Landmark Games Part 6

U1_titelThe latest issue of Spielbox magazine arrived in my mailbox a few days ago. Its cover proclaimed this to be the 20-year anniversary of 6 nimmt!

The article about this auspicious birthday was something of a  two-page trip down memory lane for Joe Nikisch and Uwe Mölter. This history lesson was interesting enough for a casual read. It was not the exploration of its mechanisms and influence I’d hoped for.

To be clear, Nikisch does discuss mechanisms and impact in his article, just not in great detail. Let’s say a bit more about this landmark game.

6 Nimmt! is remarkably elegant.  The rules at their core are extremely straightforward–Horns are points and points are bad.  Play a card simultaneously and resolve them in ascending order.  Each card goes to the pile it is most closely over.  The 6th card takes the pile it lands in but stays behind.  There is only one “fringe rule;” a card too low for any pile takes a pile of your choice and stays in its place.  Quick, clean rules like these favor such quick-playing games and are ideal for sharing our hobby with non-gaming family or friends.

6nimmt_Spielsituation2Like Hearts or Golf, 6 nimmt! players win by avoiding penalties rather than by gaining points.  Having worked on a few games of this type, I can tell they are darned tricky to balance.  Kramer found that balance in the places he chose to dole out the penalties. Every card is worth at least one penalty point but cards ending in 5 have two points, cards ending in 0 have three points and multiples of 11 have five.  The 55 card, being both a card ending in 5 and a multiple of 11 is singularly nasty–it carries seven penalty points! This spread is more than sufficient to keep players watching every pile and its potential penalties.

One element the Spielbox article did focus on was the game’s approach to simultaneous play.  Players in 6 nimmt! choose a card to play simultaneously but execute the cards in increasing order.  According to the article, this two-stage version of simultaneous play was completely revolutionary at the time.  There is a unique tempo as you alternate between first attempting to read your opponents and second watch the results of your decision play out.

Because play is simultaneous, some of its detractors will assert that you can simply play a random card each round to get a similar effect.  This argument has been put up against a large number of simultaneous play games, including my own Nobody But Us Chickens.  The Spielbox article defends this approach as a valid method of play.  I cannot be so charitable.  While playing cards at random misses the spirit of the game.  Getting a good read on your opponents, spotting a good spot to drop a bad card, these elements are essential to fully experiencing 6 Nimmt!  To play otherwise is to deny yourself a great gaming experience.

On the other hand, 6 nimmt! does fall short in scaling.  The game with 3-5 players is tense and strategic but as additional players are added, the game grows increasingly chaotic and if the maximum 10 players are participating, it does begin to feel as random as its detractors insist.

Many simultaneous-play games stand on the shoulders of the 6 Nimmt! giant.  Games like Die Glücksritter–which alternate between simultaneous and ordered play are doubly indebted.  If you have any plan to design a simultaneous play game, 6 nimmt! is a must-play.  Through its simplicity, Wolfgang Kramer shows how powerful a single, cleanly executed, mechanism can be.

 

In Local News…

Comicpalooza started as a small but ambitious comic con here in Houston.  It has since exploded into a huge con for all of geekdom–comics, sci-fi, fantasy, gaming. My design partner Luther Bell Hendricks and I will be demoing Sentinel Tactics throughout the weekend. I will also be participating in several panel talks.  If you’re in southern Texas this weekend, come on by. I’d love to see you there! 🙂

 

What are the landmark games?  Which titles should every game enthusiast play at least once?  6 nimmt! is my suggestion.

Have you played 6 nimmt!?  What do you think of it as a landmark game?  What other games do you see as notable ancestors to newer games?  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.

 

Landmark Games, Part 3

What are the landmark games?  Which games created genres?  Or perfected them? Or changed the way we look at them?  Here’s my list.  I’d love to see yours.
Carcassonne

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5e/Carcassonne-game.jpgIs it a tile laying game?  Is it a worker placement game?  An area control game?  Carcassonne is all of these.

Carcassonne is one of those remarkable games that changes the way you look at games.

My wife and I discovered Carcassonne in early 2001. It quickly became our favorite two-player game.  At its peak, we were playing it 3-5 times week, usually immediately before or after dinner.  Playing it so extensively enabled us to experience the game in great depth (It also turned us into area-control sharks but that’s a different story).

Each turn begins with drawing and placing a tile. Carcassonne is clearly a tile-laying game.  In most tile laying games, your main decision was where to put the tile (or sometimes, which tile to place if you have a hand of tiles).  Klaus-Jürgen Wrede took that idea further.  After each tile play, Wrede makes you decide whether or not to place one of your meeples on the tile to claim it.

Lots of worker-placement games make you choose where exactly to put your worker and have different implications for each placement option. But how many of those let you decide through the tile you place what those options will be? Carcassonne does.  Through its placement, a tile can be a perfect piece of a castle, or of a road, or of farmland.  Or it can mess up the growth of another player’s castle, road, or farmland.

If a meeple is already on a feature, no other meeple can be put on that feature.  So Carcassonne is also a worker placement game because each meeple claims an area solely for its owner.  Again, Wrede takes that idea further.  Even if you’ve decided to play a meeple to your tile, different parts of the tile have different implications.  And you have a limited number of meeples.  And you can’t get a meeple back until its feature completes and scores. And farms don’t score until the end of the game so any worker assigned to farming is gone for the rest of the game.

If a meeple is already on a feature, no other meeple can be put on that feature.  But wait–the rulebook describes how to split ties and determine majority win areas!  So Carcassonne is an area majority game.  But why are these rules in a game which forbids a second meeple from entering an occupied region? They are there because you can connect bits up through tile placement to horn in on another player’s work! Dastardly!

What about expansions?  Carcassonne has bucket loads of them.  Some introduce a new map feature. Some introduce a new type of meeple.  One–the Catapult–brought a dexterity element to the game, another–the Tower–gave us a tray to manage all those expansions during play.

What about sequels? Carcassonne has plenty of those too: Hunters and Gatherers, The New World, the City (my wife’s favorite), the Discovery (my favorite)

Playing Carcassonne changes the way you look at tile laying, the way you look at area control, and the way you look at worker placement.  It was revolutionary when it was introduced and stands unsurpassed even today.

 

What are your landmark games?  Which titles should every game enthusiast play at least once?  Carcassonne is my third suggestion.  Come back Tuesday and see what you think of the fourth.

Have you played Carcassonne?  What do you think of it 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.