There is something so satisfying about finding the chinks in an opponent’s armor and crafting a master plan around this vulnerability… Like when your friends go all in on the leading blue camel of Camel Up, so you do everything in your power to slow down the blue camel and speed up the underdog red camel. Or when you observe that your spouse will spare no expense at winning a certain category in an auction game like QE or Modern Art, so you gleefully jack up the bid knowing you have no intention of purchasing the item. Or when your buddy starts throwing down oak trees in a game of Arboretum just as you acquire a high value oak into your hand, so you quietly keep it tucked away among your cards like a dagger waiting to be plunged.
Things get even more interesting when the actions of those around the table force you to adapt your strategy and pivot your plans. When the opposing team in Decrypto starts to catch on to your clues, forcing your team out of their comfort zone and onto thin ice with increasingly precarious clues. Or when your rival applies the military pressure in 7 Wonders Duel as they draft more cards to march the red token down the track toward your demise. Or when you are playing The Mind and your gut tells you it’s time to play that 62 in your hand, but as you slowly reach for it you feel your blood pressure rise as you notice that a teammate is thinking the exact same thing about the card in their hand.
I don’t believe that a game that lacks player interaction is a poor design, but I can’t ignore my preference toward games with player interaction. I like the puzzly challenge that a good tabletop game provides, but I love when that challenge morphs, evolves, and transforms according to the personalities and brains of my opponents and/or teammates at the table.
Whether it’s the hilarious discussions that Wavelength evokes, or the shakey alliances formed within Pax Pamir 2e, or the deceptive cooperation among pirates on Treasure Island, or the tightly intertwined closed economy of Brass: Birmingham, I never tire of adapting to the players around me. A game with high player interaction is a game with high replayability and balance built right into its core system, because the game can take on an evolving meta with the same group and a transforming meta with different groups as they scramble to keep runaway leaders in check and allow underdogs to fly under the radar.
This hunger for such interaction is one reason why I just couldn’t get into mega-hits like Terraforming Mars, as each player spends most of the game focusing all their attention on their hand and player mat. In games like these, it can even be difficult to tell when one person’s turn has ended, as nobody has any major reason to pay attention to other players besides something like late-game public objectives. Of course, I always have room for a good multiplayer solitaire in my collection when it contains so many of my other favorite flavors like a savory thoughtful production.
Click on to check out Tabletop Tastes #3: Savory Thoughtful Production
Looking for more highly interactive games? Give one of these a try:
- Cooperative Interaction: Horrified, Pandemic Legacy Season 1, Hanabi
- Euro-style Interaction: Concordia, Caylus 1303, Great Western Trail
- Drafting Interaction: Azul, 7 Wonders Duel, Inis
- Auctioning Interaction: Isle of Skye, For Sale, Ra
- Cutthroat Interaction: Root, The Estates, Arboretum
- Team-based Interaction: Tortuga 1667, Codenames, Captain Sonar
How salty do you like your player interaction? What games contain your favorite form of interaction?