My main gaming is with my family (wife and two children aged 13 and 15) and dinner guests (who like mainly card games). So I'd say I have a preference for the so-called "gateway games" rather than the four-hour-long brain burners, etc. My brain burns enough at work, and I play games to be social and relax.
I also teach philosophy at the college level, and I have begun to explore using games (e.g. logic games) in the classroom.
I have a particular fascination with games playable with a regular deck of cards
. I love the fact that so small and portable a game offers such rich variety! I also find that non-gamers are far more open to learning a new game with a deck of cards than they are to learning a new board game.
More generally, I have a fascination with games with a historical pedigree (e.g. Go, Mancala, Backgammon,...) and games with fairly simple components and elegant rule sets. Fiddliness of play or of scoring is a killjoy for me, though I make some exceptions (e.g. Cribbage, Ra) if the fiddliness is not overwhelming and the game is otherwise good enough.A note on my avatar:
The picture is of Socrates carrying a soccer ball, from the famous Monty Python sketch
of the Greek philosophers vs. the German philosophers in a soccer match. I chose it since it combines several of my passions: philosophy, soccer, Britain (my wife is British), and a good laugh.Some further thoughts on my gaming tastes (January 2015):
The following are "plus factors" for me, in the sense that if a game possesses that feature, then that counts in favor of the game. Not all of these features have to be present in each and every game I like (indeed, I doubt any single games has all these features). But a game needs to have several of these features for it to be appealing to me.
In no particular order: Elegance (or at least, "low rules overhead")
. As I say above, fiddliness is a kill-joy for me. Relatedly, a lot of "custodial upkeep" during a game (lots of shuffling, moving chits, etc.) is a turn-off. Scope for strategic play
. This doesn't rule out luck, since "risk management" is a skill unto itself, and one that I enjoy. Interaction.
I sometimes enjoy "multi-player solitaire" games, but I much prefer games with interaction. Suspense.
You know, the heart-pounding stuff: missed versus made objectives, dramatic comebacks, and the like. ("Will I make my Tichu bid?" "Can I peg those last few points I need to win in Cribbage before my opponent scores her hand?" "Can I keep that group alive in Go?" "Will my army win this battle in 1775: Rebellion
?" Etc.) Scalability
The more flexible the player numbers, the better. Well-integrated theme.
I will happily play and enjoy many abstracts. In fact, themeless abstracts (and traditional card games!) are the games that I play by far the most. But if a game has an evocative, well-integrated theme (as opposed to a "pasted on" theme), that is definitely an attraction. That said, I strongly prefer certain themes over others, e.g. historical and geographical themes over fantasy and sci-fi themes. Moderate playing time.
I respect players who like long games, but given my time constraints (and, truth be told, my brain energy levels), I tend to gravitate to games that can be played in, say, 60 minutes or less. Intuitive victory condition.
I'm not totally averse to playing games that simply sum victory points from diverse categories, but ideally I prefer games with simpler victory conditions, e.g. "last one standing," "first to capture piece X," "most territory," "first across the finish line," etc. (For more thoughts on this, see my thread here
.) Attractive components.
Gaming for me is often as much an aesthetic experience as anything; thus, attractive physical components enhance the experience. Pedigree.
The older a game is, the more willing I am to take a look at it.
Letting "streamlined" stand for both "low rules overhead" and "moderate playing time" and letting "fun" stand for both "interaction" and "drama," I can state that my "holy grail game" is one that offers "streamlined and thematic skillful fun."