Your Turn: “Fillers” and “Micro games”

Posted by Jim {Power Gamer} | 17-Jan-14 | 48 comments

Your Turn - A BoardGaming.com Discussion

Hey there, I’m Andrew; game industry professional, reviewer, gamer, fellow Boardgaming.com member and the host of BoardGaming.com’s new discussion series called “Your Turn.”

This is your chance to let us know what YOU think about a variety of topics related to hobby gaming. I’ll start the conversation and then it’s “your turn” to chime in and add to the discussion. Each Your Turn discussion will have a new topic, and we may even have some special guests make a surprise visit down the road. In the meantime…

“Fillers” and “Micro games”

Less is… sometimes less.

Over the holidays I played some good games. King of Tokyo, Netrunner, Sentinels of the Multiverse (won!), X-Wing, an old favorite Dark Tower (only unearthed at the holidays), and five games of Heroes of Metro City, until for gosh sakes we beat that Archenemy! All of these games had something in common… they lasted a good long hour or two to play, and oh the glorious tales I can weave depicting the victories gained or the losses I suffered. 64 Brigands in the Tower? Ha! No big deal, victory was mine!

Mixed in there were several games of Coup and Love Letter. These used to be called “fillers.” Now, I guess the term “Micro games” has taken hold and the industry is now seeing more and more of this genre: games that can be played in 15 minutes or less.

Now I really like Coup and Love Letter – ingenious games both – and I had a great time playing them. At least I think I did. I can’t quite recall how many times I won or lost or came close. But it was fun! Well… I think.

And there is my issue with micro games. Is it such a good selling point to say you can play eight games in a half an hour? By the time I get to the 3rd game I have forgotten the first. The impression these games leave is momentary, fleeting. Yes, they are accessible, usually teaching them to gamers and even non-gamers in 5 minutes flat. But If I am paying for and spending time being entertained, I want to have something to talk about afterward. I want to have a story to tell or at least some memory of the path to victory or defeat.

I know they have their place; maybe as filler games. But for me, games that are so short don’t satisfy that need to be whisked away to a land of adventure, danger or even abstract strategic challenge. They are just forgettable. Who wants to play a forgettable game? And it seems that the one thing that you can relate to other players is how the game is played and how unique it is, not what actually happened when you did play it. I feel like for these micro games, less is really just… less.

Question: How do you feel about this current trend for shorter, faster, less expensive games? What’s your favorite (if you have one)? Is there some way to savor the game play experience with these games?

Your turn…

Comments (48)

Gamer Avatar
2
Gamer - Level 1

More than anything, I enjoy the trend of less expensive games. I’ll play just about anything, and I’ve had just as much fun with games like Fluxx as something like Ticket to Ride, and with the $30 plus difference in price, I’m far more inclined to pick up Fluxx. Plus, quick games give the opportunity to play a wide assortment of games in one sitting, or the same one multiple times, letting you explore different facets of the game.

Gamer Avatar
4
The Gold Heart

Microgames are helping me broaden my experience with games. I find that anything, designed well with good gameplay and art, can always have a place, big or small. But it is mostly a ‘fad’ movement.

before I had a chance to really experience much of this genre, I saw Wallet Battlez/Coin Age and that made me feel like this style of game was flooded right now with similar ideas.

I am not particularly well off, so it draws my attention when games are in the $5-$15 range. I’ll let my eye look, but I immediately am skeptical on whether or not it will be a good investment.

It is also easier to introduce my brother to these kinds of games than breaking out a formal board. Microgames are the heart of an informal experience: waiting at the bus stop, waiting with co-workers before one clocks onto their shift, playing with reluctant family. The speed is akin to any standard 52-card deck game like texas hold’em poker- quick action and replay- or easy to switch to something else.

Gamer Avatar
5
South Africa
Scotland

So, and I could well be wrong, but I define the games as such:

Filler – short fast fun game played during other games to give everyone a short break, also great for elimination games.

Micro-game: Ultra portable game that can be carried in a back pocket and pulled out at any time.

Guillotine, for example, would be a filler game, but it’s certainly not a micro game.

Tiny Epic Kingdom (well worth checking out on Kickstarter) is a micro game, but really doesn’t feel like a filler at all, it has all the depth of a full sized game.

That said, I love having games that I can play in a short timeframe. I’m less interested in games good for once a week games nights, and more excited by games that I can get people to play in a spare hour.

Gamer Avatar
9
I play purple
Explorer - Level 6
Vanguard
Cryptozoic Entertainment fan

@Stratagon

Then every other game in your collection IS a filler!!! 😀

Gamer Avatar
2
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan

We really only use them when playing games with player elimination, it is great to have them on hand just in case.

Gamer Avatar
6
The Gold Heart
Plaid Hat Games fan
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Bronze Supporter

@Stratagon

TI III makes Agricola, Trajan and Terra Mystica Fillers!

Gamer Avatar
8
Norway
Plaid Hat Games fan
AEG fan
Tasty Minstrel Games Fan

Our game group seldom use fillers. We meet up maybe once in two weeks to play a game that takes the whole evening. But tonight we’re actually gonna use a filler while we wait for the last player to get here before we’re playing Runewars. The games we use for filler is either Sentinels of the multiverse or Team manager: blood bowl.

Gamer Avatar
10
Miniature Painter
Expert Advisor
Inventor
Advanced Reviewer

I am a Twilight Imperium III junkie. I only get to play twice a year. Everything in between, I consider “fillers”.

Perspective is everything.

Gamer Avatar
9
Miniature Painter
Rosetta Stone
Advanced Reviewer
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester

Much of my gametime is spent with small children, 2 & 5. Quick games are a must, especially with the younger child if you want any hope of finishing a game or holding their attention. The lack of reading ability also limits what can be played. Dice games are always a hit, such as Zombie Dice, Cthulu Dice, Trophy Buck and Pass the Pigs. Toc Toc Woodman, Ruk Shuk and Rattlesnake also see a lot of playtime.

Some games we play with a bit more set up and tear down, more for the 5 year old, include Gulo Gulo, Grape Escape, and Animal upon Animal.

I have engaged my 5 year old in the past with some Elder Signs, Warhammer Quest and Chess, all of which we have had a good time with, but I am doing little more than telling her what to do. Most of the games we play are filler, or micro games, because those are what the kids can wrap their heads around easily and hold their attention.

Gamer Avatar
8
Norway
Book Lover
I play blue
Paladin

Filler games are fun, easy to learn and quite quick. I believe they also are easier to show to non-gamers, rather than pulling out the odd two hour games 😛 It`s always good to have a filler game at hand, because suddenly you stand there with 20 minutes downtime between games. What to do? Let`s all play Straw!!

Straw is one of my favourite filler games. Also Mow, Dobble and Parade. The thing about parade is that it actually has a degree of deapth to it. You NEED to think a bit before placing a card. For two player I often go for Lost Cities.

Now, with that said, I often go for games that are supposed to take no more than 90 minutes or so. Filler games is just icing on the big gaming cake!

Gamer Avatar
5
Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
Eminent Domain Fan

I still like shorter games. It is probably harder to get something of significant substance out of a smaller game since you’re working with more limits, but there’s still a place for them. Just recently my friend and I were teaching some new folks how to play a game, and we had smaller games available for other folks to pass the time while we were doing so.

Gamer Avatar
7
Pet Lover
Treasure Chest
The Gold Heart
Novice Advisor

I think there is a time and space within a game collection for them definitely. Say for instance if you and another were eliminated from a larger game and need something to do while that finishes up. But like you said in the article they are easily forgotten plays. And while I’d say that there is room in a collection for say one or two of these games I personally wouldn’t want too many of them as I’d prefer something that takes about 15 minutes more and is actually fun to play as well as memorable.

Gamer Avatar
6
The Gold Heart
Plaid Hat Games fan
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Bronze Supporter

Hmm yah good points. I mean there are and have been many short games. Maybe now I just compare the game experience in a different way. My perspective has changed. I guess I look at every game as an “experience” and maybe not just the “fun” that they are meant to be. I guess you don’t have to have a great journey every time you play a game ( although with so little time on my hands that’s what I prefer) Maybe its me.. the industry is really focusing on the big experience with Uwe Rosenberg and Stefan Feld games. Maybe my brain is slowly being hot wired to find less enjoyment from the shorter fare. Great example ( and not a flattering to myself here..) Over the Holidays I played a game of David and Goliath with my brother and his 9 year old. I had played it before and I remember it being fun. They moved so fast I couldn’t grasp the strategy, I was frustrated and they smoked me… handedly. I guess I just didn’t give it a chance. I didn’t have fun. My bro looked at me like – “Whats wrong with you? This is a good game.” hmmm..

Gamer Avatar
8
Legend of the Five Rings Fan
Advanced Reviewer
Tactician
Guardian Angel

Rob’s got the heart of it: these are quick and portable games — if there’s a planned game night and gaps to fill, someone (or multiple someones) may have a filler game tucked away to allow for quick, easily set up and easily torn down, simple games. If you’re in a hotel lobby for a convention and waiting on friends to show up, micros are simpler to deal with, and don’t have the drawback of “oh well, guess we have to quit halfway through since everyone’s here and ready to go now”.

These games aren’t going to replace favorite tabletop games, but they can supplement them within a group who doesn’t mind the occasional casual diversion.

Gamer Avatar
8
United Kingdom
Advanced Reviewer
Knight-errant
Tinkerer

While I still love to play fairly big and complex games (and manage to occasionally), most of my gaming is currently either with my 7-year-old daughter or at lunchtimes at work, so lighter, quicker games are generally the order of the day, though not all of them really count as micro games, which I would see as being more about economy of components (eg. 16 cards and a few scoring tokens for Love Letter) than about play time.

I love that we are now seeing an increasing amount of these games and that some are getting even smaller (like Coin Age), so nowadays we can carry a games library in our pockets.

Personal favourites at the moment would be Love Letter and The Resistance: Avalon (yup, it’s a microgame: just a bunch of identity cards and voting counters), though I enjoyed the one evening I had of playing Coup and hope to play it some more soon.

As for bigger “fillers”, I’d put Tsuro (not …of the seas) and Coloretto at the top of the pile here, especially if I was playing with “non-gamers”.

Gamer Avatar
6
Miniature Painter
Novice Reviewer
Knight-errant

Sometimes I just want to play games, but I’m a little worn out from work or whatever and don’t want to think too much. King of Tokyo is perfect for that. Sit down, roll dice, don’t care too much one way or the other about the outcome. Guillotine is another great one for that. Love Letter is a bit troublesome for that. It’s quick, but it requires you to think, so it’s more of a time-filler.

There is always a place for filler games on my shelf. Countless times I’ve been waiting for someone to show up who is “on the way, one sec!”. Might as well play something while waiting!

Gamer Avatar
7
Intermediate Reviewer
Champion
Mask of Agamemnon
Novice Advisor

I guess, for me, I just don’t need an epic tale of every single game I play. The experience can be the moment, whether that’s a 5-hour game of Arkham Horror or a 5-minute round of Coup.

Sure, I may not remember specifics of every minute of every game, but if I’m enjoying them at the time then I think that’s what counts.

Add onto that the fact that I think our stories most often revolve around fleeting moments within a longer game, and there’s just as much potential for memories in a filler or micro game as there are in a longer game — the longer games just give us more opportunity to make those memories.

I might recall “that time you leapt from last place and took the win in a few amazingly lucky Zombie Dice rolls”, but I’m not going to remember that drawn out game of Talisman that took all day, if nothing exciting or interesting happened the entire time.

Gamer Avatar
4
Game Salute fan

coup requires the right group, but i think it’s one that can be played over and over.

Gamer Avatar
6
I play red

Maybe I’m behind, but I think they’re still called “Fillers.” Microgames refers to at the moment, only one game called Coin Age.

Gamer Avatar
8
Intermediate Reviewer
Copper Supporter
Viscount / Viscountess

I think they serve as a quick way to have some fun. Sometimes you don´t have time or are not in the mood to think a lot but need to relax a bit. Such games will do exactly that: a few minutes of fun and perhaps a few laughs. If a game entertains people and perhaps take some of the stress out, it served a noble purpose.

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