Social Games

There are a large number of what I consider to be social games available on the market today. These are games which appeal more to the social side of gaming to the serious tactical side.

I’m going to look at the characteristics I think tend to be seen in this style of game.

These games are generally card games, quite simple to play, with simple rules. They often play quickly, and can accommodate a number of players. There is generally a humour element in the game, and also a large random element. Game balance is often sacrificed in favour of speed and simplicity, the quick play time means you can just start again if you have a particularly bad game.

The defining archetypes of this style of game are Munchkin, and the Chez Geek series. These two games have spawned many imitators, such as the B-Movie series. I also consider Fluxx as one of this style of game, although it is different to the others listed.

You will see that these games are all cheap when compared to a full board game, as you’d expect with a game consisting of only a couple of decks of cards. The cheapness of these games is an advantage, they cost around the same price as two cinema tickets, and often seem to provide a similar amount of enjoyment. The best of these games are played often, the worst will never see more than one or two outings.

The social card games usually take advantage of several genre conventions. The theme and style of the game will link to a particular genre (fantasy, sci-fi, movies, geekery and so on), and the games themselves take advantage of the card game genre to allow a large amount of shorthand in the rules (dealing, hands, playing cards and discarding).

The genre conventions popular in these games are conductive to sequels and spin-offs. There are many Munchkin games and expansions, and many similar extensions for Chez Geek. These are interesting to play, but dangerous to include many in one game, as the extended play time and complexity can kill much of the social atmosphere that is the game’s greatest strength.

I hope that I’ve covered the relevant points the describe these social games, and that you’ll bear them in mind when designing new games in this style, or deciding what to play.

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