Monday, 8 September 2014

Resource Management Games: An Introduction

By Tracy Thillmann

When you think back to your childhood, remembering all those fond moments of dice rattling in a cup, arguing with siblings over who wins because they have the most money, or puzzling out what your dad is drawing when all it looks like is a demented duck in a tutu.
So Many!
Fast forward a decade or two; you have decided to try out board games again. So you walk into the local game store, and are dumbstruck by the sheer volume of choice. Dice, deck building, cooperative, zombies, dungeon crawls, and then most daunting of all… the worker placement/resource management (WP/RM) strategy games.
The WP/RM games are by far my favourite games, despite the fact that learning them sometimes make me feel like I have had a two hour brain freeze. Yet don’t let that stop you. From Settlers of Catan to The Village, or Lords of Waterdeep to Noblemen, there is a game for any level of play experience.
*hands of the audience snap up into the air*
“What is a WP/RM game?”
“There are so many, where do I begin?”
“How many…?”
“What about…?”
Don’t worry; by the end of this article, you should be ready to tackle the, often daunting, WP/RM strategy genre.
So where to begin… 
A WP/RM game is a strategic, competitive style game. They often involve Meeples (little wooden people, or even little wooden animals, food shapes, ships, and so many more), as well as cubes representing gems/elements/minerals/etc. And who doesn’t love Meeples.
Traditionally they are played over a defined number of rounds, or until a goal is met. In Noblemen the game plays over three decades, Lords of Waterdeep is over eight rounds, Hermagor is when you have no more action tiles, and the list goes on.
So what if you are a couple who often have to play just the two of you, or you are a big family trying to find a game for everyone? Strategy WP/RM games are great for groups of most sizes.  Most are traditionally designed for 2-5, where some play, with expansions, up to 6 players; and some even have solo options. Traditional age range is usually 12+ but some allow for younger players to catch on quickly.
With so many fantastic games coming out every year, the hardest decision is where to begin. Even an experienced gamer can open up a new game that was thought to be a nice, easy strategy game and sees that the rule book is a small novella. The size of the box, the art, the description can all be deceiving. A hard game looks easy or vice versa. I have yet to find an easy way to tell one from another until I start to play; now to be fair I thrive on the heavy brain hurt games. As a teacher of games at a local lounge I have begun to compile a list of beginner, intermediate and advanced list; which I will post at the end of the article. When in doubt, just ask a friend who plays them, or an online group/page; and if by chance you pick a heavier than expected game, there are so many great walkthrough videos that I have used many times to help figure out those sometimes-not-so-clear rulebooks.
The biggest strategy to a strategy game; don’t take on too much. Often there are more action/play options than there are action turns. You often want to try to do everything to try to gain more points. You usually spread yourself too thin, and actually make a lot less points than focusing on one or two parts in the game. This gives the games lots of playability, because next time around you can try a different strategy, and then a third, and so on. Mix it up; get out of your comfort zone.
The WP/RM style of game has a sea of choices, and so many play mechanics that one article can’t do them justice. All I would say is don’t be daunted by them. Read the rule book, take your time to learn, and have snacks at hand.
The artwork for these games is always so beautiful and unique to the theme.
Beginner Games: Settlers of Catan (a great gateway game; and most gamers have played it so you can probably find someone who has a copy), Stone Age, Lords of Waterdeep (D&D based), Pillars of the Earth.
Intermediate: Belfort (made in Canada), Helios, Agricola (many would argue it is an advanced game but the base play is quite quick to catch onto), Valdora.
Advanced: Noblemen, Archipelago, T’Zolkin, Hermagor, Dungeon Lords (you get to be evil dungeon lord fighting off the dungeon crawling adventurers), Glass Road.
Hurt your Brain Hard: Keyflower, Troyes, De. Vulgari Eloquentia, Terra Mystica, Caverna.
.. And my favourite you ask? Hands down, it is The Village. You use time as payment to kill off your people to gain more victory points. It is a strange mechanic, so technically makes it an advanced game, but the strategy itself is more intermediate in level.

No matter your likes, the WP/RM strategy game genre is so varied you will probably find something in a style/genre you enjoy. So go ahead, grab some Meeples and just have fun

Married, with four fur babies, Tracy has recently rediscovered her love of board games, and has acquired a wonderful collection. Being new to writing, it is just one more newly discovered world she is exploring. At the age of 37, Tracy now proudly shows off her geekiness, through her love of crafting and creating; well, at least until she defeats Ganon with the master sword, she finds the blue crystal staff, or the TARDIS shows up on her front doorstep.

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