struggle

I’ve been thinking a lot about control recently. My hatred of randomness in games is well-established, and I really think it stems from the feeling of powerless it gives me – some decisions I get to make, but some decisions are determined by random chance, and I don’t have any control over those.

And this lack of control over a game fills my heart with the deepest, darkest sadness. Because I’m a control freak.

Maybe I even play games specifically so that I can have ordered, well-established control over a system that I understand. You don’t get that too often in real life, but when you sit down to play a board game, over that little microcosmic universe, you have complete control. Well, other players might reduce that control, and then of course there’s the randomness, but it’s probably still far more control that you’d have over the rest of the universe.

Is it weird that control makes me happy? Does that make me a terrible person? I’m not a psychologist, but it seems to me that a desire for control over one’s surroundings can be healthy – aside from a desire to control people against their will. But perhaps board games could even serve some therapeutic purpose for people who feel they have no control over life, either through random disasters or some personal imbalance.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to get too real there. I mostly just wanted to talk about how much I dislike playing Twilight Struggle. Yeah, it’s, like, #1 on BoardGameGeek and I can fully understand why people would love it, but to me it is a 3-hour exercise in lack of control.

Maybe I just don’t like direct conflict war games, where you spend your time trying to gain control over a board and your opponent does his best to remove your control and exert his own. I think I’m mixing up my definitions, though, because I don’t mind too much player interaction. I’m okay with losing, like, “area control” in a game, but I need control over how I exert that control. I’m not really a fan of games that lack a clear sense of player progression where the entire game is a back-and-forth of gaining and losing player power instead of a steady increase in player power over time, but I don’t think that is where my dislike truly comes from either. I can play a middling area control game like Politika and feel mildly bored and frustrated, but it won’t fill me with a sense of unending darkness like Twilight Struggle does.

And it’s not that I’m a poor sport and don’t like the game because I’m not good at it. Well, I can be a poor sport playing that game, but I’m a poor sport because I hate playing it – not the other way around. Even when I am winning, I am filled with nothing but dread.

No, I really just feel like I have no control over the game, and I think that most of that comes back to randomness. Between the random hands of cards and rolling dice to resolve everything from the space race to military coups to the Olympics, all you can do is try to weigh the odds in your favor and hope for the best. Which might be a closer approximation of reality, but we’ve already established that I’m not a big fan of reality.

Plus, really, who gets “Red Scare/Purge” two turns in a row? It’s just not cool.

And then you compound this with handfuls of your opponent’s event cards – yes, you can use them for ops points, but they still get the event, so that even on your own turn, you are losing control when you play your card. It’s just, it’s just…blerg. I don’t think I can talk about it anymore.

Clearly, different people play different games for different reasons. I’ve come to the realization that I personally like playing games because I like controlling things. If a game doesn’t allow me to do that and makes me constantly feel like I have no control, I am not going to like it. At all. Maybe that’ll give you some insight into some of my reviews, I dunno.

So there, I’ve admitted that I’m a control freak. I hope we can still be friends.