I've been thinking a lot about what makes a great game, and why some games are held in such a high regard, and others are seemingly cast aside for various reasons. My last article was making the case for the roll-and-move mechanic, which is commonly referred to as the worst game mechanic in history. Thinking about that really got me considering what game mechanics accomplish, and why some are considered good or bad.
Firstly, let me argue that the Roll And Move mechanic is not bad. You roll your dice, and then move that many spaces. In my previous articles, I argued that in Talisman and Titan, this actually works, and doesn't detract from the game's experience. The casual nature of the gameplay and the fact that light-strategy is a design choice (at least for the board movement in Titan) allow you to not get bogged down in heavy strategy on purpose.
Now I want to propose that no game actually has any flaws. The word flaw gets tossed around a lot when reviewing games, and it's said to prove that x game is bad, or that x game is far worse than y game. First of all, that is just a matter of the reviewer's opinion, and nothing more. But I think the deeper issue is that people perceive a game to be broken if they think that it has flaws.
In reality, every rule or mechanic in a game is there on purpose, and it's a specific design decision. Rules exist to constrain the possibilities for user actions, and make the game actually playable. These constraints force you to work within their parameters in order to achieve your goal. In the case of Talisman, the roll-and-move mechanic makes it hard to get to where you need to go. If it didn't exist, the player can just go exactly where they need to go, get what they need to get, and then win the game. That doesn't sound very fun. But if you introduce chance to the equation, it helps to randomize events, level the playing field, and slow down the player's progress speed to the game can be enjoyed, rather than just sprint to the finish line. In Talisman, I find the joy of playing more in the act of moving/encountering rather in the speed in which I can win.
Another argument that I received is that Monopoly has roll-and-move and it's really bad. But it's really apples to oranges because Monopoly is geared towards kids, and is sold in Target, where-as Talisman & Titan are deeply engaging fantasy games targeted at a whole other group of people.
So to claim a mechanic is flawed and therefore a game is broken is really just saying that you don't personally like that style of play. That's exactly why there are so many different types of games out on the market, so that there can be something for everyone. There's people out there who would love to play Monopoly all day long and they would argue that it's mechanics fit the game perfectly. There's also people that play Warhammer who will argue that full tactical control is the only way to play games, and that all other games are inferior. I for one am glad that there is a certain level of segmentation in the gaming market, so that I can enjoy my favorite games with like-minded people.