In the last post, we talked a little bit about the challenges of gaming on a limited budget (of time). What have we been playing that does well under those constraints? 1.) Spellwood (iOS)- A single-and-multiplayer competitive crossword game. Sounds like other stuff you might have played before, but this is much less like Scrabble, with disappearing words, powerups, and gear for your character. I think, unfortunately, it's not necessarily doing all that well, as it's structured like there was going to be a lot more content that never got made. Still, it's an excellent game. One of the things I really enjoy about it is that there are opportunities for huge comebacks, where coupling a few different powerup tiles with a really good word can save a game that looks like a lost cause.
A lot of the most compelling game experiences are built up around "near misses" - games where someone stages a huge comeback (or almost stages a huge comeback) - and Spellwood has those in spades.
2.) Letterpress (iOS)- Don't worry - these won't all be word games. But one of the things that's interesting about Letterpress is that it's not exactly a word game, and if you play it like it's strictly a word game, you'll lose. It's actually a game about territory control via words, and once you realize that the territory control is as, if not more, important than getting good words, then the strategy really becomes interesting. Like Spellwood, there are a lot of opportunities to turn a game around and eke out a win from what looks like a loss. The only real problem with Letterpress is a weak endgame. You can often get into a sort of stalemate when the last few letters on the board are still open, because it can be difficult to open up enough of a lead to confidently "end" the game. Instead, you often end up dueling for an extended amount of time trying to open up enough of a gap that you can take some of the last letters without opening yourself up to defeat.
3.) Hearthstone (iOS, PC)- Available on the PC or iPad, Hearthstone is one of the best examples of a Free-to-play game done right. You never feel an unfair pressure to spend money, and when you do, you get things that you actually value, that you keep permanently. It's like Magic: The Gathering, but it's much more accessible, and Hearthstone's extensive & well-designed tutorials are a great introduction to this style of game, even if you've never played a game like this before. It's deep, competitive, rewarding, and beautiful.
4.) Monument Valley (iOS)- A breathtakingly beautiful puzzle game about perspective. Unlike some of the other games, which foster conversation & competition between players, Monument Valley is a single player game - but you'll probably end up talking about it with other people just because it's so gorgeous. It's elegant, which is very difficult to achieve, both in visual and game design. It's atmospheric. It's relaxing, even when you're stuck on part of a level.
5.) Cards Against Humanity (physical)- You do have to have a pretty ... raunchy? sense of humor to enjoy this, but most of our friends are willing to dive in and play this "party game for horrible people". You certainly can't be squeamish. But it's a card game that takes no time to set up, and I rarely play a full session without laughing until I cry at least once. Those moments stick with you, and though you may not remember the combination of cards that caused the fit, you will remember the moments, long after the game is over.
There are a ton of other spectacular games that we'll post about over the coming weeks, but just as a bit of an expansion on the previous post, this is a bit of what we've been playing. We certainly hope to capture a lot of the elements of the things we love about these games - the competition, the "near misses", the humor, and the elegance - in what we're building. I guess we'll see in time if we're successful. :)