Monday, January 30, 2017

The Genius: Rules of the Game Main Match Rankings

So, here we are once again to do a ranking of things related to The Genius. Recently, I ranked the players of season 1 of The Genius, so if you missed that, you can check it out here

Like last time, I'm assuming you've found your way here because you're also a fan of this beautiful show. If that's not the case, turn back now, because I'll be discussing spoilers for season 1 and I really don't want to spoil you. 

Actually, I take that back. The first episode of the show is embedded below, so I encourage you to check that out. That being said, don't return to this post until after you've finished the season, because I'll be talking about stuff from the entire season. But that's all I'll talk about, so there will be no spoilers for subsequent seasons of the show.

Before I jump into my ranking of the Main Matches of S1, I wanted to briefly touch on my criteria for this ranking. Although I moved stuff around afterward, I did begin ranking these using a set scoring system. My 3 criteria for that were concept, gameplay, and entertainment. Breaking that down a bit:
Concept- Does the concept of the game interest me? Is it something I want to try? How does it compare to other Genius games in intrigue and complexity?
Gameplay- The actual strategy used by the players. Did they figure out a hack? Did they come up with clever strategies? Did The Genius theme or Extreme Ways start playing at a key moment?
Entertainment- Was it overall fun to watch this main match unfold? Usually, clever gameplay is entertaining, but sometimes it's not. 

Like I said, I scored each match in these categories, but I did shift stuff around just a touch because I like to keep things fluid. But I'll get into more detail when discussing each game. Let's go ahead and jump into the list!

11) Abundance and Famine

Don't even pretend you didn't see this coming. This is by far the weakest game of the season and it was also the least interesting one to watch. It's hard to even say that there was good gameplay on this as well, because the winning team miscalculated their tickets and would've lost if they hadn't purchased more. This was the first episode that was extremely straightforward, and that simply wasn't entertaining to watch. After the first round, it was incredibly clear that the large group was going to win and nothing got in their way. The most interesting thing that happened in this game was Changyeop pretending to purchase tickets and actually going through the motions. 

10) Election Game

When I first learned about this game and watched the episode, I enjoyed it. I listened to Geniuscast afterward and they described this as one of the worst games this season. I was surprised at the time, but looking back I have to agree. The rewind reveal is really great and clever, but it basically makes everything we've watched for the rest of the episode completely pointless. In terms of the concept, it's pretty solid. In terms of the gameplay, it's pretty solid as well. Both sides of the game make smart decisions to propel them toward a win-- it just turned out that one side was being completely played. However, in terms of entertainment, it's pretty low. Nearly every game is more entertaining to watch than this one. Except Abundance and Famine, of course.

9) Expression Auction

From what I've seen online, this might be a controversial opinion, but I thought the Expression Auction was just alright. When I scored this one in the 3 categories, it got average scores across the board, meaning that it's a solid game but not as memorable as other games for me. It's got a fairly interesting concept-- the best aspect of which is the betting blocks that you can't reuse. Gameplay-wise, it's pretty solid as well. Most of them have solid strategies and are able to implement it well. Entertainment-wise it's pretty average. There's not a major twist/reveal, but there are some clever moments. And Sunggyu being smug.

8) 1,2,3 Game

I think that this was a really great game to start off the season, but in the grand scheme of Genius games, this one is just pretty average. The gameplay is all over the place-- some people play really complexly and form a solid strategy, other people take a simple route and secure a spot in the middle, and other people are completely miserable. In terms of entertainment, it's a bit up and down as well. The Minseo/Sunggyu/Kyungran controversy is really entertaining, as are Jinho and Junseok's problems. However, Jimmy Cha teaching everyone is one of my least favorite things in this season. I enjoy everyone puzzling things out on their own, not having a single person explain the simple strategy. We could've gotten more entertaining gameplay from that, while instead we only got solid but boring strategy from about half the players.

In short, across the board, this is a solid game with a wide range of gameplay solidity and entertainment.

7) Confined Scamming Horse Race

Nearly all of the entertainment from this episode came from the clip embedded above. The Sunggyu/Sangmin bromance was in peak form this episode. However, this is only partially because of the game itself. The fact that they were locked in separate rooms made this scene really great... but I don't necessarily think that it made the game really great. In general, I tend to be biased against games that bring in people from outside, whether it's friends, randos or previous players (though the previous players are the least egregious for me). I guess it's an extra variable for the contestants to work around, which can be a good thing strategically. However, I feel like I never enjoy watching the dynamic created by the new group of people. 

In this case, it was hit and miss. HaHa was TV gold. He did exactly as Sangmin instructed and made it hilariously entertaining. I'm fairly certain there'd be no Hongchul on S2 if not for HaHa in this game. However, the other three helpers were duds in one way or another. Jinho's helper was a mess (shoulda got Yohwan), Sunggyu's helper refused to listen to him, and Kyungran won despite being oblivious because of her partner. I just don't think their influence on the game was a good thing. The concept of the game was alright, HaHa and Sunbae/Hoobae were entertaining, but the gameplay was a bit weak. Except Sangmin, of course. 

6) Kong's Dilemma

This is another game that I think is well-loved by Genius fans, and I think I'm a bit lower than most people on this one. Overall, I think this is a fairly interesting concept for a Genius game. It's not an all-time favorite for me, but it's definitely an interesting concept. And in general, I think the gameplay was really good in this game, especially from Sangmin and Sunggyu. Entertainment-wise, this one didn't stick with me very much. I remember a couple things here or there, like Sangmin trying to share his team's information and obviously, Sunggyu betraying his team and getting a solo win by keeping back a single kong. But other than that, there's nothing that stands out to me as extremely fun to watch (relative to other games in The Genius. Obviously in the grand scheme of things to watch this is still elite). This is a game that is stronger in the concept and strategy department, but weaker in the entertainment department.

5) Scamming Horse Race

I really enjoy the concept of this game. Games that hinge on information exchange are generally fun to watch because it's so easy to lie to someone and completely screw everyone else over. I definitely like this version of the game better than the "confined" version of this game, because I prefer the contestants having their fate in their own hands instead of depending on some sort of outside force. Overall, I felt like most people played this game well-- even Eunji, whose lie threw everyone else off their game. And those who weren't playing well (*cough*Poong*cough*) were really fun to watch, because he just went all-in on some random horse and it was hilarious. 

4) 5:5 Game

I think many people aren't big fans of this game, but I really like it. I think the concept is really interesting- from the fact that random strangers show up with no explanation, to the fact that they have a limited number of characters to work with. In the end, I think that the weakness of this game is that it's one of the easier ones to figure out, but I think it was really entertaining to see the different ways that each of them was able to hack the game. Kyungran figures out quickly that she can add things together to get exactly 5, Sangmin runs around giving people bracelets and noting specific things about people, and Jinho creates unique information by rubbing people's hands and telling them his brother's name. 

I think all of them showed their cleverness in different ways and that was really great to watch. On top of that, it was so much fun to watch the three of them completely confused when they're simply told to ask people questions with no context. Overall, although this is a game that is fairly easy to figure out, I loved seeing the different ways that each of them hacked the game, and I think that's where the quality of the game lies. 

3) Catch the Burglar

I'll admit, I'm rather biased. I'm a sucker for what I like to call the "Hidden Traitor" trope. AKA someone is secretly a traitor & betraying other people. Hence my love of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie & the early 2000s TV show, The Mole (which you should totally watch if you're a fan of The Genius). And that's why I love games like this. There were two of those this season, and I liked this one just slightly less. I think the concept for this game is really cool. I think that in practice, it may not be the most entertaining to watch, but I absolutely love the concept. I think the gameplay overall was pretty solid. They came up with a smart way to determine the burglar quickly, and one village ran with that information, while the other made a critical blunder. I don't think this stands up to later games with the "hidden traitor" trope, but I can't help but love games that center around something like this. 

2) Zombie Game

I don't want to be a broken record, so I'll just briefly mention that this is the other "hidden traitor" game that we get this season. This one ranks higher because I like it slightly better than Catch the Burglar in all three categories I was looking at. This concept is by far my favorite of the season. I absolutely love games like Mafia/Werewolf, so the second I heard this concept, I was all-in. I think that this game would've benefited from either a re-shuffling of the Zombie cards (*sigh* Jungmoon. *UGH*) or the removal of Sangmin. I'm still impressed by how he immediately pegged Gura as the other zombie. If we'd gotten better zombies, I think this game could've been played to its full potential. 

We still get some really great gameplay from the 5 human winning alliance, who somehow managed to get everyone to the same point total despite the fact that Poong was having trouble keeping track of all of the touching. We also get a really great moment of Changyeop spitting into his cure and Sangmin drinking it. The chaos that ensues is hilarious. And we also get some really clever gameplay by Gura and Sunggyu, who dupe everyone into thinking that Gura isn't a zombie. From what I've seen and heard, this one isn't considered one of the better games this season, but it's definitely high up there for me.  

1) Open, Pass

Open, Pass is the perfect example of a game that just didn't grab me immediately. When it's first explained, it just doesn't sound very entertaining, even if there's good strategy. And then Jinho steps up with his cards, Extreme Ways starts playing, and we get the best reveal of the season. While Sunggyu was buying up packages of cards and discovering the different colored backs (which was also fun to watch, especially when Eunji called him out), Jinho discovered a hack that I'm surprised anyone figured out. Originally, I wasn't even sure that it was supposed to be a hack (because the card colors were clearly supposed to be used for the strategy). However, one of the producers confirmed that they hoped that someone would use the backs of the cards to figure the game out, but seriously... he figured it out via the direction of the pattern on the backs of the cards. That's absolutely genius. Thank goodness Jinho discovered it, because it gives us the best moment of gameplay of the entire season. 

This is the only game out of all of them that got a perfect score for gameplay, because this was an absolutely masterful move from Jinho. I think the best part was that the rest of the players didn't even understand what he'd done with the cards. The fact that the other players split up their cards by color to create optimal equations was clever in its own right, but it pales in comparison to Jinho being able to make the best out of being completely excluded from the rest of the players. This game just ended up completely exceeding all expectations that I had going into it and left me feeling incredibly impressed by the gameplay that Jinho exhibited. 

So, those are my rankings of the Main Matches of The Genius Season 1! I'm sure that everyone reading this will have a pretty different ranking, or will disagree with me on at least one of these, so let's get a discussion going in the comments because I always love talking about this beautiful show. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to create a separate page on my blog for all of my upcoming posts on The Genius, so when that's created I'll link it here. Coming up next will be my rankings for the Season 2 players and Main Matches!

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