Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sid Sackson


Blogger David Fair said...

I am glad to see such a great deduction game get more exposure. i am sure that Sleuth improved due to it's wider availability with the face2face reprint. now if someone would just do the same for Venture!

7:05 AM  
Anonymous josh miller said...

For me, Venture doesn't measure up to today's games the way Sleuth still does. I'm amazed that Sleuth didn't make the cut last time around. I've always considered it Sackson's second all-time classic after Acquire.

I think the five games chosen are a great representation of what Sackson is/was all about. I personally prefer BuyWord and Samarkand to Can't Stop, but neither of those games has the historical cachet that Can't Stop has.

7:51 AM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Nothing earth-shattering here, nor did there need to be. I went with I'm the Boss, Can't Stop, Samarkand, Metropolis, and Venture, so I got three of the five. The only change from last time is from Samarkand to Sleuth, influenced, no doubt, by the reissue by F2F. To be honest, Sleuth probably should have gotten in last time.

I'm satisfied with the results because the only two essential Sackson games for me these days are I'm the Boss (one of the best and most enjoyable negotiation and six-player games ever created) and Can't Stop (THE best dice and push-your-luck game evah). I've only played Metropolis once and Samarkand a handful of times--I like them both, but can't pretend to know if they're great games (I suspect they're not, although I think they're both very good).

Of the other finalists, I've never, uh, acquired a taste for Acquire. I've been playing it for 40 years (yes, my parents bought it for us, for the wiseacres in the crowd) and it's never excited me. It always seemed as if good luck with the tile drawing was better than good play. Maybe if I started over with it, emphasizing the merger aspects more than the end game, I'd change my mind, but I can't see that happening with all the other great games out there. Just because a game's a classic, it doesn't mean it has to be a classic for everyone.

Sleuth I've also played only once and would happily play again, as I'm a big deduction game fan. But it didn't strike me as the end-all and be-all of that genre when I played. As with so many of Sid's games, this was a groundbreaking design, but that doesn't mean that later efforts didn't match or exceed it. I'd probably rather play Black Vienna or even Code 777 than Sleuth, but I certainly wouldn't turn down a chance to play the Sackson game again.

To me, the real strength of Sackson's ludography is the games that were great when they were released and are still fun today, even if some have aged a bit. I would like to playfully note to the "Nostalgia Police" that if nostalgia were to effect a vote, this would be the one where you'd most likely see it. Sackson, after all, was probably the most beloved figure in our hobby and many of his fans have been playing his games forever. I have very warm feelings about Venture, Monad, Solitaire Dice (all three of which I nominated), Bazaar, and Upthrust. But it's unlikely that I'll get the chance to play them again, except with a fellow Sackson fan on a similar nostalgia trip. It looks to me as if our little group is voting on the basis of their current likes and dislikes, not some "back in the day" feelings. Just an observation.

My other nominated game was Gold Connection, which I played for the first time recently and was quite impressed with. The end game seemed a little wonky, but I think it would have been a fine choice for the final group.

The only change I really would have liked to see from the nominated list would have been to replace Focus with Monad. Focus seems like a fine game, but my usual allergy to abstracts blinds me to its strengths. Still, it's hard to deny Sid's only SdJ pick and Monad is a very queer game that has always been an acquired taste (pun not really intended).

9:32 AM  
Blogger Shannon Appelcline said...

Can't Stop and Sleuth are games that I'd put at the top of their individual categories (push-your-luck and deduction). Though I suspect Sleuth is more intelligent than many audiences will be willing to consider.

A lot of Sackson's other games I'd call dated. What they were doing was amazing (and overlooked) in their time, but today they look clunky to me.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

I would tend to agree with Shannon. BuyWord, for example, is more a pretty uninteresting basic game with a collection of of ideas (optional rules) to turn it into something more developed. It sort of reads like "here's my idea, why don't you finish it off and turn it into a game?". I don't think you'd be able to get away with that today.

I do think that Can't Stop and Acquire are classics, though. But I really, really wish Can't Stop were just a bit shorter. The endgame can drag. Um Krone und Kragen seems to be a little bit more "in the zone" in terms of length, and I prefer it now.

Metropolis certainly seems to have been supplanted by later, far better negotiation games. And I personally thoroghly despise I'm the Boss, although many seem to like it. Then again, many people like Munchkin.

11:56 AM  
Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

I actually considered ditching Sid as a category (and was convinced otherwise by the Apple Checkers.) I was sure there wouldn't be any movement - and yet there was.

I'm a doofus.

That said, I think Samarkand is a wonderful game... I don't get to play it nearly as much as I'd like. OTOH, I've slowly soured on I'm The Boss, as it is SO crowd-dependent on whether it's a wildly enjoyable experience or a hour long slog through bitterness & backbiting.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan Degann said...

As huzonfirst has already noted, the substitution of Sleuth for Samarkand was a result of the reissue. I'm not a big fan of either and I'd rather have seen Venture move up.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Kurt Adam said...

I went 4 for 5 as I had Bazaar instead of Metropolis. I have only played Metropolis one time and it didn't grab me like it did the others in the pool. I concur with the thoughts that there's lots of ground-breaking ideas in the Sackson catalog that don't always stand up to the follow-ons. I often feel the same way about rock and roll bands.

I played BuyWord once and found it wanting which surprised me as a word game fan. I don't recall anyone mentioning this tool-box of optional rules that Chris mentioned, so maybe there's more there than I originally thought.

Given all the approving comments about Venture, I suspect I'll have to someday give it a go as well. *ducks*

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Erik Arneson said...

I think the group got it exactly right for this list -- five top-notch games.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

I was sure there wouldn't be any movement - and yet there was.

I'm a doofus.

I dunno, I think it's just a matter of the fact that if you poll the same group of people with the same question some time apart - say, two minutes - you'll get a different answer. I would consider it a fluke if the results had been the same. It's not like there are 5 clear winners here. There are 2 clear winners - Acquire and Can't Stop. Then there's Slueth, which is very well regarded but as a deduction game (which plenty of people don't like) is always at risk, then the love-it-or-hate-it I'm the Boss and then ... Metropolis.

If you took the poll again tomorrow, Samarkand or Focus might come back and Metropolis might go.

Personally, I would have backed you up on dropping him as a category. I mean, it's not like the guy has been publishing any new games since last time.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

Okay, Acquire is a classic, father and grandfather to a hundred other first-and-second-place-payout games being played and published today and yet still hitting the table in its own right -- at least for those of us who still have an attention span that'll get us through 90 minutes at a single game. That little cross-purposes business of getting paid in cash as majority shareholder in the *smaller* of two merging chains while the value of the *larger* chain goes up is a thing of beauty. Sid *so* hit a sweet spot with this, his signature game.

We played Aquire two or three times a month for years and years (until Robo Rally finally came along and we started getting other interesting options for six players). We got to know it so well that playing a game of Acquire was kind of like playing a hand of bridge: we all know how the game works, so it's just a question of seeing who gets which tiles and how they're going to play out. (A very slow hand of bridge. But still.) We made up partnership variants. We added bonuses for third place. We played four-tile hands instead of six, or two-tile turns instead of one. We played draw a tile and play it. We played all the tiles dealt out at the beginning of the game. We played where you could sell back stock. I really think we wrung every bit of fun out of the game there was -- and yet we still play it now and then, because we still enjoy it.

Can't Stop is another classic, the press-your-luck dice game to which all others must be compared. It's fun for all ages and still pleasing new players.

I like Samarkand best of the rest of the Sackson catalog, but I realize it only clicks with about half the players who try it. It has a nice swirly rhythm that soothes and entertains me. Fortunately there are enough of us who really like it that is keeps hitting the table.

Aside from those three, the one I've played the most is Card Baseball from Sid's book A Gamut of Games, and that would be on the list of winners if it were up to me. The technical feat of making a deck of cards simulate a baseball game, complete with balls and strikes, is pretty darned impressive -- and besides that, it's fun to play.

Sleuth works fine (once we realized to keep the question cards face up, anyway) but doesn't excite me much.

KK&K has never clicked for me. I keep hearing how it can be a big load of fun sometimes, if not so great other times. All I've ever had are the other times.

Metropolis seems to be missing something, as it's supposed to be a negotiation game but it's so obvious to make a deal to split the eventual proceeds that we never had any interesting negotiations. Granted, it's a groundbreaking game (ha!) that led to the likes of Downtown and Big City, but I'm not persuaded that it stands on its own merits.

BuyWord doesn't really entertain me, either. I'm a big fan of word games, so it's not that I dislike the genre.

There are several other Sackson games I've played once or twice that tend to fall into the "interesting, but today would be designed to play in half the time" category. Here I list Business, New York, Quinto, Gold Connection, and Venture/Die Bosse.

3:12 PM  

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