Why One Half of Two Rooms and Boom's Favourite Game is Plato 3000


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30 April 2023
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Obscure is an understatement when it comes to Sheamus Parkes’ Plato 3000. There’s something about finding a rare gem of a game that makes us feel a stronger personal connection. Often, I hear the classical brag that someone was an early adopter of something before it became ‘big’ as though this claim of being an ‘original gangster’ somehow makes their enjoyment more valid than any others.

Regardless, the feeling is real, an enhanced relationship to something that somehow feels more personal to you because the larger populace has yet to discover it.

I was a playtester for Plato 3000, or Utopian Rummy as it was called before it was published by Cambridge Games Factory. My first copy was the one I downloaded from email. I printed the game on regular flimsy paper, diligently cut out each of the 50 plus cards, and then placed them in cards sleeves in front of regular playing cards. Everything about this game seemed homemade. Every person with whom I played knew, upon first glance, this was not a game purchased at any store. Yet, by the end of our game, they were shocked they could not yet buy Utopian Rummy anywhere.

Why was this game so loved by me and all those with who I played? I think it may have been a perfect storm of nostalgic familiarity, innovation, and personal ownership. The core mechanic of Plato 3000 is the same as the famous set collecting game of Rummy – a popular favourite among the common playing card games. Yet, Plato 3000 expands upon the classic in such radically wonderful ways without betraying the classic feel of its ancestor. This makes it readily accessible to anyone familiar with while introducing more modern mechanics, such as engine building. As you collect and play a set of matching cards, you (as the player) get game-breaking powers, allowing you to bend the rules of play. In fact, most people describe Plato 3000 as ‘Rummy, but with powers.’

This game’s mechanics are relatively simple, yet seemingly infinitely variable. This gives players the sense of personal ownership of their decisions. The entire feel of Plato 3000 is something easier experienced than it is to explain. Why? After a few games, you feel your ability to control the outcome grow. Losing rarely feels humiliating as much as it feels like a learning experience you will apply to the very next hand. Often you debate whether you should safely ‘go out’ as quickly as possible, or risk creating more sets for more end-of-round points. Plato 3000, to me, is the epitome of the recurring phrase, ‘just one more game.’

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When the game received publication, the art by Steven Gagatzky was next level. Each card was given a retro-futuristic steam punk theme based upon a classic job. If you collect and play a set of Fishermen, you not only get the ability to draw an additional card each turn, but you are greeting with the beautiful depiction of a steam-driven paddleboat, trimmed with brass filigree, and piloted by a fish themselves. If this sounds like a colourful hodgepodge mix of elements, you are not wrong. And it works so fantastically I often catch players staring at the card art noticing something previously missed.

If you are reading this and are even slightly curious, I can’t recommend you try to find a copy of this out- of-print game. To add to the elusiveness of this hidden gem, its splendour is contained within a meagre and deceptively simple tuckbox. I’m fully confident you and your friends will be asking, “How have I never heard of this game” while also repeating the phrase, “Just one more game.” 

 

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