This talk about puzzles by a puzzle solving master might be interesting to you. Recommendation by Jonathan Blow (who made Braid and the Witness):
I recommend watching the full thing but I associated the post above to this interesting idea from the beginning of the video:
(1) Eureka moments are the atoms of puzzles.
Eureka: A sudden, pleasureful, fluent, confident feeling of understanding. Insights
(6) Interesting truths are the root of surprise.
(7) Eureka is not Fiero.
Fiero: the emotion of overcoming a tough challenge
(9) Eureka is sharable (don’t need fiero to have eureka necessarily)
Not directly comparable to the post above but maybe relevant to the part about if competition is needed.
Might help too 🙂
I think it depends a lot on the game and on the quality of the digital version. This game and Through the Ages (by the same devs) do have really good digital implementations that are a joy to play on tablets (that’s what I’ve tried).
Yet there is definitely something awesome about the tactility of real tiles over touch screens. But having to explain and double check rules instead of getting feedback from the digital system is actually not very energizing for me.
This is one of the reasons I hope something like dynamicland.org will make it, then we could potentially get the best of both worlds 🙂
The digital version makes the second half a lot quicker, so maybe that’s enough? 🙂
Somewhat related: https://overcast.fm/+a1rgbK3HQ
The Crew. One of the few good cooperative games. You can’t speak during a round and have only a few ways to communicate to solve the puzzle together. The campaign adds complexity over time to make it stay interesting as the group learns the tricks of the game.
Mindbug. Made in part by the creator of Magic the Gathering, but made much more accessible to play with new people. Still, it is really deep. The core idea of mind bug is that you can take control of the card the other player wants to play (with your mind bug), this creates a lot of mind games as you’re trying to trick the other person to steal a card at the wrong moment (you only have 2 mind bugs per game).
Wavelength. Can play with almost any group and possible to play at high player counts. No need to play in teams, so no uncomfortable competition when trying to have a good time even with new people. Creates interesting conversations and is really fun and replayable! Good for getting to know one another too.
Brass: Birmingham. One of the best Euro games. Industrial revolution theme, understand the market to make your industry win. Other people can use the industries you build so it makes for very interesting strategies.
The Quest for El Dorado. One of the best deck-building games. The hexagon boards can be placed in a lot of combinations to create variation between games, and you can remove some cards from the store to make the strategy change a lot between games. I love it.
Gloomhaven. Another great cooperative game with a good system that creates many fun puzzles to solve. You unlock new ways to play, aka. new characters with new cards and new rules to learn and master in combination with your friends’ characters. Many cooperative games suffer from the problem that one person can decide what others should do. But here you’re not supposed to show your cards to each other at first, so you get both autonomy and cooperation which is nice so everyone feels they have an important role.
Oceans. Strategy-game, compose reliable species that thrive in the ecosystem. Fairly simple rules but hard to master. Lots of unique cards and randomized conditions make it fun and replayable.
Skull. Simple but really fun bluffing game. Easy to bring to a bar or restaurant and play a quick round or two.
Mage Knight has an excellent steam workshop mod for Tabletop Simulator which I highly recommend! 🙂 Automates some things so you can focus on the most fun strategy. Amazing 1-player game, but also fun at 2-players.
Strongly second Great Western Trail. Very fun and replayable 🙂
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I actually didn't reflect about her having makeup. I recall (but hopefully don't misrepresent in my paraphrasing) Julia Galef discussing that a society where people wear makeup is perhaps a more fair option since the difference between the most and least naturally beautiful people would be smaller then. I haven't thought deeply about this, but in that case, wearing makeup might be the rational thing to do. However, regarding the appraisal that the artwork represents the woman's beauty more than her strength, I can totally see how that reinforces problematic norms.
Rationality is in part about taking control, and you have more control over your strength than your beauty. Still, if I could sculpt myself I would probably rather be sculpting myself pretty than musculus (well, I guess they intersect for some people). Beauty probably has more benefits than muscles these days and physical strength is much less important for rationality than mental strength. An unnecessarily muscular body might also be a sign of prioritizing the wrong things.
It's hard to get the metaphors perfect and it is easy to rationalize how details make it fit or not. But it's interesting to see which metaphors resonate with the community, and would be even more interesting if more people wrote why as you did. So thanks for your perspective!