Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Genius: Black Garnet Main Match Rankings

So, here we are once again to do a ranking of things related to The Genius. It's been a while since I posted anything Genius-related, but I have done a few rankings related to The Genius over the past couple months, so if you want to check those out, you can click on "The Genius" tab at the top of the blog.

Like always, 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 through the end of season 3 and I really don't want to spoil you. 

Or, if you're curious about the show, I've embedded episode 1 below, so you should definitely check it out. However, don't continue reading the rest of this post until you've finished all of seasons 1-3 because I'm going to be massively spoiling them. Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Before I jump into my ranking of the Main Matches of S3, 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) Constellation Game

OK, maybe I'm just being a little bitter but oh boy do I dislike this game. Every season, there's always one game that stands out as the absolute worst and this season, it's Constellation Game. Some people might assert that it's just the way that the game played out this time, not an inherent flaw in the game. Apart from the fact that I'm taking every aspect, including the players' gameplay, into account, I think this game is incredibly flawed. Yes, this time it was boring to watch because everyone ganged up against two people to box them out of the game all together, but I think that this game will always play out this way. It's the most obvious, safest strategy for everyone to team up and make it so that two people simply cannot play the game. Sure, one of them will probably get picked for the Death Match, but when they have Black Garnets at their disposal, this becomes less of a concern. 

Sure, I was frustrated that the two people who were clearly the best players (who also happened to be my two favorites) were the ones getting completely shut out. But the real frustration lies in the fact that the opportunity to shut someone out exists. When you have all of these intelligent people in one place, they will always realize that shutting people out is the safest play, and they will always do it, resulting in a boring, straight forward game that never gives the other people any chance to fight back.

10) Doubting Yutnori

I don't think that this game is awful, but I think that it has some of the same drawbacks as Tactical Yutnori, but this time in a Main Match, which just amplifies the problems. And one of the best aspects of Tactical Yutnori is that it's a leveling war. AKA-- "I think my opponent wants X result and will therefore throw these sticks, so I'm going to throw these sticks to block them from getting the result they want." However, Doubting Yutnori takes all of the leveling away and returns it to essentially a role of the dice like in the original Yutnori game. Sure, the person who rolled the die can lie about it, but you have to be able to lie convincingly and not get doubted. I think that there are definitely better versions of "doubting" games (namely, Swords and Shields) and this one just doesn't stack up. 

On top of that, we have additional players in the game, which (reiterating previous posts) I'm usually not a big fan of. Per usual, the fact that they're from the same season bothers me a lot less, but the fact that the players are largely relying on their "teammates" that are chosen completely by chance is something that I don't really like. Maybe that's just because my boy Hyunmin got stuck with Kyunghoon, but still. Ugh.

9) Middle Race 2

I don't want to be a broken record, so quick reminder: I'm generally not that high on games with guests. They always come on "reiterations" of previous games and typically, the entertainment level is upped while the strategic level is lowered. In this instance, I might argue that almost everything was slightly worse. I really enjoyed the original Middle Race. Sure, there were a couple flawed characters that were improved upon for Middle Race 2, but I think this game is quite a bit better when played with Genius players who are all self-interested. It makes for some really interesting partnerings and alliances. People can work together fluidly and help different people as they see fit. In "loved ones" games, the guests are only interested in helping out the player they came to support. Which means that you'll have partners purposely choosing characters that work well together. And at this point in the season, the alliances are pretty set in stone, so instead of people fluidly working together, it's pretty rigid. Add on the fact that this is the most forgettable set of "loved ones" throughout the seasons (except for the lovely Gayeon unni), and this is definitely a downgrade from the original. Honestly, I think it's possibly the most forgettable main match of the entire season for me. 

8) Investment and Donation

This game is perfectly fine. I think in nearly any season, I would consider this to be a solid middle of the road game. It's not one of the super intriguing ones with an interesting concept and hackable props, but it's solid and allows for a lot of interesting gameplay. The only real problem I have with the game is the way that it played out. As a general rule, it's always more interesting to watch people try really hard to win than it is to watch people try really hard to lose. And in this episode, both Youhyun and Dongmin are trying to out-miser each other and it makes the game a little less fun. And of course, Yeonjoo blabbed Dongmin's entire plan to Youhyun, which is really the catalyst for the two of them both trying to be the loser. Overall, I think that this could have been a much more interesting game if we didn't have to deal with two people trying to undercut each other as the losers. 

7) Fruit Stand

I know that there are a lot of people that really love this game. I like it, but I'm certainly a lot more on the fence than many fans. Personally, this is probably my least favorite opening game. That being said, I'm really glad that this was used as the first game rather than later in the season. If this were played at a point in the season when there were already solid alliances, I think this would have been a really boring game. As it played out, it was actually pretty interesting and there was a lot of solid strategy. Despite the fact that I touted this as my least favorite opener, that's not saying too much because I tend to really love the opening games (123 isn't necessarily my favorite game, and I probably like it less than Fruit Stand in general, but it's perfect as an introduction to the show). 

We do get some really great moments in this game. We see Hweejong and Dongmin immediately pair off because they have the same fruits. Youhyun pulls a very clever move and switches fruits to interfere with the other players. And of course, that absolutely phenomenal camera work zooming in on Kyunghoon after his massive betrayal of the other melons... as well as the betrayal in general. And, of course, the beautiful irony of Dongmin calling Hyunmin an idiot. Overall, this isn't one of my absolute favorite games of the season, but I did think that it was a solid start and overall was a pretty solid game. 

6) Stormy Stock Market

Information wars are always some of my favorite games on The Genius. I always enjoy seeing people piecing together several different clues in an attempt to get a complete set of information. While I definitely prefer games like Scamming Horse Race, this was still a really interesting take on the "information war" concept. This was also still in the budding stages of the HyunDongmin alliance, so it was really great to see them shake hands and decide to go all the way together and to watch how that played out in the main match. The aspect of having to go in the dealer room and having an allotted amount of time in there was also a super intriguing concept, as was that time gap that no one had information on. The fact that they had to have a bidding war for the 2:40 information was a super intriguing concept and the only thing that made me slightly frustrated about it was that it forced Hyunmin and Dongmin to be pretty open with their alliance.

That being said, the absolute best part of the entire match was the brilliant gameplay that the two of them exhibited. Hiding information around the set is something we'd never seen before on the show, and it was so clever and perfectly hid their alliance at the beginning of the match. It allowed them to have all of the information and it was just so brilliant. On top of that, the way that Hyunmin was able to easily get people to let him into the room whenever he needed to was absolutely masterful. He and Dongmin were forced to out their alliance a bit because they had to pool their garnets to buy information, but even with that, they played the main match so well. It was really impressive.

5) Middle Race

I think Middle Race is one of the games that people tend to have really mixed opinions on. Some people think it's over-complicated, but most of the games that are often described as "over-complicated" are the ones that I absolutely love. While I'm not totally in love with Middle Race, it's one that I really enjoyed. I know that it was really boring for the players in-game (poor Lawyer Kang apparently had to wait a few hours while the other players finished the race), but I found it really intriguing as a viewer. I think that the different character abilities are really interesting and found myself trying to figure out which one of the characters I'd want to pick if I had the chance to play (My gut reaction was Silence, but that might not actually be the best play. Might be more aggressive than I would want to be). 

Either way, one of the most interesting aspects of the game is the way that certain characters interacted with each other. There were some really awesome combinations that the players made both to launch people to the front or back, or even to just create an infinite loop to help out all of the players. It was really cool to watch, and to see how the players decided to go about creating different scenarios and who they decided to lock out. In some ways, it makes me think of Food Chain in the fact that each player has a specific identity that has specific abilities that play off each other to really cool effects. I think Food Chain definitely did that better, but this was still a really cool game. 

4) Swords and Shields

Apologies for the blurry gif, but Verita's reaction upon winning is so presh. I think this is one game where people will disagree with me. And I'll admit, the actual way that the game played out could've been better. But the concept and the entertainment level were really awesome for me, so that rockets it up higher in the rankings for me. I've said it once, and I'll say it again-- games with secret identities are my fave. In this case, there's a secret identity aspect, but there's also the secret weapon aspect that I find really cool. And even better is the bluffing aspect. In fact, the bluffing might be my favorite part. I really like that aspect of trying to catch people lying about what weapons they actually have. 

And that's made even better with the fact that Yeonjoo totally doesn't understand the way that bluffing works in the game. Dongmin's yelling at her, Yeonjoo is utterly perplexed, and everyone is worried she's going to ruin everything. It's so much fun. It's really disappointing that both teams immediately pegged each others' leaders because it made the game really short, but I still thought that it was entertaining despite the brevity. Unlike the Constellation Game, I don't think that Swords and Shields will necessarily play out this same way each time, so I don't think that the game itself is flawed... I just think that Hweejong was always going to look suspicious, and Dongmin is way too good at reading people. 

3) Chain Auction

I might be biased because I'm a Hyunmin stan, but the gameplay in Chain Auction is off the chain (I'm so sorry for that terrible pun but it had to be done). I'd go out on a limb and say that his gameplay in Chain Auction is one of the best Main Match showings in the history of the show (although I'd also say that he has an even better showing in another of the games coming up in a minute). Anyway, Chain Auction is just awesome all the way around. And of course, the most fun aspect of the entire episode is that we get the return of Jinho and Sangmin. You don't realize how much you miss having them on a season of The Genius until they pop in for an episode and make everything perfect again. Seriously, they're such legends and they're so much fun. 

But on top of that, we also get such an awesome game. This one kinda makes me think of Open, Pass. Not in terms of the concept of the game or anything, but when it's first introduced it sounds like it might be an alright concept... and then one of the players comes up with some fantastic strategy that totally demolishes everyone else. Seriously, I was already super impressed with Hyunmin as a player, but this just sent me completely over the edge. Jinho kinda lucked into the same strategy, but the fact that Hyunmin figured it out so quickly was outstanding. And the way it was revealed was also so awesome. Just that casual "I'll always get 10" was so great. I know I'm gushing over Hyunmin but he's such an epic player. Strategically, I'll continually argue that he is the most elite of anyone who's ever played The Genius, and this game is one of his highlights. 

2) Miner Game

I love every aspect of this game. The concept? Really awesome, with hackable props-- my favorite. The entertainment level? Also super high. Everyone is super stressed out, worried about the bombs. Dongmin and Ayoung are on a team, which leads to Dongmin just yelling at her all the time. And then the gameplay gives us this sick reveal of Hyunmin and Dongmin's partnership, on top of Dongmin figuring out the weights of the bombs. Seriously, this game has. it. all. In fact... I'm moving its placement right now. I had it in spot #3 but I just swapped it with Chain Auction for a few reasons. Yes, the gameplay in Chain Auction was phenomenal, but for me the concept was slightly below Miner Game. I'm a sucker for hackable props. 

Anyway, this episode and game are both absolutely phenomenal. This is when we get the first little hint at a HyunDongmin alliance and it's so great. They worked in secrecy so flawlessly and they used their advantage with the bombs so perfectly and you can just tell how much effort both of them are putting into the game. One of my favorite scenes in the episode is where Hyunmin is practicing mining at the beginning and discovers the slight difference in the bombs even before Dongmin does. And of course, this is when we get our first introduction to sensitive, fussy Dongmin, which is one of my favorite storylines to follow. This episode is just the catalyst for the rest of the amazing season, and it's just so good. From the awesome partnership (that Hyunmin almost messes up), to the outstanding gameplay, to the sick reveals, to the awesome concept, I absolutely love this game. It's so. good. 

1) Jury Game

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times-- secret identity games are my absolute favorite thing. And this is one of the best iterations of that concept. And on top of that, we get one of the best reveals in the history of the show, some really entertaining moments, and some absolutely outstanding gameplay. 

If you've made it this far into the post, you're well aware that I'm a Hyunmin stan. And this game is one of the main reasons why. I think that his showing in this Main Match is the best gameplay anyone's shown in a single game across all of the seasons. He plays this so masterfully. Every single aspect of his gameplay was so perfectly crafted. When you play one of these secret identity games, you want to make sure that you don't act out of character-- if you're more quiet or more talkative than normal, you stand out and look suspicious. And Hyunmin did a flawless job of maintaining his normal personality, while getting the criminals to trust him so they didn't think that he was the leader. He was able to suss out that Youhyun would be the one leading strategy on that side, so he got especially close with Youhyun so that he would trust him. 

And then, on top of all of that, the reveal for Hyunmin being the leader is one of the best reveals in the show's history. The show does such a great job of keeping him hidden (partially because he did such a good job of keeping himself hidden) and then dropping this epic twist on the audience. They do such a good job of explaining everything that he did to keep his identity secret. 

Also, notice that all I've talked about so far is the gameplay. I haven't even discussed the game concept itself, which is so cool. I love the idea of the hidden identities and trying to put together a jury that will vote correctly while trying to figure out everyone's identities. The fact that the criminals all know each others' identities is one of the coolest parts of the game, because it allows them to get together and figure out how to trick the citizens. And the entertainment was really high on this one as well, because Dongmin is just overpowering everyone and trying to lead his team to victory despite everyone doubting him. It's too good. 

Also, interesting side-note, although it looks like Youhyun kinda ruined it for his team by grouping them all together, it was actually entirely Lawyer Kang's fault. In an interview, Youhyun revealed that they'd had a meeting earlier where Youhyun essentially told them that if he called everyone together for a meeting, the leader shouldn't join them. And Lawyer Kang joined them. OOPS. Entirely his fault. But it gave us that amazing reveal of Hyunmin absolutely losing his mind when he realizes that he knows who the criminal leader is. 

So, those are my rankings of the Main Matches of The Genius Season 3! 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. Coming up next will be my rankings for the Season 4 players and Main Matches!

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