Is The Spoils Really No Fun?
by Terence Jason Dorman
As I'm sure you all know, myself and my Team Hopper brethren have been playing all sorts of card games for over fifteen years. We've all played our fair share of good games, bad games, bad but fun games, popular games, silly games, etc. You name it and at least one of us has played it.
While many of us are competitive gamers who love traveling to tournaments and aiming for the biggest prizes/highest ratings, there are quite a few of us who are just in it for the fun. One such member of Team Hopper, my good buddy Mike, is one of those people. The only card games he has ever played seriously were Raw Deal and Highlander, both because he loves the source materials.
About a year ago, not long after Seed Two: Gloamspike's Revenge had hit the shelves, he came into Grasshopper's Comics while we were all testing some new decks. There was six of us messing around with new constructed ideas that ranged from serious (Moxless' Monty deck) to stupid (a Time Traveler Tourist Trap deck.....which was mine).
Mike was there simply to hang out and see what we were all up to after the store closed. He liked the universe of The Spoils and its flavor, even owning a couple cards just because he liked them so much, but never got into the game itself.
After about half an hour of watching us all play, he turned to me and said, “I know you all love this game and have been playing it for years, but I swear it looks like you guys aren't having any fun.”
Needless to say, this dumbfounded all of us, me especially. I can vividly remember times when I would cackle maniacally after “dropping a house” on my opponent via sneaky Sneaky Mansion tech. I even recall proclaiming myself “The King of Micromajigs” after using four Time Traveler's Tourist Traps in succession to provide myself with 150 Micromajigs. How is that not fun?
At the time we just ignored his ludicrous statement and went on with our playtesting. A few weeks later, though, I was reminded of the statement and I was baffled yet again. How could Mike think The Spoils isn't fun? Is he crazy? I don't think I would play a game for six years without it being fun, so obviously something has to be wrong with Mike.
But then I thought about it some more and I realized that I understood where he was coming from. Sure, there are times when you do something so outlandish (150 Micromajigs, for example) that it must look fun. However, almost every game has that aspect, whether it is having sixteen provinces (Legend of the Five Rings) or milling yourself and switching decks with your opponent (World of Warcraft). Every game has something ridiculous that can happen that will clearly make the game seem fun.
As an aside, both of the examples I gave above are things that I have done in those games. The mill and switch was an especially proud moment for me, as absurd as it was.
The problem, however, is that those instances are too few and far between for most games, and even fewer and farther between for a game like The Spoils.
Don't get me wrong, The Spoils IS fun, but it certainly doesn't look fun. The artwork and flavor of the game are definitely humorous and jovial, but not everyone is paying attention to the artwork when playing or watching a game. When doing either of those things the attention is on the players.
With that in mind, I have to say that The Spoils is not fun.
But that is the beauty of The Spoils. It doesn't look fun because of how good it is. It isn't one of those games in which each player is going through the motions of drawing a card, laying a resource (or equivalent term), playing a card, and passing the turn. There are so many options! Just the start of the turn presents each player with a choice that most other games do not have, and that's without any other start of turn triggers.
The fun of the Spoils is not found in the look of a game being played or the expressions on the players' faces. The fun of the Spoils is found in their minds, where the wood is burning and the gears are turning each and every second. The Spoils is not a simple game by any means, it is a thought provoking game that can appeal to all levels and types of players.
Even our most straight-foward decks, Rage Sligh for example, are not your typical “draw/resource/play/attack decks. On the surface it may seem that way, but do you really think Vince Chuan won Nationals with that mentality? Absolutely not. I can say from experience it may have looked that way, and that it looked like he wasn't having any fun based on the serious look on his face, but neither statement is true.
The fun lies in the intelligence of the game, the subtle awesomeness found in the wonderfully crafted rules and cards. Every player has the option to use those rules and cards in any way he sees fit and each card has dozens of possibilities on how it can be used. The Spoils is unique and in that uniqueness we all can find its beauty, grace, and fun.
The Spoils, to put it plainly and sum up this article, is one of the most fun games on the market today, it just doesn't look that way. If it wasn't fun, I would have to change my start of round announcement from “Have Fun, Play Spoils!” to “Play Spoils, It's Not Fun!”
I don't plan on doing that anytime soon.