Board Game Mechanics: Dexterity
I got to play a new to me dexterity game this past weekend when I played Tokyo Highway. When people think about board games, it isn’t something that they think of much, besides one game, which is Jenga.
Most people know Jenga because it’s been around for a long time and there are have been different versions or looks to it that have shown up in stores like Target and Wal Mart, but dexterity games don’t stop there, and are actually a pretty big and cool genre, because it offers, most of the time, and easier gaming experience, but a completely different type of challenge than most board games.
In dexterity games, you might be trying to stack things or place things around other objects or flicking things across the table or across a board. There are a number of different things that you can and there are certain rules you need to follow, even within the different types of dexterity games.
My favorite dexterity game is Ice Cool/Ice Cool 2 where you are flicking penguins around a board. What makes this game work is because, like many a dexterity game, you have stand-up moments. You almost literally have to be standing up at the table in order to be able to flick things around and get the angle that you need on the table. But when someone makes a great shot and hits a couple of penguins, jumps a wall, or spins it through a couple of doors, people cheer those shots. That’s what makes dexterity games, generally, quite unique as most all of them have those moments.
Now, Tokyo Highway, you are placing things on the table, the different pillars, roads, and cars that you have. So you don’t get that same thing of watching an amazing shot happen, but instead you are holding you breath wondering if the person is able to get everything back where it should be. It’s very challenging and planning on how you want to place everything and if you can get the angle so that you can over a road, or if you can slip a road under another road is always a challenge.
In my opinion, a good dexterity game is generally pretty simple to play. The more complex a game is, such as limiting how you can put something down or forcing you to figure out if you can do something, that’s not as interesting. A dexterity game should focus on what you can do with the dexterity piece and give you a few simple options. With too many rules, it slows the game down too much and you lose those breath holding or stand-up moments that really make dexterity games. In my opinion, dexterity games should also focus mainly on the physical element of the game versus the mental element. Yes, you might have to think about the angle and spin of the shot in Ice Cool, but unless you’ve practiced a ton, it probably won’t work perfectly, so it’s better to just go for the shot and not overthink it.
Now, there is a downside to this as well, some people are just not going to be that great at it. But that is again when those cheer moments happen. With a flicking game especially. With a balancing game, some people won’t be as good as it, so it might not be the right one for your table. But in a flicking game, if someone is doing poorly, when they have a great shot because of luck, people will cheer and it’ll be that stand-up moment in the game.
But there is one last good upside, and that is that most of these games are going to be good for a younger crowd. Now, there might be some with too small pieces that you don’t want to play with kids, but if you are playing as a group, it’ll work well. And games like Ice Cool and Rhino Hero Super Battle are intentionally built for kids, but they are still a lot of fun for adults. So if you have a more diverse table in terms of age range and skill level, especially around the holidays, dexterity games can be fun for the whole group.
So just to recap a little bit, dexterity games can be a lot of fun, though stacking ones won’t be for everyone. Flicking style dexterity games really work well for all age groups, especially the simpler ones, and in my opinion, those are the best. But if you’re looking for a game for the holidays, I’d really recommend a game like Ice Cool, and it would be something fun and different for the whole table.
What is your favorite dexterity game? Is there one that you’re really good at, or one that’s tough for you?
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