E3 | The Spectrum of Games | The MEC System
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
We are on episode 3 and looking to cover a lot of ground! That ground being the entire spectrum of board games. Is that too much to tackle for a 1 hour episode? Certainly not! We can tackle anything with a little structure and a touch of liquor, and here we have both. We previously released a blog post (here's a link) covering our concept for the MEC System. In this episode we are walking through the application of this method for evaluating board games holistically, giving us a chance to get critical about the current landscape of gaming and highlight what we do and do NOT like in our games. With that in mind as our structure, all we need is a little to drink!
This episode we are drinking:
Nelson: Blue Moon's Iced Coffee Blonde. It was before noon, so "coffee" seemed appropriate!
Dalton: Buffalo Trace Bourbon. A must-have on your shelf, great introduction to Bourbon and very affordable.
The icebreaker question for this episode was posed by Dalton:
If you were to be dropped, live, in to a board game to live your life, which game would you pick?
Nelson: Terraforming On Mars. This is not the same game as Terraforming Mars, but it is as about as close in theming as you can get.
Dalton: Spirit Island. Nelson talks in this episode about wanting to try Spirit Island. If you’re following us on Instagram you’ll see Nelson was able to trade for this game and has played a lot more of it now! This game is excellent and is pushing to claim a spot in our Top 5s.
So what do we mean when we talk about the MEC categories? Here is a break down of each.
Mechanics is defined as the rules which bind interaction between the game, the board, and the players. Mechanics are external to theme, focused on the rules of the game. Excellent Mechanics exist in games that are fair and balanced, unique, and become copied in future games.
Nelson: 40 %; Dalton: 30%
Experience is how you feel when you’re playing the game, including how much fun you have, how immersive the game is, how much the game captures your attention. Experience is influenced by how much player interaction there is. Some players enjoy high player-interaction games, such as Settlers of Catan, Game of Thrones: The Board Game, or social deduction games like The Resistance. Other players prefer “multi-player Solitaire” style games, such as Azul and Splendor, where players play their own games with very little interaction, then compare final scores at the end to see who played the best.
Both preferences are valid, and the Experience category is where you capture that preference on your personal rating. Down-time is also captured here. A great Experience game will have the players involved and interacting with the game constantly. A low Experience game has long stretches of time where a player is not involved in the game (e.g. when it is not that player’s turn), so that player becomes disengaged and bored.
Nelson: 50 %; Dalton: 50%
Components encompasses the physical aspects of the game. This includes the quality in manufacturing of the box, the rulebook, any figures or chits, organization within the box, etc. Art work is included in Components; we want our games to pretty and interesting to look at! Uniqueness and attention to detail is key here. Theme is also a critical part of Components.
Castles of Burgundy could have easily been Space Stations of Maroon and it would be far more appealing. Many new players will select a game based solely on theme because it is the part of a game that is most immediately apparent and easily understood. Be aware that there are many bad games masked by a great theme (looking at you Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Defense Against the Dark Arts) and many great games with bad ones!
Nelson: 10 %; Dalton: 20%
Using the System:
So, why go through all the trouble of defining these categories? So we can be critics!! How exciting! Now that the categories are defined and weighted we can apply individual rankings to each category, multiply by the category weight, and get a final, overall score for the game.
When rating within these 10 point scales, it helps us to break the scale in to 5 categories:
1-2: Failing, broken, will not play
3-4: Bad, poorly executed, possibly good ideas that did not come together, avoid playing
5-6: Average, won’t say “no” to playing, but wouldn’t choose it
7-8: Good, novel, well executed, happy to play multiple times
9-10: Excels, perfect, actively seek out playing
As you listen through you'll here us talk about many games across the hobby, each falling in to one of these categories within the MEC breakdown. Here is a summary of where we landed on the key games we discussed:
Hopefully this has given you a useful structure for analyzing and discussing board games. We are looking forward to using this methodology to bring you a richer listening experience and deepen our gaming conversations in future episodes. Thanks for listening, we'd love for you to leave a comment with a MEC rating for one of your favorite games.
If you want your own spreadsheet to track your MEC ratings you can use this Google Sheet!