time I played Caylus was at a convention - it was a five player game. The players: me and my buddy Kevin who were newbies, the guy who owned the game and had played a few times before, and two other newbies. I am mathematically inclined so as the experienced player explained the game it sounded interesting. Also I was psyched because it was #2 on BGG. As the game progressed, the owner asked a few times what we thought of the game thus far. I wasn't sure how to answer - I just said it was pretty interesting - and it was, but I felt overwhelmed with data and decisions. The owner and another player lamented something about the board being "fiddly" because you have to move some pieces around in a clumsy manner, or something. Apparently the 2nd edition improves on this problem. "It's a shame."

Another friend (John) pulled up a chair and watched the endgame. We added up our scores - I forget how this works but I believe there's a minute of tabulation. I finished in third, Kevin in fifth. As we walked out to find Kevin's wife, John commented, "That seemed...dry." I jumped to the defense of Euros and explained that they are more focused on planning and strategy as opposed to theme. A minute later I had to add, "...but I'm just not sure if I enjoyed that." Kevin agreed.

Other than those bits of chatter and the player rankings, I can hardly recall anything about the game session. I can't even remember the basics of the gameplay. After reading all this Ameritrash stuff, I now understand that clinical term for my affliction - none other than the dreaded cube confusion! :cry: You know, I can still remember playing a home-brewed arena combat game at the same convention 18 years ago - I rolled a 20 and shot Han Solo between the eyes, much to my delight, so I advanced to his color-coded level.

I think some Euros are GREAT - I brought Modern Art out at a family event and all had fun. T&E - love it. I appreciate a well-designed system, but pure math is just not fun.

Anonymous said...

Although mathiness may be a common side-effect of attempts at elegance, it is by no means an obligatory side effect. I can think of a couple of pure negotiation games, that are elegant, deep, but which strongly favor psychological manipulation skills over calculation. A prototypical example is "So Long Sucker" (which was invented by a nobel-prize-winning mathematician, strangely). It's a themeless, no-luck, perfect information game, the rules of which fit on one page. Nonetheless, minimaxers stand no chance against used car salesmen.

Anonymous said...

Billy Z

Well might as well throw in my two cents worth...

I've been working as a croupier ( that's casino dealer --- it sounds only fancier) for the past five years now and my work experiance directly translates to this discussion.

Hold on, let me explain: Gambling by it's very definion is risk management. It therefore follows that any player who recognises the said risk and plays accordingly will win more than he will lose in the long run. Just like any game involving a random element *cough* AT*cough*.

I don't know how many of you have heard of card counting, so I'll give you a brief run down.

Blackjack-- simple game right? Get as close to 21 without going over, house hits 16 stays on 17. Sometimes you double sometimes you can split. So you plop your money down and hope for the best, right?

FUCK NO! YOU SAP! Blacjack, just like any game involving probability has patterns that can be assessed and (possibly) used to our advantage. To wit.

Card counters assign values to cards example: A to 10=1, 7-8-9=0,and 2 to 6 =-1. the total gleaned by these values is called the running count-- which is more or less useless. What you need to get is a true count, that's where you take the running count and (get this) devide that by the number of decks that have been played played. Now that you have the true count value, you can cross index this to the basic strategy chart that tells you when to hit, stay, split, double, or insure your bet depending on what you have and what the dealer is showing. Add to this the fact that really good card counters go the extra mile and cross reference with a chart that tells you what percentage of your bankroll you should bet according to the current true count total. Now here's the kicker... THEY DO ALL OF THIS IN THEIR FUCKING HEAD!!! In a few seconds while speaking to their buds, hitting on some chick, or (more likely) while the pit boss is talking to them trying to fuck with their count.

What does this have to do with what we are talking about? Simple, " Random elements" do not a shitty game make, nor does it make the enthusiats of such games post-adolescent retards or whatever the fuck else we've been called on the geek. Learning to assess a games random patterns be it through skill or experiance is no easy task and it should not be belittled because of some personal bias.

I suck at chess. For the life of me I cannot develop the vision which allows me to see or memorise the most likely permutations involved in moving a pawn forward instead of a knight. being that as it is I generally know that by the tenth move or so I am fucked-- there is no way for me to get back into the game. Some people like that some people don't -- how the fuck an inferential link can be made between this and the validity of either a Euro or an AT game is beyond me.

Mr Skeletor said...

"Baby blow on my dice and we'll smite this M****rF*****r": Hot.

I guarantee my interpretation of this is way more dirty than it was meant to be.
And if it wasn't someone needs to get a divorce and give me their number (no, I'm not referring to you Michael!)

Anonymous said...

Well I don't like to think of AT games as games for people who don't want to think too hard. I want to think hard, out-play you, then eliminate you from the game and form an alliance with your girlfriend.

In my experience Euros have very short decision trees. It's usually obvious after 3 plays of a Euro what you should do every move throughout the game. Mostly that's because you are playing against the game, not the other players. Games that allow other players to kill the leader (i.e. direct conflict games) make you determine your strategy by what you think the other guy will do. That's much harder than the typical Euro multiplayer solitaire. The added freedom of interaction typical of AT games equals added depth, and that's why AT games last for decades while Euros have a shelf life of 2-3 plays.

I'm coming to the idea that AT can be defined as games enjoyed by AT gamers. AT players want to strike a blow or risk being smited. Euros on the other hand are great for passive-agressive types that suffer Lack Of Self Esteem Reaction when you are in their base killing their dudes.

Michael Barnes said...

Euros on the other hand are great for passive-agressive types that suffer Lack Of Self Esteem Reaction when you are in their base killing their dudes.

I always get the impression (based on online behavior) that the average Eurogamer is the sort of person who went home crying from middle school every day.

Nice comments anonymous- let us know who you are next time!

Julian said...

I don't know. I think At games are more than just games that AT players like.

I'd say we've done a good job of defining AT games. I think the group consensus is more or less this.

Must have:

An emphasis on narrative/story
An emphasis on theme
Player conflict
Risk Management/Gambling
An emphasis on playing against the other players not the game. (i.e. Matt Throwers organic vs maths point)

Should have some of the following:

player elimination
longer length
plastic pieces
Sci Fi/Horror/Fantasy/War theme
buckets of dice
negotiation
opportunities for backstabbing/vengeance
Ways to kill the other guys dudes
Lots of choices

I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff. But thats enough for a pretty good understanding of a genre, especially when we keep in mind there will be borderline cases and hybrids.

I think its an interesting question: "Why do AT gamers like AT games?" What I've learnt from the last few days including Ken's why I love AT post after this is that we love:

Trash Talking
Grinding our friends and family beneath our iron thumb.
Betrayal
Vengeance
Also a nice story

At games allow us all that. I think, given our preferences, its not surprising that middle aged men with fanny packs find us threatening.

Anonymous said...

People playing with plastic figures in a fantasy world commenting on middle school kids being roughed up and displaying their limited sexual imaginations, all because they think saying motherfucker is daring? AH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Michael Barnes said...

You're right...not as "daring" as posting something anonymously, is it?

Mr Skeletor said...

Anonymous is busy playing Elfenland and cannot come to the blog right now.

Anonymous said...

Nice comments anonymous- let us know who you are next time!

I can't figure out how to log in. My name is Ted. I used to be on BGG. I like your Blog. Keep it up!

Fellonmyhead said...

I'm coming into this a bit late - I've been playing games since Thursday.

Matt, that was a fantastic article; another oasis in the sea of noise that is FAT. The concept of "organic games" is someting we should all be aware of, and if any term should pass into common usage that's one of them.

On mathematically-based euros; I think most eurogamers would agree with you. Nobody likes anything that becomes too scripted. However I often find in some of these games that simply taking an alternative approach breaks the "winning strategy".

In some cases it doesn't work, because you'll find it brings you no closer to winning and simply offers victory to another player; but I think most eurogamers acknowledge such games are bad.

I will always prefer the hybrids - sure, there is always a little maths but it's nothing that anybody can't work out for themselves.

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