Summer Steam Sale

Well I went a little bananas with the Steam Sale and picked up a bunch of games:

  1. Banner Saga
  2. Beyond Good and Evil
  3. Cities: Skyline
  4. Company of Heroes 2
  5. Don’t Starve
  6. Darkest Dungeon
  7. Euro Truck Simulator 2
  8. Europe Universalis IV
  9. Game of Thrones – A Telltale Games Series
  10. GemCraft – Chasing Shadows
  11. Hand of Fate
  12. Infinifactory
  13. Medieval Engineers
  14. One Finger Death Punch
  15. Please Don’t Touch Anything
  16. Stranded Deep
  17. TIS-1000
  18. Ultimate General: Gettysburg
  19. Wolf Among Us
  20. Xenonauts

That’s 20 games (!!) for $195.36, or a bit under $10 per game. All were recommended by various friends, bloggers, already on my wishlist, or were simply cheap enough to hit my impulse buy threshold. Which is apparently non-existent. 😉

On the other hand, I was recently subbed to 3 MMO’s (EVE, WoW, WS) for ~$42/quarter for each. I have since let EVE drop and will not renew WoW or WS (I have roughly 6 weeks left in each already paid for).

It is convenient to think of it as ~$42/month for 3 games. Granted, most people probably aren’t juggling 3 subs at the same time – and neither am I anymore since there just aren’t enough hours in the week to play those games much less the “free” ones! But by that metric, I bought ~4.5 months worth of 3 sub games.

As I mentioned, the sub free isn’t a deal breaker, MMOs are pretty good entertainment value for the money. The question is more: what else can I do with that money? The nearest competitor is other computer games, for example ones I can buy on Steam or GoG. Well, if I save up and buy during sale – I notice that GoG is also having a sale which overlapped the Steam sale period – I can get a heck of a lot of games for an average of $10 each. If I were even more disciplined, I could have scooped up games selling for super cheap, say less than $5, and lowered my average cost per game.

With this influx of titles, I am resolved to work down my ridiculously large Steam backlog. Much like Syp and Wilhelm, I need to step away from the purchase button and play the game I own. So I want to accumulate a “reasonable” amount of playtime in these new games, plus go through my library and play the ones I already have, unless I can’t get into a game at all. Maybe my best plan is to disconnect my credit card from Steam, which would throw a small barrier into each purchase – typing my credit card number rather than just the CCV code.

On the MMO front, a friend bought The Secret World during the Steam sale. I’m excited since this means I might have someone to duo with on occasion. I have another who is a huge Elder Scrolls fan, but unfortunately she is a dedicated console gamer, and ESO is keeping the PC, XB1, and PS4 populations separated.

And if it isn’t apparent, over the past few weeks I’ve decided to cull the MMOs I’m playing. TSW and ESO make the list for me, because I enjoy the storyline and questing in both games, and they are also fairly solo-friendly. Actually, all MMOs these days are, it is more that I almost don’t want to end-game raid or anything like that. I had a blast in WoW, but I can’t dedicate evening time slots to doing it – flexibility above all, and PUGging/LFRing end game stuff isn’t enough to keep me subbed.

Instead I’ll buy miscellaneous doodads from the in-game stores. I’ll probably dabble in LoTRO and GW2 as well, as a low priority. I can have fun on a few hours every other week or so.

Board Games vs MMOs

My Wed board game group has added an additional Mon “small group”, where the focus will be on 3-4 player games, or ones that play well with 3-4 players even if they support more (Dominant Species) and especially new (to us) games. Playing a game for the first time while also teaching it to others is challenging, so the Mon group are folks that like to try new games, learn as they play, have extra patience to plow through rules, and play slower in general. Somebody has to take the hit to learn so that future plays are faster and more correct (rules-wise); the advantage is also familiarity makes it easier to teach a game to a new player.

Wed is often about playing something everybody who shows up can play, which often comes down to Resistance Avalon, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, or a 7-8 player game like 7 Wonders, Eldritch Horror, and so on. Every once in a while we split into smaller groups but I’d say the group as a whole prefers to play something everybody can join in on.

The impact for MMOs is Mon/Wed perfectly overlaps the 2 days my WoW guild raids. And if push comes to shove, I’m not favoring computer gaming over RL gaming.

So, my time as a WoW raider might be coming to an end. I’m paid up through the middle of Aug, so I can see if the new Mon group sticks or not, but if it does, I won’t be resubbing WoW.

I’d like to whittle the MMOs I play even further, so we’ll see. I’d rather spend $15 to $20 a month in the cash shops of B2P/F2P games I enjoy, in order to support them.

Board Games

Lately, I’m finding more enjoyment in board games than MMOs. There are some interesting parallels between them and MMOs.

It seems most MMOs are F2P with micro-transactions, however board games are generally B2P. But, only one person in the group needs to buy the game in order for everyone to play.

Some MMOs have subscription fees, and the admittedly stretched analogy here are collectible/living card games, such as Magic the Gathering or Fantasy Flight’s various LCGs (“Living” Card Games – Fantasy Flight’s variant where the expansion packs are fixed sets). This is still advantage board game, because if you stop paying an MMO sub fee you have to quit playing; stop buying expansion/booster packs and you can still play with whatever you have already bought.

The board game equivalent to a F2P MMO is a cafe or store that has demo games for play testing. They may even expect a micro-transaction (buying food/drink from them) in return.

Like MMOs, board games feature PvP, except the PvP in board games is generally better balanced, especially in 1 on 1 scenarios. There is more variety in the conflict, from direct attack (Neuroshima Hex, War of the Ring) to out-maneuvering (Tzolk’in, Carcassonne; basically any traditional euro-strategy game). Some games are noted for their balance and different playstyles of the opposite factions (Android Netrunner).

Like a dungeon or raid in an MMO, board games also feature cooperative modes, where everybody fights a common enemy, solves the group puzzle, or defeats the “AI” represented as the game mechanics (Ghost Stories, Pandemic).

MMOs let players solo, and so do some board games. Some are designed for 1 player (Friday), many others have single-player scenarios (Onirim, Mage Knight). You can take most cooperative games and play more than one player (Forbidden Desert, Samurai Spirit), but not all as some feature hidden information or traitor mechanics (Hanabi, Battlestar Galactica).

Some MMOs have fairly developed economies, so games where you build an economy and try to outpace everyone else may appeal (Le Harve, Puerto Rico, Macao).

Theme and immersion are arguably better in MMOs, since graphics, sound, and a 3D environment go a long way. However, board games offer a wider variety of settings and roles, from underwater robot programmer (Aquasphere) to wine merchant (Viticulture) to post-apocalyptic tribes fighting for control (New Era) to spaceship crew member (Space Alert) to wizard battling others via summoned proxies (Tash-Kalar) to humans trying to flee a zombie attack (Escape: Zombie City) to… well, you get the idea.

As much as enjoy playing MMOs, it is also nice to do something besides killing as the bulk of the in-game activity. In a board game I can be fairly relaxed as a jewelry merchant (Splendor), raise bamboo (Takenoko), run my estate (Castles of Burgundy), be a spice trader (Jaipur) or monk sorting monastery gifts (Biblios), complete quests as a samurai (Yedo), or research and publish potion formulas (Alchemists).

Board games definitely have the edge in grouping and interaction as well, no text chat or Mumble/Teamspeak config required.

With my limited time these days, I’m finding it hard to pay as much attention to MMOs and computer games in general. The obvious solution will be to trim out ones I can’t effectively play solo on ~5-6 hours a week or less, scheduled 100% at my convenience. The culling has begun and I’ll report more on that later. 🙂

And yes, I own all the board games (except Magic the Gathering) I mentioned in this post.