Your Humble Blogger had intended to write more about tabletop games over the last year, but, er, didn’t. Ah, well. Maybe in 2019, if all goes well and the crick don’t rise.
However, Benjamin Rosenbaum, sometime Gentle Reader of this Tohu Bohu, has written an excellent note On Hacking The Games You Play With Your Kids. In it, he writes of the mindset to approach every board game like an unfinished game design space whose constraint is "the people around the table, particularly the little ones, ought to win this game a relatively equal amount, and actually the little ones ought to win it more." This is excellent insight, and bears strongly on MFQ—the MFQ of a game-and-player-set is based on the game being not only repeatable but repeated, and thus problems that do not appear in the first game can still be inherent in the ruleset.
The most well-known incidence of this (at least in my household) is that we never play two games of Settlers of Catan in a row. It’s an excellent game, but the flaws in it are exacerbated by repeated play with the same players. Some groups don’t find that to be true! But the four of us hold to it. We can play two games of Kingdomino back-to-back, and we have found that three games of Dominion is usually the correct number, and of course Fluxx can be played multiple times if the games turn out to be short, but one Settlers in a day. But Mr. Rosenbaum suggests hacking the game, so that it becomes harder for those players winning at various stages of the game, or so that the game rewards different sets of skills, so that repeated play will not mean repeated victory for the same players.
And here’s the bit I want to quote at length:
But I think the most important part about all this is not the specific hacks, but the general attitude that we are hackers: that the point of a game is to be fun for everyone, that if it's not fun for everyone the answer is to change the game, and that "I always lose" is a perfectly legitimate reason for the game not to be fun.
I think this is as good a definition of MFQ as any I have been able to come up with. I don’t like the term hack myself, as a matter of personal preference—I prefer the term House Rules—but the point is that (a) the purpose of games is to have fun, and (2) the players have the power over the game, not the game over the players. Almost every game should have some sort of House Rule that makes it more fun for that household (or group that plays repeatedly) than for a different household. And those rules should change! The Youngest Member’s recent discovery that he can now comfortably hold more than seven Uno cards in his growing hand has obviated our earlier adaptation. The incorporation of team play into some games (such as Word-O-Rama or Boggle) can improve games with smaller children, but be a drag on games with older ones. I haven’t put enough imagination into making House Rules for most games, though.
And it reminds me also that our enjoyable habit of attempting to learn a new game every few weeks (and we haven’t for a few weeks since a recent disastrous (and hilarious) attempt to play Dungeon Fighter) means that we aren’t putting effort into House Rules. But then I find lately that I have little patience for going an inferior game three or four times through in order to come up with significant improvements, when after all, we can play a game that we already have improved.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,