I am in Niagara Falls for a convention this week. Roomie Walter Hunt and I have taken to enjoying this weather with a morning walk every day. The air is crisp. The sky is clear. The breeze is cool. The conversation is engaging and interesting. We make no effort to discuss games or gaming–and usually don’t since Walter is a history buff and enjoys sharing his knowledge–but today we did.
We were approaching the Rainbow Bridge into Canada this morning when he made an interesting remark. He stated that many boardgame posts respond to the latest product by referencing an older seminal game. When a follow-up post responds that he has not played it, Walter then asserted that “It’s funny; I do not hear anything he says after that.”
Wow. that’s a bold statement.
We probed this opinion in great depth while the miles rolled by under our feet. Walter’s view is that to form meaningful opinions about the latest game, fans should understand its ancestry. This strongly echoes the position Austin Kleon took in one section of his book Steal Like an Artist (book report coming soon!); that we should all strive to learn from our artistic ancestors.
For me, this raises an essential question: What ARE the essential games? What are the landmarks everyone should play in order to put modern design into context?
And since you’re reading this blog, you get to read my answers.
With absolutely no further ado, here is the first in my series on landmark games.
Civilization was originally released in 1980, designed by Frances Tresham and Mick Uhl. The expansion Advanced Civilization released in 1991. Civilization is a solid game on its own but I suggest you find the time to try the expanded version offered by Advanced Civilization. It is a solid example of the right way to create a game expansion.
There are a number of things a twenty-first century gamer such as yourself will learn from playing this 34 year-old game.
The game rules are quite deep. Avalon Hill rulesets are written in legalese. They are not an exciting read. Look past that at the core of the rules. Reduced to the essentials, they are not terribly long but offer remarkable depth.
Trading brings players into direct contact regularly. Examining your resources, trying to find a player who has what you need, convincing that player she wants what you to offer, all keep the interaction in the game high. This is particularly important when you understand that the game generally takes about eight hours to play.
Calamities force players to constantly struggle with the game in addition to the other players . Advanced Civilization is a game that requires players be proactive and reactive. Some calamities will strike. The player who can best prepare for and respond to these calamities is the player who has mastered Advanced Civilization.
How has Civilization influenced modern design? International sensation The Settlers of Catan is a perfect example. Notice how the trading phase and the robber can both be seen as direct descendants of Civilization.
What are the landmark games? Which titles should every game enthusiast play at least once? Advanced Civilization is my first suggestion. Return Tuesday to see what you think of my second.
Have you played Advanced Civilization? How do you feel about holding it up as a landmark game? What other games do you see as notable ancestors to newer games? Which ones were the (ha-ha) game changers? Share with your fellow readers in the comments below. And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create and account with WordPress and follow this blog. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.