This or That with Jon and Laurie

Roleplaying games or puzzle solving games?

Jon: Well, we know what Laurie’s going to choose!

Laurie: Yeah (laughs).

Jon: I think I’m the same. We were doing a stream the other night and I was reminded just how varied roleplaying games are as a genre. There’s so much you can do with it. Don’t get me wrong, I love puzzle games. Some of my favourite moments have been the ‘eureka’ moment you get from solving a puzzle. But I think you can put puzzle games IN roleplaying games which means that roleplaying games are objectively better.

Laurie: I love puzzle games. I think they’re fun to solve but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. If your brain works ever so slightly differently then puzzles can be the worst possible thing, right? And there are plenty of moments in games where the puzzles are simply too hard in general. However, roleplaying games catch all of that. The great thing about a roleplaying game is that the puzzle would never actually be an obstacle to anyone’s enjoyment of the game. You could pose a puzzle to the players and if they’re not solving it, it’s your job as the DM or GM to bring the solution to them in a satisfactory manner that’s going to help tell this collaborative story. I think that’s what I really like about roleplaying games – while it does feel like it’s a bunch of people versus the DM, it’s actually a cooperative game in which the DM and the players are trying to tell the very best story that they possibly can.

Jon: Yeah, the DM gets to play the panto villain and put problems in the way. Roleplaying games are the best games by default because you can change things up if your group is not enjoying it. The flexibility of roleplaying games makes them the ultimate type of game… I can’t believe Laurie and I are agreeing already (laughs).

Co-op or Competitive?

Jon: I think competitive is more enjoyable ultimately, but they’re both so different. With co-op games, I really enjoy the sense of working together. And there are certain players I wouldn’t want to play competitively because people get upset or they don’t like to compete. I think co-op is really good for a particular kind of group but in a general sense, the juice you get from a competitive game is really hard to beat.

Laurie: I think it’s mood based. I think I would more regularly play a coop game than I would a competitive one. During my relaxation time, I actually like to be quite calm. I find competitive gaming, generally speaking, tends to rile me up too much. It’s why I don’t play online first person shooters and stuff like that.

Jon: It’s a young man’s game, Laurie.

Laurie: It is and I don’t want to live my life stressed out. With a cooperative game, you win and you lose together. That’s a lot of fun. If I’m going to lose then I want everyone to lose as well (laughs). I’m so competitive that if I don’t get to win, no one does.

Jon: The supervillains answer!

Legacy or standalone?

Jon: I feel like legacy is an offshoot of the main branch of board gaming. We were really excited about it for a few years – Pandemic Legacy series one is still probably my favourite single gaming experience – but I think legacy games are something of a fun experiment, I don’t think they can compare to the rigorous design of an individual game. There’s only so far you can tweak a ruleset before it becomes untethered from its base. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are great. I really do think Pandemic Legacy is brilliant and you can really get into the guts of what makes a game good with a legacy game, but it’s almost like an expansion pack for me. It’ll always be nice to have, but a well made standalone will always be superior to me.

Laurie: I think most legacy games live and die off the fact that the base game has to be so good. All the best legacy games are from an existing property. It’s Risk but here’s the twist. It’s Betrayal but here’s the twist. It’s Pandemic but here’s the twist. These games knock on to each other. Legacy games basically have the same issue that you have with roleplaying games. It’s not just plug-and-play. You can’t rope in someone new and be like, “Hey! Come in for session 5. You’ll pick it up!” With a legacy game, you’re essentially taking on the admin of a roleplaying game. You need to try and organise times for everyone to come and play. They take forever. I genuinely do think they’re really good, and if you can get a good group of players together then you can have an out-of-this-world experience. I played Betrayal Legacy with my brother and his friends. It was excellent but we had to rigorously organise it ahead of time. We had all the dates we would play planned three months in advance. I think there’s probably one game every 10 years that you could do that for. You need a really solid group.

Obviously, you’re better off having standalone games because you can just bring that out to people. You’ll find that people are a lot more willing to commit for two hours. A legacy game is a commitment that is 2 hours 20 times.

Jon: It’s probably the same reason I’ll never play Gloomhaven even though it looks amazing. Logistically it’s just not going to happen. I’m too old. I have a finite number of years on this earth. Plus I’d need to get a group together. I’d love to play it though. It looks incredible.

Laurie: I think there’s an interesting middle ground emerging of games with a campaign or legacy element that aren’t legacy games. Oath, for instance, which came out a few years back. Every single game knocks on to the next. The history of the kingdom gets told by the players ahead of the next game. It’s quite interesting to have a storyline like that for a game, especially if you play with different people.

Dice rolling or card drawing?

Jon: For me, the physical tactility and the clicking and the clacking of throwing down some dice always gets me, especially in games like King of Tokyo where you have these big, chunky dice and the Yahtzee rules of rerolling. 

Laurie: I think I’m the opposite. Card drawing to me, especially if you have a game where you can manipulate the cards you’re drawing from a deck you’ve built, well, there’s a tactical satisfaction to having optimised what you’re doing. In terms of pure luck, dice rolling is more fun every single time. It’s like a little splash of dopamine in your brain. That being said, the time that you draw a card from a deck that you really needed, it’s so good.

Jon: Oh, yeah. It’s pretty good. We were playing Challengers on the channel recently and there is something something really joyful about building the deck, making it really lean, and knowing every card in your deck is a banger. But then you end up drawing the one card you didn’t want, and you’re really screwed. The element of luck that is embedded into it – you can make the perfect deck but if they don’t come out in the right order you’re done – is delicious. But I’m now wondering, is there a middle ground? A dice game and as you level up your deck you get to add more dice to your pool?

Laurie: Like a dice pooling game where you keep changing your dice over?

Jon: Yeah. And you can trade in for a d-12 of whatever… Just an idea for us to think on. The best of both!

Playing board games at a cafe or at home?

Jon: I take my nephew to Draughts every so often. He’s seven. He’s actually really good at games. I know I sound like the boring, proud uncle but it’s true. He regularly beats me. It’s brilliant. There’s something really joyful about him wandering around and being like, “Can we try this one?” Or even having an expert on hand to be like, “This game is great but it’s annoying to learn. I’m going to teach it to you.” It’s nice having someone else who knows the rules around to explain things. That’s one of the great things about going to a cafe. If you know the game really well, playing at home is lovely. I love the cosiness and being able to bring your own food and drinks.

Laurie: I think if you’re playing something really big then at home is always the way to do it. If you’re wanting to tuck into something that is a 2-hour thing, then you want to play it at home. Unless of course you don’t own it, which is why I think places like Draughts and other cafes are great. Their library is brilliant. That’s what you’re paying them for, isn’t it? I mean, sure it’s nice to go there and eat and drink and stuff, but ultimately you’re paying for access to games you don’t own. It’s fun to go to one of these cafes casually with other friends who really like board games and then being like, “That one. I’ve really wanted to play that game.” The first time I played Quacks of Quedlinburg was in a cafe. It’s an amazing game. I played Flamrouge for the first time at Draughts.

Jon: Oh, I heard that’s great.

Laurie: It’s incredible. If you like Pedal to the Metal, it’s the same card playing style where you have to manage your small hand of cards. You get exhausted if you play everything. It’s brilliant. I was kind of on the fence about whether I wanted the game or not. They happened to have it, I played it, then decided to buy it at some point. But yeah, if it’s a meaty game you’re wanting to play then you’re better off playing at home. Some games take 40 minutes to set up. Then you’ve got to read all the rules. It’s just better to do at home where there’s no time pressure.

But I think a Draughts or board game cafe is great for meeting up with your mates to play a few Take That card games or whatever it might be, it’s a great environment to do that. Its fun to hang out in those kind of spaces. It makes it feel more lively because those cafes tend to be quite loud and raucous. 

Kickstarter or Classic Games

Jon: Well, funny you should mention this. Normally I would say classic games but I currently am about to launch my first board game on Kickstarter (which you can check out here). So I think Kickstarter is the best and you should all support new creators like me (laughs). Banging my own drum aside, I’ve backed some amazing games on Kickstarter. We were talking about competitive versus co-op before, a great middle ground for this is Nemesis, which I backed on Kickstarter. It’s phenomenal. It’s great as a co-op game until one of you turns. It’s such a big, exciting, thrilling adventure. There are incredible games on Kickstarter. Some of them are really ambitious. I think Kickstarter is great for experimental stuff, while classic games just have that robust solidity to them. You know what you’re getting. There’s not going to be anything unexpected. If you buy Trivia Pursuit, you know you’re going to get a bunch of questions and you know that it’s going to be fine. On Kickstarter, you see this wild thing that looks like it might be amazing or it might be a bit broken. I personally love that excitement in a Kickstarter. If I had to choose, I’d probably go with the huge range of classic games that are rock solid,  but I think Kickstart is an important ecosystem for experimentation and I love it almost as much.

Laurie: Kickstarter, for me, is full of shills and weasels. Can’t trust a single person on Kickstarter (laughs).

Jon: Scum! The lot of us (laughs).

Laurie: No, I’ve backed a load of games on Kickstarter. I think there are two clubs of people that do it. There are these smaller publishers who are genuinely turning up with an idea to pitch to people, like “This is what we want to make. We need you to help if we’re to make it.” Then, on the other end of the spectrum are these huge publishers who are using it as this sort of new machinery for how you sell games. The game is already made and ready to go. The Kickstarter is just a way to make millions but saying “Every goal we reach is another huge piece of plastic we’re going to add to our game.” I think a lot of publishers are kind of stuck in this cycle now, where it’s like, “This is what the industry has become. If you don’t have a big crowdfunding campaign is anyone really talking about you?” Personally, I think the two things should exist in a symbiosis where you use your Kickstarter to raise awareness and fund your first game, much like Awaken Realms did with Nemesis, and that then funnels you through to the next game. Maybe your next game is your middle ground game and you look to fund that through Kickstarter as well. But then that hopefully sets you up as a publisher so that you’re able to publish your next games off your own back without having to continue to rely on your audience for funding. It’s interesting. I think if it keeps the corporate hands of the likes of Hasbro off the design and functionality of these games then that’s good. You just have to look at video gaming to see how many games have been ruined by the executive branch of Microsoft stepping in and going, “No, no, no, no, no. You have to make THIS game THIS way,” and whole studios have ended up tanking.

Jon: I totally agree. Speaking as a very, very small developer, I can come up with an idea and make it visually appealing (or someone else on my team because I’m crap at that stuff) and if people like it, they can vote with their wallets and say, “This is cool. I want it to happen.” Obviously, there is a huge space in the market taken up by these giant corporations, but I don’t know how someone would get into that space as a beginner. Kickstarter is nice because it helps to bridge those worlds.

Would you rather be stuck in an elevator with a sore loser or a gloating winner?

Laurie: I think this is easy. I’d rather be stuck in a lift with a sore loser because it means I probably won.

Jon: Does it mean you’re definitely the winner though?

Laurie: I think it means I’m the winner.

Jon: I suppose you’re right. They’re not going to be annoyed at you unless you’ve beaten them, they’d just be annoyed in general. And if you’re a sore loser and you get annoyed at someone you don’t know because you lost then you’re a REALLY sore loser.

Laurie: Yeah. I think it’s much more likely that I’ve won in this case. And that is important to me.

Jon: That’s rock solid. I can’t really fault or debate that. I mean, yeah, I wouldn’t want to be in a place with a sore loser – I’ve hung out with Holly, it’s not pleasant – but being around a gloating winner would suck purely because you’ve lost. I think Laurie has gamed this.

Laurie: That’s why I’m the best winner. Because I’ve gamed it. I even gamed the questions, mate.

Jon: I can’t argue with it! He’s done it!

Enjoy this article? Check out 10 Questions with Laurie here and 10 Questions with Jon here. You can also check out Jon’s Kickstarter here.