One of my business advisors, Rob Slee introduced me in his book ('Private Capital Markets', Wiley, 2011) to a concept called 'value worlds' with respect to the valuation of a given business. His thesis is that there is no single objective value to a given business - rather, the business has a value in a given setting, circumstance, or to particular buyers. This notion of a relative value has implications for hobby gamers as well, in my opinion.
I submit to the discriminating masses that the value of a game - to a given player - is in no small degree related to those with whom she experiences the game. That is, you can't judge a given game in a meaningful way without a certain cohort of competitors in mind. I recognize this is a controversial proposition; however, I daresay that a given title offers a different experience when it's played with different groups.
Consider the following groups:
- Your regular gaming bunch
- Some players new to hobby gaming
- Experienced players who dislike this sort of game (or this one in particular)
- Experienced players who love this game in particular
A given game will always - ALWAYS - be valued higher by a given player if that player experiences the game with group D than if she plays it with any of the other groups listed above. In that circumstance, participants will actively show appreciation during the experience, burnishing the high points for everyone and perhaps drawing attention to nuances that the other aficionados could miss.
All of these observations are really just a preamble to my recent decision to trade in Coimbra. The decision was met with no small amount of guff from my friend and partner in this business, Alex. He demanded an explanation, to wit: The game clearly shows an attention to detail that merits appreciation from an experienced Eurogamer. But I was forced to admit that I would not be able to grow my appreciation of this creation when playing with the (only) group I could experience Coimbra with: They simply preferred other experiences to this one.
Coimbra is one of those Euro deals with a variety of settings on the board; the choices that you make in one setting will impact those that play out later in the round or later in the game. It's a very busy, icon-heavy affair, and there is a lot going on strategically even without all of the icons. I personally think that its many parts fit together very neatly, and it's a tight affair. There doesn't seem to be enough time - always the sign of something delicious.
Having said that, I only played it once before trading it in. For this reason, I simply can't - or won't - render a definitive judgement on the game.
This might seem like a cop-out on my part; however, at least with respect to Coimbra it's all I got. I refuse to cede cherished cubic footage on my shelves to something that a theoretical group might appreciate. My posse - at least the likely ones with whom I'll play this game- won't want to play it again.
Another example of my thesis of 'relative value' is Race for the Galaxy, which is one of my favorite games. Most people that I play this game with don't enjoy it. The people who don't appreciate the game, though, in my opinion, are people who don't appreciate the subtleties and strategic imperatives - decisiveness, persistence, etc - that the game forces upon its players. However, recently I played the game with a true aficionado - a gamer's gamer who'd never played RFTG. One extremely quick explanation and we were off to the, er, well you know.
And he simply loved it.
And loved it a second time, about 20 minutes later.
And a third time.
The game simply packs so much strategy into such a compact package - time and cubic inches - that it's a gem.
Now with this player - a 'group D-er' from my example above - the game's a hit. But I could see if I'd never played with him how I might have to concede that the game is not a 'grabber' for most. I won't concede that now. I know that I couldn't cultivate this appreciation without someone else around who loved its gifts as well.
I will be testing this value theory going forward, and am interested in the opinions of folks who are as passionately interested in this sort of thing as I.
This is obviously a big thesis that invites mastication. So we'll keep pushing on it as we dig into other titles and see if holds water. Until then, happy gaming.