Codenames- Vlaada Chvátil
Codenames was the first game that I took part in, during week one it was the first-time id played a word-based card game so the set up for me was a lot of watching and listening. I appreciated the games spy theme including the setting produced through the spymaster and operative, it gave the game life. The game is fairly simple two teams face off each consisting of one ‘spymaster’ and ‘field operative’, the spymaster’s job is to guide the field operative through a minefield like word puzzle to eliminate the other agents, while avoiding the assassin. one aspect that I found intriguing in raising the competitiveness was the chance to risk losing the game or revealing an enemy agent, after the first part of your turn by randomly checking rather then passing. Codenames can be extremely fast paced which I found made it extremely rewarding and competitive, it has a quick set up time and cards can be flip before being replaced. Here is the setup of the game:
Now I feel it is time to circle back to my point about the fast-paced repetitive nature of Codenames, I investigated the effect of games on the reward section of the brain here is a quote from Dr Heather Madsen, an addiction neuroscientist at the Florey institute of neuroscience and mental health.
“There are things in games that are rewarding, like levelling up or getting a special item. Whatever it is, it’s something that the brain process are a reward,”- Dr Heather Madsen (Lauder, 2017)
Dr Madsen is referring to a paper conducted on brain activities associated with gaming, in my mind I have linked what Dr Madsen is saying here to the rewarding feeling of winning a game of codenames. This feeling lead myself and other players into immediately playing another round, according the study that Dr Madsen is referencing it is our reward centre of our stimulating our dopamine receptors. Again linking back to my previous experience, my group in week one played near on 21/2 hours of Codenames with no breaks, additionally each proceeding weeks session hasn’t gone by without a mention of codenames and the desire to play it, to me this shows how it took hold of those dopamine receptors and has got a almost addiction like hold on our brain, That feeling links directly to the study that Dr Madsen is drawing from (Ko, C-H, Liu, G-C, Hsiao, S, Yen, J-Y, Yang, M-J, Lin, W-C, Yen, C-F & Chen, C-S 2008).
In summary Codenames is a Spy themed word-based tabletop board game, in my experience initially I found it overwhelming I quickly warmed up to the game. It was initially challenging due to not knowing your partner player, after 2-3 games it became easier to work as one unit. The use of risk and the random picking option helped to speed up the game, increasing the reward at the end. The speed x risk = reward, stimulating that section of the brain, hence stimulating the dopamine receptors. Over the last 3 sessions I’ve noticed a from my group an addictive mentality with Codenames, it is either mentioned or the need to play it is mentioned. This addictive and aggressive/competitive nature is why I feel I enjoyed Codenames so much the way in which it stimulates my brain is unique to the other games we played so far.
Splendor- Space Cowboys
In our second play session, we were handed the challenge of Splendor it was a big change from the fast-paced experience we had had with codenames. Splendor took us probably 30-40 minutes to set up and understand the rules, I feel it would have taken longer had I not recognised the game structure from a game I’d played outside Bcm 300, ‘Call to adventure: Stormlight Archives”. The structure of the game is set up like this:
We all felt more overwhelmed moving to something new and challenging and it took 3 different people separately reading the rules to work out how we start. From my point of view the other players found the structure overwhelming, it took about 4 to 5 rotations of play to form strategies as 1st time players. After players worked out a strategy, the notion of being overwhelmed quickly dissipated and an aura of competitiveness took its place. In our session I watched 3 distinct styles of play take hold,
Style 1- was a nature of quietness and slow but sure progression, this strategy won the game, they simply said with none of us realising “I’m out”, this was done by when he had the opportunity taking his turn fast and quietly.
Style 2- was a louder and more aggressive strategy, this involved inconveniencing others and amassing the most bonuses with a distinct focus on noble cards, this secured 2nd place.
Style 3- was a loud aggressive style which came out hard and aggressive focusing on bonuses and this strategy focused on cross table communication and manipulation, this strategy won 3rd and 4th respectively.
Two pivotal things we experienced in this play session were an error we made in the rules that we played with till the end and the changing of the rules to allow playing on after we had a winner. In the rules the joker gold coins are only allowed to be taken with a turn that you reserve a card, we however let them be taken on any turn which we all agreed allowed the game to flow better and made it more competitive. I found the nature of us playing on after someone had one interesting as it went off script, it made it more and more competitive, I came third and the exhilaration I felt as it was the final two and then coming 3rd was so relieving. If I had to compare the feeling to Codenames in terms of triggering the reward centre of my brain, it was a bigger trigger, whereas codenames were a continuous and repetitive every quick game felt rewarding, where as the reward got the better the more challenging it got, I.e., as the less players were involved the more rewarded, I felt.
In conclusion Splendor is significantly longer than Codenames, it does not fill you with the desire to play another round straight after but Is more rewarding after one game. If I had to describe Splendor, I would say it is a game of petty inconveniences where you really just want to punch the other player (metaphorically), but you just have to play against their cards and strategy. I really enjoyed playing Splendor, it was a challenging experience and led to me understanding the players in my group better allowing for a better understanding of members which enhances play experiences.
- BoardGameGeek. 2021. Codenames. [online] Available at: <https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/178900/codenames> [Accessed 24 March 2021].
- Ko, C., Liu, G., Hsiao, S., Yen, J., Yang, M., Lin, W., Yen, C. and Chen, C., 2009. Brain activities associated with gaming urge of online gaming addiction. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43(7), pp.739-747.
- Lauder, J., 2017. How your brain gets hooked on gaming. [online] triple j. Available at: <https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/how-your-brain-gets-hooked-on-gaming/8401616> [Accessed 20 March 2021].
- BoardGameGeek. 2021. Splendor. [online] Available at: <https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/148228/splendor> [Accessed 24 March 2021].