Sunday, 10 March 2013
The development of games is not always linear
I recently played a new edition of the one of the few board games that is of global importance in the games industry, Monopoly.The actual version played was the Cornwall edition. For those who have not played this classic, in essence it consists of rolling 2 dice, moving around a square board trying to acquire sets of three streets of the same colour. Once three adjacent streets of the same colour are acquired, the player invests in houses as they can afford them. Eventually, other players land on your streets and you slowly bankrupt them with the fine they pay for landing on property you own. Often the game becomes very exciting as two players each get sets and slowly add houses as they save enough money. Eventually, someone becomes bankrupt and loses.
The new version of the game has two rule changes that dramatically reduce the decision making in the game and reduce the fun value considerably.In the old version of the game, you could only buy a property by landing on it and paying the set fee. While often it was sound strategy to buy up properties which your opponents want (to stop them getting a set), sometimes it is better not to. In the mid game, players often need to save money to buy the properties they need to complete their sets or to make sure they have enough money to build houses when they get sets. The new rules mean that if a player does not want the property, it is automatically put up for auction. i.e. if a player does not buy it, the player who does need it to complete their set will be able to. Therefore, players have no option except to buy up most of what they land on.
The second rule change is about mortgages. Under the old rules, a player’s can mortgage the properties they have bought for half their value if they need cash, but not when they still have houses anywhere on the board. The new rules allow players to mortgage anytime they want. So as soon as player gets a set and so is eligible to build houses, they simply need to mortgage every other property they own and get the maximum number of houses in one turn. This is a killer strategy that normally means who ever gets a set first will win within three circuits of the players moving around the board.The story of the development of Monopoly is an example that has a general lesson for wargaming. As I go through the History of Wargaming, I find there are numbers of sets of rules where later editions are clearly inferior to the earlier versions. Some of these later editions introduce less player decisions, introduce potential ‘killer strategies’ or otherwise deemed inadequate by their player base.
The development of games is clearly not linear.Has anyone got any examples of games where the later editions were not improvements?