What We Talk About When We Talk About Frameworks
18xx. And Age of Steam. And Chicago Express. Imperial, too. Games where there's a huge wide open space to play around in. Brass. Tigris & Euphrates. The rules in these are more of a framework, and you don't get a good sense of how to play or what to target simply by reading the rulebook; the rulebook teaches the players under what constraints they now have to try and win the game, and they can do whatever they want within those constraints. In short, they teach the players how to create the game that's to be played, rather than explain to them precisely how material components can be exchanged for victory points.
All of those games feature direct player interaction, parasitism, constantly shifting incentives, and needing to temporarily help your opponent; multiplayer solitaire need not apply. The rules for all are relatively simple (yes, even 18xx; its reputation outweighs its reality in that department), and any depth emerges because of creative play within the system. They are all games that are difficult to play well the first time you play. There are many different ways to win, but you wouldn't call them "multiple paths to victory" at all.
So, help me out here: what the heck am I talking about? Is there a term for this?
As mentioned in a recent thread about a related topic (specifically this comment from Laura Creighton), these kinds of games are very highly regarded. But what are people thinking of when they think about them? What are you thinking about when you think about them? Is "open framework" a good descriptor? "Creative play"? "Playground game"? Are there common features I'm missing? What game embodies this for you?
(Scott Nicholson, btw, recently had a geeklist whose topic was close to this, but not quite this. Instead, it would up being a way for people to list games they liked playing and shared characteristics weren't the focus).
I mentioned a few already that share this amorphous, nebulous quality that I like. But rather than steer the list right off the bat with my own preferences, I'd rather see this go in non-me directions at first. So long as you know what I'm talking about and can articulate what you like the most about the sense of exploration or play that it provides in a certain game, please add that game.
Ultimately, there's a game genome thing going on here, because I'm hoping that (as with a Pandora station) by saying "No, that's not it" to a suggestion, we can better hone in on what we're talking about. Perhaps by the end of the discussion we can have a good set of recommendations for others and a good working definition for what qualities we admire. Hopefully more succinct than my intro.
- [+] Dice rolls