User Profile for JamesT
James Torr
United States
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I started a BGG blog in August 2014: The Torr Guide to the Games I Played Last Month.

Gaming Likes and Dislikes

Below is an answer to the question “So, what kind of games do you like?” that is more detailed than my usual response: “Oh, I’ll play just about anything.”

A caveat here is that I really do like most games! (And this why I own way too many of them!) I’d rather play a game that I rate a 4 than spend the day at work, and I play games that I rate 6 on a regular basis and usually have a blast.

thumbsup My favorite designers, by far, are Wolfgang Kramer and Reiner Knizia. The two of them have created dozens and dozens of amazing games. Martin Wallace and Carl Chudyk are two others I follow closely -- their games don't alway click with me, but when they do, it's often in a big way.

thumbsdown Stefan Feld is the only designer whose games I avoid.

thumbsup I tend to like light- and medium-weight euro games with a good degree of player interaction. El Grande and Paris Connection are a couple good examples from my personal top 10. In general I like to feel that I'm playing against my opponents rather than that all of us are "doing our own thing" and playing against the game system. (Here's a good discussion of this on the Shut Up an Sit Down blog -- I'm with Quinns.)

thumbsdown Because of my preference for player interaction, I don't usually like games in which the main purpose is to build one's own engine or just accrue points in the most efficient way possible, without much regard for what the other players are doing. I've been pretty "meh" on most most worker placement, deckbuilding, and "point salad" games that I've tried.

thumbsup I very much like negotiation and “screwage” or "mean" games (e.g., Lifeboat, Intrige), as well as butting-heads confrontation (e.g., Vanuatu), with the right crowd. In my book, when you play a game you enter a magic circle in which the rules are different than in regular life; there should be no hurt feelings inside the magic circle, and that's one of the coolest things about the magic circle. But I realize that not everyone agrees, and there are hundreds of not-so-"mean" games out there that are really fun.

thumbsdown A rules explanation that takes longer than 10 minutes. I also find that it's not just the number of rules in a game, but how intuitive they are. And it's not just that *I* don't like having to keep a lot fiddly rules straight: I like playing games with both hardcore gamers and casual-gamer friends and family, and games that are harder to teach and learn tend to not go over as well with the latter. Check out Samo Gasaric's excellent manifesto on this topic (quote: "Let us be together when we game, not separated by the gaming puzzles and obscure rules"). User veemonroe tells the story of her husband teaching El Grande after playing it once 12 years previously, and, yeah, that's part of the reason El Grande is my favorite game.

thumbsdown Related to rules-overhead issue, I don’t tend to like games in which lots of new rules come into play during the game via the play of cards. In a game of Magic: The Gathering, for example, or pretty much any CCG, I feel like the game is constantly being interrupted as new rules are introduced. This is another reason I usually don't like deckbuilding games. For me, it takes more effort to really grok games with lots of crazy rule-breaking cards, and too often I ultimately find that the game underneath is not for me, although of course there are plenty of exceptions (Innovation, Glory to Rome, and A Few Acres of Snow).

thumbsup I tend to admire games that “distill” an interesting mechanic or decision to its bare bones--for example, Quandary/Botswana, Trendy, Paris Connection, Big Points, Diamant/Incan Gold, Get the Goods.

thumbsup I don’t mind luck in games per se, and some of my favorite games are both high-skill and high-luck (e.g., poker, Lords of Vegas).

thumbsup I tend to like dexterity games and especially flicking games, even though I find that most of them pale in comparison to Crokinole. I also like darts and other pub and lawn games that don't fit the BGG database, such as barroom shuffleboard and Molkky.

thumbsup I am continually fascinated by the bizarre themes in many German kids games (e.g., Jochen der Rochen, Kalimambo, Der kleine Drache Kokosnuss und das Geheimnis der Mumie).

thumbsdown I don’t usually like puzzle-solving games, whether competitive or cooperative. This includes most deduction games.

thumbsupthumbsdown In something of a catch-22, I'm often drawn to economic games, but I don't like a lot of bookkeeping and tracking price changes and such on the board. So I'm always on the lookout or games that strike a good balance in this genre. Container, Chicago Express, and Food Chain Magnate are good examples.

thumbsup Trick-taking games.

thumbsdown I don't like playing board games via computer or tablet. I play board games in part to get away from screens.

thumbsupthumbsdown All of the above are just tendencies, rather than perfect predictors of whether I'll like a game. For example, I love Twilight Struggle for its theme, tension, and player interaction even though it's is partly a "special power card game." Similarly with A Study in Emerald, even though it's a bear to teach. I think that The Palaces of Carrara's rules simplicity and tough decisions make up for its complicated/spreadsheet scoring at the end. I love Ghost Stories for its theme, despite its complex rules and puzzle-y nature. And Finito has no player interaction, but it's so quick and charming that I don’t care.

My Gaming History

There is too much; I try to sum up. Grew up with the usual mass market stuff; I remember trying to design the perfect Stratego setup in elementary school and loving playing Scotland Yard with my family in middle school. I got a Commodore 64 in middle school and that’s probably what really set me down the path to geekiness. I played computer games in high school but almost nothing tabletop, since my friends just mostly weren’t into it, although I did read a ton of RPG books--favorites include Ars Magica, Castle Falkenstein, and Conspiracy X. In college (mid-90s) it was mostly drinking games, but amid all the debauchery, some of those drinking games had gamery elements (e.g., a-hole is a decent climbing game with the right house rules). I played some Magic when the CCG craze hit, since a friend had a ton of cards, but the games I bought a lot of were Shadowfist and Illuminati: New World Order, just for their themes. I played poker in a casino for the first time in the late 90s, and since then it has remained a passion of mine (I even kept a blog about it for a few years in the mid-2000s: http://cheapthrillsjd.blogspot.com/).

In 2001 I discovered Settlers and became hooked on these games of ours. I was living in Rhode Island, and in 2002 I connected with the Guy Stuff Gamers (GSG), some of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. I moved from New England in 2005 and ended up working at Fantasy Flight Games from 2005 to 2007, editing rulebooks and components for all their board games, CCGs, and RPGs. It was the funnest job I’ve ever had and also in many ways the hardest. My wife and I then moved to the Los Angeles area and had our first child, Edison James (EJ), in 2008 and our second, Sam, in 2010; not a lot of gaming for me during these years. I got back into regular gaming in early 2011.

Even More Game-Oriented Navel Gazing -- Minor Stuff

These are more minor things that I don't feel that strongly about, but once I started listing this stuff I just couldn't stop!:

thumbsup I always like it when the board game is a map. Who doesn't? Preferably of the real world, whether all or some part. This is one of the attractions of a lot of train games.

thumbsup I like it when a game has a victory condition that is not just "most victory points." I think that such games are harder to design and balance than straight-VP games, and that BGGers are quicker to judge such games as being flawed or imbalanced, so I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

thumbsdown I don't usually like it when players are dealt different end-game bonus cards (e.g., Lords of Waterdeep) or work to acquire them during the game (e.g., Egizia and many, many others), as it tends to add to the feeling that we are playing different games rather than against each other.

thumbsdown Related to the above, I dislike what I call "spreadsheet scoring" -- when players are all scoring points in half a dozen or more different categories and from various special cards. Agricola and 7 Wonder are poster children for this. At least those games provide an actual score sheet. In many others, each player just says a number at the end, and often no one is interested enough to check each other's score or ask where or how other players got the bulk of their points. So anticlimactic.

thumbsup I like my games to have themes and for the mechanics to have some relationship to that theme, however tenuous. Basically, I don't want to feel like I'm playing an abstract (though I like some abstracts too).

thumbsup I don't mind if the theme is tired or cliche as long as it's one I like. Trading in the Mediterranean, building a city, etc., are fine with me. I'll also give a game a second look if the theme is western, steampunk, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, or anything to do with a tropical island.

thumbsup I appreciate the tactile component of games, and specifically I prefer wooden bits and linen cards. In general I like it when a game is "overproduced."

thumbsup thumbsdown In contrast to the tactile thing, I've realized that I'm less focused than many BGGers on the art in a game. However, the more I games I play, the more I appreciate good graphic design and am annoyed or frustrated by bad design choices. The overuse of iconography is one of my pet peeves.

thumbsdown There are plenty of exceptions to this one, but I tend to be skeptical of games where players act simultaneously, whether it's blind bidding, programmed movement, rock-paper-scissors action selection, what have you. There are good games that use each of those mechanics (6 Nimmt!), but there are also a lot of bad ones where it feels like a lazy design choice. In general I just like the idea of players acting and reacting to one another than doing things at the same time.

Go Bolts!

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User Details for JamesT
Registration Date: 2003-02-02
Last Profile Update: 2016-03-14
Last Login: 2016-05-03
Country: flag United States
State: California
Town/City: Torrance
GeekMail: mail Send Private Message to JamesT
Collection Summary for JamesT
Board Game
Owned   716
Previously Owned   343
For Trade   6
Want In Trade   61
Want To Buy   1
Want To Play   1
Preordered   3
Wishlist   199
Commented   545
Has Parts   0
Want Parts   0
All   1763
Board Game Expansion
Owned   119
Previously Owned   35
For Trade   5
Want In Trade   17
Want To Buy   0
Want To Play   0
Preordered   0
Wishlist   19
Commented   17
Has Parts   0
Want Parts   0
All   230
Board Game Accessory
Owned   2
Previously Owned   0
For Trade   0
Want In Trade   0
Want To Buy   0
Want To Play   0
Preordered   0
Wishlist   0
Commented   0
Has Parts   0
Want Parts   0
All   2
Board Game 2
For Sale 9
Sold 169
Rating 162
Board Game Plays 4271 Total | By Month | Last 30 Days | Chronological
Board Game Expansion Plays 109 Total | By Month | Last 30 Days | Chronological
Trade Rating (79) Propose A Trade With This User
Board Game Ratings 734
Average Rating 6.96
10 22   (3.0%)
9 48   (6.5%)
8 225   (30.7%)
7 233   (31.7%)
6 106   (14.4%)
5 56   (7.6%)
4 34   (4.6%)
3 9   (1.2%)
2 1   (0.1%)
1 0   (0.0%)
Board Game Expansion Ratings 17
Average Rating 7.35
10 1   (5.9%)
9 2   (11.8%)
8 7   (41.2%)
7 3   (17.6%)
6 1   (5.9%)
5 2   (11.8%)
4 1   (5.9%)
3 0   (0.0%)
2 0   (0.0%)
1 0   (0.0%)
Board Game Accessory Ratings 0
Average Rating 0.00
10 0   (0.0%)
9 0   (0.0%)
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Top 10
#1: El Grande
#2: Crokinole
#3: Poker
#4: Acquire
#5: Lords of Vegas
#6: Modern Art
#7: Tigris & Euphrates
#8: Paris Connection
#9: I'm the Boss!
#10: Mü & More
Hot 10
#1: Catacombs
#2: A Study in Emerald
#3: The Palaces of Carrara
#4: Food Chain Magnate
#5: Paris Connection
#6: Mage Wars Arena
#7: 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis
#8: Firefly: The Game
#9: That's Life!
#10: Container
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