07 Oct Raccoon Tycoon and Player Interaction
This past weekend, the second Kickstarter for Raccoon Tycoon delivered along with the Fat Cat Expansion. Being that I missed their first campaign, I was on board for as soon as the campaign went live. To be honest, I didn’t know much about it beyond the mostly positive reviews and the amazing artwork. I mean, woodland creatures dressed in Victorian era garb? Count me in. The art is so well done that I probably would have been in on this even without any positive reviews. Have you seen that Raccoon with a cello? Or what about the Fat Cat tossing a coin in the air while rocking a top hat and a monocle? The art is everything anyone could ever ask for.
While I was pretty pumped when this came in, I really had no idea what to expect gameplay-wise. I won’t hold back; this is a great game! The game is simple in that players get one action on their turn and have only five options for what they can do with that one action. The complexity comes in how each choice effects everyone at the table. Anytime a player sells a commodity, the value of that commodity drops. Sometimes it makes sense to sell early just to prevent an opponent make serious bank through the sale action. Other times, a player can start an auction before any of the other players sell their commodities, making it a walk in the park to acquire the railroad of choice. Maybe a player needs to acquire wheat, but the only card they have to collect wheat also pushes the price of coal up and the player’s opponents are all sitting on a large stash of coal. The tension in each decision grows as the game progresses and considering each player becomes an integral part of the strategy.
In each game I played, I began to realize how little player interaction is generally included in games of this weight. It’s certainly not heavy, but it definitely not as light as many of the take-that card games out there that encourage a totally different type of interaction (like Exploding Kittens). Many Euros and Tableau Builders offer little interaction beyond taking a card another player wanted. Raccoon Tycoon however, encourages constant monitoring of what the other players are up to. To add to it, money is hidden. This means each player makes moves without having the perfect math to figure out what is optimum. This adds another layer of depth to the decision making. One of the most interesting comments surrounding Raccoon Tycoon after every game was inquiring about what the game would look like if people at the table were willing to spend money differently. Clearly doing so would change the entire outcome of the game.
My question now is why have so many designers and players alike moved away from having players interact. Is it because it becomes more difficult to create a balanced game? Or is it because players typically don’t like being messed with? This game is in no way a take-that game, but I could see people being frustrated with other players pushing the bid up arbitrarily or taking the card they need out from under them, but I found this to be an exciting factor that brought back feelings of nostalgia dating back to the days where Catan was one of the only games in my collection. As I sold my luxury goods to diminish the value at my opponent’s dismay, I began reminiscing old times when I traded goods with an opponent at a steal early on in my gaming career. Now, this game is nothing like Catan, so I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, but it does feel like a classic. Raccoon Tycoon will be on my shelf for a long time.
What are some games you’ve played that offer strong, meaningful player interaction that isn’t just take that? I clearly have missed the feelings these styles of games create and I need to find some more!
Thanks for reading and keep on gaming,