The Pursuit of Awfulness –Why I play Heavy Games

I work as a developer for a pretty specific IT Management product; it’s a job that can include a lot of programming or other logical thinking about how I might go about solving a problem.  It can be pretty brain burny at times, but I really like this aspect of the job:  it’s what appealed to me during my brief stint in law school too.  I like being challenged to think about things.

I like this in board games too.  I enjoy needing to follow a variety of threads and think about the implications if I pull on a specific one at the right time.  I like games that take a while to play where you really have to invest in what you are doing to be successful.  I like heavy games that require you to think waaaaay ahead, or juggle umpteen variables in your determination in what to do.

To me, a game can be rules lite and still be heavy.  The heaviness comes from the ability to understand optimal play quickly or where it takes quite a bit of mental capacity to play well.  It can also take the time it takes to play the game into consideration, but there are other games that take a long time that I wouldn’t necessarily call “heavy”.  I know that this definition can vary for people, so I wanted to use this as a starting point.

I can really thank the folks over at Heavy Cardboard for really getting me to dive into these games (note: if you are a fan of “medium to heavy board games, war games, 18xx, and thinky fillers”, you should really be following all the content they put out at https://www.heavycardboard.com/ and consider becoming a patron of the show).  I never thought I would be interested in economic games like 1889, Brass Birmingham, or Age of Steam, but after watching some of their playthroughs, a new board gaming world opened up to me.  I always thought I had to have a strong grasp of how stock markets work to play and enjoy these games, but I was wrong.  Sure, that understanding can help you make competitive moves, but there’s a joy in “pulling some levers, seeing what happens, and enjoying it” which is paraphrased from HC’s host, Edward Uhler.

The reason these games appeal to me is because they challenge me.  I know I’ll never play Age of Steam or an 18xx title enough to fully grasp the optimal play for each situation, but that’s okay with me. I can keep trying different moves out to become good, though.  Playing these games sub-optimally with my friends, who also play what I would consider sub-optimally, has provided me with some of the best “hold my beer” and most enjoyable moments in board gaming.  I actually enjoy it more when I can’t figure out a board game in my first few plays of it, because it drives me to try to think a little harder about the game and I’m more likely to play it more often.

I think I can best sum it up by saying I really enjoy the journey or the process in what makes a game work. Even if I’m terrible at the game, figuring out what is under the hood is the thing that appeals to me most, and with heavy games, there’s a lot more to understand and unpack.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy playing party games in the right crowd, and I have plenty of lighter games I love, but I think medium to heavy games are really where my most fulfilling gaming experiences come from.

What is the heaviest game you’ve played?  What makes it ‘heavy’ for you? Have you been scared off by games because you thought the theme would be too heavy, or it would be too difficult to play well? Let us know in the comments!

3 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Awfulness –Why I play Heavy Games

  1. I am right there with you. I may not win, but the pulling of levers has brought me many hours of brain-burning enjoyment. Glad you’re enjoying them and thanks for the kind words, Andrew! Keep gaming!

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  2. For me the only thing holding g me back is that these games often take a pretty hefty time commitment. But I really do enjoy many of them.

    Probably the heaviest game I played was Die Macher. It was really fun, and actually the theme fit the cube pushing surprisingly well in my opinion.

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