This time on Game Corner I am going to discuss how similar mechanics can affect how people view, play and judge games. The market place for games currently is booming, some even say we might be in a bubble (which is a topic for another article, possibly a Garion and Kyle team-up?). While this can lead to situations where multiple publishers are making straight-up copies of games, this does not mean that all games that have similar mechanics are interchangeable.
Let’s start off by looking at my favorite genre and compare Ancient Terrible Things with Elder Sign. Primarily, both of these games are push-your-luck dice rolling games in pulp settings. They require you to build a dice pool which the player uses to accomplish tasks. During the rolling you can use various abilities to affect your dice pool. Also, both games take place in a Lovecraftian horror setting.
While these games have a similar basic mechanic and settings, the one thing that separates them is the way the mechanics interact with the theme. In ATT, the game moves at an amazingly fast pace. turns are very quick and there is not a ton of fiddly things happening. Elder Sign, which was one of my first board games, now seems cumbersome in comparison. The game has way too many moving parts. I appreciate it from the stand point of an intro game to the FFG Lovecraft canon, but with the advent of Eldritch Horror, this game seems like it is just too much for a push-your-luck rolling game.
The main difference, here, in the end is how streamlined ATT is, and a dice rolling game should not take you more than 45 minutes, max. So while they are both dice rolling games, the level of complexity of Elder Sign (while still not very high) adds much more of an RPG aspect to the game and has a far better story than ATT. ATT is a game for people who just want to roll dice and score points with a light horror theme. Elder Sign is a game for people who want a quicker version of other Lovecraft games.
Next time we will look at worker placement as a category, specifically the age-old debate of Agricola and Caverna.