Errata: How Much Attention Should I Pay to the Designer?
This week’s question is about selecting new games. Although I’ve talked about it briefly before, I thought I might mention it again. Specifically, the question is on the designers of games. How much attention should we really pay to the name on the box?
Game Shopper asked, “One of my favorite games is Puerto Rico by Andreas Seyfarth. I noticed he has another game called Thurn and Taxis, but it seems a lot different. Does having a designer I like mean I’ll probably like the game, or is every game different?”
With rare exception, I don’t think its safe to assume that if you happen to like one game from a particular designer that all of his games will be right up your alley. In the example you gave, Puerto Rico is a classic role selection game that I would comfortably categorize as a “medium” weight euro. You have to constantly watch your opponents and the actions that might most benefit them. You have to be careful about taking something that will end up helping them more than you.
By contrast, Thurn and Taxis is a much simpler game. I enjoy it, and it was a great choice for the SdJ, but it is very unlike Puerto Rico. The game can be more card driven and there is often a risk element that players can engage in – you have to add to a route or discard it. And a big discard can be devastating.
Overall, game designers are a lot like Hollywood movie directors. Just because you see something by Spielberg doesn’t mean it’s going to be Saving Private Ryan or E.T. It might be A.I. or Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. One of the things I’ve learned from interviewing a number of game designers on the podcast is that they tend to like to design different kinds of games using different mechanics. So, while there might be a twist to it, you won’t like a game with mechanics you hate even if you like the designer. No matter how much you love Tigris & Euphrates, you’ll hate Amun-Re if you hate auction games.
Of course, there are exceptions. I tend to like most everything by Vlaada Chvatil. And I’ve been on a Stefan Feld kick for a little while now. But even then, there are highs and lows. It’s just that I’ve played enough of their games that a new design by them makes me a little more interested to try it out. But no matter how big the designer’s name, I never insta-buy based on that alone.
Got questions about strategy, specific games, or the hobby in general? Post them in the comments here, email me at geekinsight at gfbrobot dot com, or send them to @GeekInsight on Twitter and check back next week for answers!