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Alan, "Son of Hett"
Truth be told, I have not role-played much in a very long time. I have played D&D and Pathfinder a few times in the past few years. I hope to play Mouse Guard soon. However, the vast majority of my experience with RPGs was in the 1980s and 1990s, playing the likes of AD&D, Champions, Paranoia (one session), Top Secret, and Rifts. Nonetheless, since late 2017 I have been developing my own RPG. Perhaps what I want already exists; I have to admit I was a bit surprised upon seeing on RPGG that there are not tens, not hundreds, but thousands of RPGs. If I find it, great, but in the meantime I shall continue working on my project.
Ages ago, I dreamed I would become an author. I suppose this is my outlet for that. It is proving to be difficult, however, particularly for my disorganized brain. I have had swirling in mind, for many years or decades even, notions of how an RPG should be, and scenes from the world in which it plays out. But forcing those vague ideas and movie scenes into print is like typing instructions for how to walk; I can picture it being done, and I can do it, obviously, but explaining the details of it is tedious and fraught with errors.
And there is so much information. I mean, I am trying to write the rules for an entire reality. Others have done it, I know, I know, but my mind works …let us say holistically. I have been researching all manner of information for this project:
• historical lists of the prices for various goods and wages in the middle ages (gold, it turns out, was not as common a currency as certain RPGs would have us believe)
• aspects and details of daily life for the common peoples in the middle ages
• myths and mythology and lists of mythological or legendary creatures
• combat and magic use in other RPGs
• quantum physics (is there some stretch of the imagination to explain magic realistically? how would magic appear or function if physics allowed for it?)
• how would evolution work on a world with magic?
• the role of religion in society
• various texts on the theory of design for RPGs
• dice mechanics. so many dice mechanics. I have grown addicted to AnyDice.com. I am becoming an expert on wierd dice combinations.
• which means I have to research the psychology of people rolling dice; does something like loss aversion affect people's preferences for dice mechanics? which is more user-friendly, given that the outcomes will be the same: adding up a mix of dice, or rolling more of one kind of die and subtracting a fixed number?
• what are the levels of knowledge or mastery, and how can that be applied to the dice mechanic for the skills tests of characters? what are all the character skills? (hmmm, looking at you, Rolemaster)
• crap, I cannot use the word Hobbit; I probably cannot use the word Halfling, either. so what do I call them? time to research some linguistics!
• etc., such, and so forth
Anywho, this is all probably rather boring to you, but it weighs on my mind and I just wanted to
talk type about it. I have 50 pages of typed notes so far, large chunks of which need to be discarded in favor of better ideas. I know this project, over a year in process already, will take years to come before fruition. Still, I feel as though I am approaching the point when I can start making actual rule sets and playtesting them.
Oh! one funny story: so a few days ago I was trying to figure out what "d3" means to most people (d6:1,1,2,2,3,3 or one of those bizarrely-shaped dice). One of my search results was someone asking a question at RPG StackExchange back in 2012:
I immediately noticed the person's profile picture:
I've seen 30-sided dice for sale from a number of places (such as here
), along with 24-sided, 16-sided, 5-sided, etc.Are there any RPGs that actually use these?
More precisely, are there any RPGs that use dice other than 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 20-sided?
Well would you look at that! It is our very own
Well, I had better get back to my AnyDice graphs…
Alan, "Son of Hett"
Yikes, that "How We Play" journal entry was a mess; let us pretend I never posted it. Maybe sometime later I can dig an important kernal out of it and write something better. I do want to continue with the concept, though.
Throughout these posts I have been considering our motivations for playing games. We choose games to play based on our motivations, and our motivations address a desire for satisfaction in something. Therefore we choose games that provide that satisfaction, or at least the potential for it, and we avoid games that do not provide that satisfaction. That seems obvious on the surface — "I do not play games I do not like." — but, as with everything, there are many details to examine.
Let us stick more to the surface, however. For some of us, our choice to avoid certain games or types of games is because there is no possibility of satisfaction from them, because there is little to no chance of success for us in the game; we just do not have the ability to win at such games, so why bother playing them. I doubt anyone likes to lose all the time.
This entry arrives courtesy of Concordia and a friend of mine. After a session, she was contemplating why another friend finds the game particularly difficult. He said he did not have the mental bandwidth for it; there were too many choices to make during the game. She thought about that further and realized that the real problem is that the game is directionless. He performs much better at games where the decision space is not necessarily smaller, rather obviously directed. Her example was Lords of Waterdeep; you select a quest card and pursue collecting what you need to fulfil that quest. Waterdeep has clearly defined goals in the form of those cards; in Concordia, the goal is everything and everywhere. He does not have the capacity to formulate a plan from a myriad of options, hence he does not like such games.
I first considered that a failing on his part, but I quickly remembered that, one, I am not particularly good at Concordia either and, two, we are all capable and incapable in our own unique ways. I absolutely suck at visual pattern recognition, which is to say I am terrible at SET. That leads me to believe Go is out of reach for me for the same reason; I cannot now and I doubt I will ever recognize the areas of the board where I am about to lose territory. For that matter, I am not particularly good at Alhambra either; I cannot look at that tile over there and figure out where or how it fits into my existing palace over here. Lastly, over the weekend I discovered yet another type of game (or game skill or mechanic) I suck at: dexterity games! Friends of my wife introduced us to Rampage (a.k.a. Terror in Meeple City), based on the old video game; I could not flick things properly to save my
None of this is absolute, obviously. Inability to play is not the only reason people reject certain games. I am quite good or at least sufficiently good at a whole range of games I do not want to play for the simple reason that I find them boring. On the other hand, inability to play is no guarantee of rejection. I currently suck at Tigris & Euphrates, but for some reason that has only made me determined to play it more, to improve at it (if possible).
We are all different. We are good at some things,
and we suck at others.
So, dear readers, what are the games you avoid
because you suck at them?
Alan, "Son of Hett"
I would just like to point out the silly pleasure I get every time I use the text editor "Insert Geek Link" drop-down menu to add Go to a post. I click it and select "Board Game". I type "go" into the search field. "Go (-2200)" pops up in the results, which I select.
And then I get to click the Go button!!@! Ermergerd!!1!!
Go! Go! Go! Derp Racer!
Alan, "Son of Hett"
(Ugh. This grew long. Bear with me…)
I do not actually know anything about the 18xx games, but they are, in a way, the starting point for today's topic.
The short version, and the moral, of this story is "Play and Let Play." We each play games for our own reasons, and we each have our own styles of play; unless one has a conflict in one's own personal group of players, then no one should give a rat's behind what or why or how anyone else plays. I believe most of us understand that.
Oh, but the why or how is so very interesting to peek at around here!
I like to win. I mean, who does not like winning, right? …right? Well, it turns out winning is not necessarily the goal for everyone. There is, after all, that famous quotation of Reiner Knizia, (but perhaps that message is not clear enough). In a previous journal entry I mentioned the forum survey "Why do you play boardgames? Contribute to PhD research on boardgames!", the goal of which is to discern what motivates people to play boardgames, which in turn directs their choices of which boardgames to play. I suspect those factors also address, albeit indirectly or loosely, how people play the games.
Again, I play to win . However, in the draft paper from the aforementioned survey, I noticed responses such as "When I play boardgames, I don't care if I win," which is alien to me. Similar to that is socialization. Some people play games in order to be with other people; socializing is the goal and the game is merely the catalyst. Their style of play might be merely to do something interesting or fun in the game. Other people play for the immersive experience; theme or simulation is everything to them. I suspect their game play has to be done with flair, with an eye toward the setting or the story. Still others want interactive games; solo games or multiplayer solitaire is anathema to them. However, cooperative games might not be to their liking, also. Maybe they want to buy and sell with other players but be the winner in the end. Perhaps they like to play antagonistically. Oh! maybe they like to sneak their way to a win .
I am too new to the "advanced" boardgame scene to really say I have a style of play, but if I were to aspire to one it would be domination. My motivations in playing are to master the game and to beat opponents, preferably by a wide margin or via some ingenious coup de grâce. I like to Win Big.
Winning Big can be viewed as inefficient, though. For some, their style of play is "Win. Full stop." One of the most interesting discussions (and persons) I have come across is J C Lawrence (member clearclaw) debating with other members (no surprise there it turns out (rather, certain other members seem compelled to argue with him)) that only one point matters. It had all begun with his reply at the start of the thread,
I normally attempt to drive scores down, to deny anyone getting points, to have the lowest possible scores by all the players while still winning.Although I asked some questions of him, I am not entirely certain I fully grasp his strategy. I understand that a win by even the smallest of margins is a win still, but maybe it has to do with the types of games played? (Mssr. Lawrence is a designer of and player of the 18xx family of games.) …I left the thought for a later time.
One day, a week or more later, I was watching a documentary about the AlphaGo computer. During one game of its famous match with champion Go player Lee Sedol, the computer began to make moves that appeared to be mistakes. As the documentary explained, however, AlphaGo had devised a new strategy; it had stopped playing like a human and began to play like the computer it is, having "realized" that it needed to win by only one point. From the Wikipedia article:
As one of the creators of the system explained, AlphaGo does not attempt to maximize its points or its margin of victory, but tries to maximize its probability of winning. If AlphaGo must choose between a scenario where it will win by 20 points with 80 percent probability and another where it will win by 1 and a half points with 99 percent probability, it will choose the latter, even if it must give up points to achieve it."Even if it must give up points to achieve it." Now that sounds like combat strategy: accept tactical losses here and there in order to achieve strategic victory overall.
Ah! ye olde wargamery! But you see, though, that is precisely why I choose the Win Big style of play. In reality, winning by a fraction usually means having to battle that foe again at a later time. Well, in reality diplomacy is the preferred option, but failing that then one should pummel the enemy into an inability or lack of desire to fight again. That is to say, win by a large margin.
Oh, but I am not here to disagree with Mssr. Lawrence. He has his method and I am certain it works for him and the people against whom he plays. Likewise, I would not dream of telling the socializing, play-for-fun crowd, "UR DoIn' iT wr0nG! BorBgaMEz Iz SRS biZNEsS! MuST pLaY 2 W1NZ!!"
To each her own. Cada loco con su tema. À chacun son goût.
As I first mentioned, it is of concern only within one's gaming group. For instance, I have a friend who is inherently averse to conflict of any kind. He does not like to play games that feature take-that or antogonistic mechanics. He does not like Catan: Cities & Knights, he will not play Tigris & Euphrates, and I am certain he will never be interested in Kemet. I suspect multiplayer solitaire is his ideal; he wants to build his engine without interference from anyone else and without interfering with anyone else, and the best engine wins. I suppose that would be fine if we played those sorts of games, but we do not. Instead we play watered-down versions of games. I very recently learned that the Lords of Waterdeep Scoundrels of Skullport expansion has corruption tokens. We have never played with them; they never even came out of the box. He never mentioned them when teaching the game, and silly me never realized that we were playing Skullport with a location named Undermountain. Furthermore, we play with two unowned buildings placed at the start of the game, because the first time we played we ran out of spaces before the end of an early round, thus one or two players lost actions, which he hated. Lastly, we have played Catan essentially without the Robber for years. We place it in the desert, but when a 7 is rolled we usually just move it to an unoccupied hex. Gods forbid we should steal from someone. Thankfully, I have found other people to play heavier and fightier games with.
I think I have wandered off-track a bit… styles of play… styles of play… how we play… Maybe we are each in our own little worlds of how games should be played, and everything else is foreign territory? I like to win. I play to win. Does that make me seem like an ass? I do not believe I am a sore loser. I am not happy about losing, but I do perceive it as a lesson in the game, something to help me figure out how to win later. Take my aforementioned friend. He has not yet won a game of Clans of Caledonia, and he has so far decided not to play it again. I, on the other hand, have not yet won a game of Tigris & Euphrates, but rather than be disheartened I am more determined to play the game, to figure it out, to one day win.
I am not strictly adhered to winning, however. Occasionally I make forays into what I call an exploratory style of playing boardgames. Every so often some strange tactic will pop to mind, "Huh, I wonder how the game will go if I do this?" That is not a winning strategy, to be sure, but it lets me explore how the game functions, allowing me to pursue my motivational desire for mastery, and sometimes it is just plain fun. Sometimes (rarely) I do play just for fun. I have, in fact, played a game without the intention of winning. I played Tokaido once with the sole intent of collecting all of the panels of art, to complete the three pictures.
Usually, though, I am not necessarily playing to have fun. This might surprise some of you. In all of the various discussion forums concerning why people play boardgames, I have often read answers like, "To have fun, obviously!" The thing is, were you to pause any given game that I might be playing with friends and you were to ask me if I was having fun, I would reflexively answer, "Yes," but if you were to ask again, to insist that I seriously consider the question, "Are you having fun?" then my answer would have to be "No." I do not really play games to have fun; I play to win. I play for the satisfaction of winning, or at least learning how I might eventually win.
Why we play games affects our choices of which games we play and also how we play them.
To give a more detailed answer to the point of this journal entry, to my question here, I suppose I shall have to purchase the Euroninja microbadge, . I play to win and win big, but, if I consider how I usually play the games I play, I believe I usually try to acquire a dominating lead without anyone noticing what I am doing. That probably is why I like I, Spy so much; the whole point of the game is to sneak your way to victory.
So, dear readers, why do you play boardgames? More importantly, how do you play them? What is your preferred style of play? Friendship or conquest? Goofing off or serious business? Win big or win by a hair? Sneak past or crush your enemies before you? Tell me your stories.
Alan, "Son of Hett"
"Ha! I told you so! I told you this game existed. I am not crazy!"
Thus ended a years-long struggle to find a game. Hold on, folks, this is a bit of a ride.
Some years ago, around 2014, Amanda came home one day with a box of some card game called Magic: the Gathering. Maybe you have heard of it? Her primary school students were playing it, so she thought she should take a closer look at the game. We had a dalliance with the game for a couple of years, but I finally came to my senses, realizing what a money pit it is. But that is not the story.
One day early in our playing of M:tG, I suddenly took greater notice of the game mechanics; something about "First Strike" jumped out at me. A long-faded memory squeezed its way up to my consciousness. The mechanic seemed familiar; the entire game started to seem familiar.
"I think I played the precursor to this when I was a kid."
My wife thought for a moment. "I don't think so. I am pretty sure this game came out in the 1990s."
Later, I searched the Web for the history of M:tG. My wife was correct; it appeared in 1993, some years after my mid-1980s memory. Still, I continued to search; perhaps the game I remembered was an inspiration for it. My research turned up nothing. I swore to my wife that my friend Scott and I had played something similar as teens, an array of small cards on either side of the table, our tiny "armies" of fantasy, AD&D-like characters with attack and defense abilities, some with ranged weapons that could strike first and potentially avoid a counterattack. It was cheaply made, cut out of cardstock. I thought perhaps it came out of a relevant magazine of the era (we were always playing AD&D and bought the magazines to match).
We asked my friend about it. He had no recollection of us playing such a game. Oh! for bleeping bleep bleep! My wife looked at me incredulously. Thus began the next several years of me periodically repeating the process — search for this game from my memory, find nothing, swear to my wife that this game existed and came before M:tG, and my wife shaking her head at me like I was a crazy person.
The years went by. Last year I finally discovered BoardGameGeek. I started thinking again of the game from that one summer of my high school years.
Then last week I was reading a discussion forum here. Someone else was trying to identify a game from memory. Another member recommended asking on the Board & Card Games section of Stack Exchange; supposedly the users there have an excellent collective memory and respond quickly. I thought it was worth a try for my own search, so off I went to ask my question.
One summer back in the mid-1980s, a friend and I played a simple, fantasy, tabletop, war game. I barely remember it, but I am hoping someone else knows it. I am not positive, but I believe it came out of a magazine of the time, like, what? Dragon or White Dwarf magazine. It seemed cut out. We each arrayed an "army" of cut-out cards, each representing some kind of high fantasy figure, having a cartoon-ish image on it and numbers corresponding to attack and defense bonuses or somesuch. The only one that I vaguely recall was either an Elf or a Ranger, which I only recall because it was labelled as having range, meaning it attacked first in the order of operations.
One of us would declare something like "My Elf attacks your Orc!" and we would roll dice, adding each card's various bonuses and whatnot, to determine the victor of that battle. Again, the ranged characters stand out in my memory because I remember that, having the power to strike first, if they inflicted sufficient damage to kill the opponent, then no return damage was dealt to them.
Then Lo! and Behold! within a day I received an answer.
This sounds like King of the Tabletop
to me, published in issue 77 of Dragon Magazine. I played it many times as a teen.
I hit the link to the game entry page back here on BoardGameGeek. I went to the Images tab and began to examine the very few pictures.
"No. No, this does not look quite right," I thought to myself. "The cut-out cards were larger; these are so tiny. What are these land cards? I do not remember land cards. Or player mats. Hmmmm. The cartoon characters seem about right, but it just is not—"
And then I saw them, in the middle of the second sheet: the Arch Mage, the Elf Lord, Guilliame Tell. Yes! The trickle of memory became a flood. The years had distorted my memory of the colors and sizes of the counters, but Yes! This is the game! I remember now! The yellow, numbered tokens: we had to buy our tiny armies. And the treasures and the magic items on the first sheet. And the green of those other counters: that is the color I remembered the Elf Lord being; I must have conflated the two. I remember it now! Yes! I have found it at last!
Immediately I went to the Market tab. There was a single listing, described as "Complete and in excellent condition. Counters are uncut. Magazine not included." $14.95+shipping. I must have it! So I sent a Geekmail to the seller. We ended up having a brief discussion through Geekmail, and I am glad to announce that the game is on its way to me now. I am so excited! It is not a great game, obviously, but it is a relic from the halcyon summers of my dungeon-crawling youth.
I have been out of touch with that childhood friend of mine. I should reach out and use King of the Tabletop as a conversation-starter, see if it jogs his memory. Thinking back, we did not play the game correctly. It makes sense. We did not start hanging out regularly until a year or two after the publication of Dragon #77. He must have lost or forgotten parts of it, and one day just brought out what he had for us to play as best he could remember it. Then in the next years we departed for university, and daily life swept us up in its momentum. Years became decades. I nearly lost this little gem to the fog of time. Like any good story, though, perseverance and luck bring the vindicated heroes out of the dark woods and back home again, to drink at the tavern and play games with friends.
And the best part?
I got to tell my wife I was right all along.
So, dear readers, what nearly lost games, toys, or whatever have you heroically recovered from your youth? Or are you still on the quest?
Alan, "Son of Hett"
(cross-posted in the Recommendations forum (for more responses (I hope);
but still making this journal entry because it is an interesting topic))
The story goes like so: late last year, soon after joining BGG, I was thinking about bluffing/deduction games, having played the likes of The Resistance and BANG!. Way back in the 1990s, I worked as an
interrogator translator in Military Intelligence for the US Army. Those two thoughts made me wonder, and search for, what sort of spy games exist. I discovered Covert, which seems cool and which I want to get someday soon, but is only superficially a spy game. Then I discovered I, Spy and its hidden roles, bluffing/deduction, and influence-peddling. It is a terribly underappreciated game that I greatly enjoy.
Ah! but that is not quite what I want to discuss or ask. No, what also interests me about I, Spy is all of the biographical information
in the game. Well, the designers did not include all that in the box, so a fan created a file to download and print. Nonetheless, all of the characters in the game are real historical figures. Similarly, Liberté, concerning the French Revolution, involves the maneuverings of various historical persons and groups. Again, the game lacked biographical information, so a fan created a file for that (there is an older, shorter one, too). Tierra y Libertad: The Mexican Revolution Game (and the Second Edition) also is chock full of historical characters. I do not know, however, if the game includes biographies or not; no file exists yet here on the site. (Edit: see the designer's comment below)
Although not quite the same thing, the rulebook for Twilight Struggle contains 11 pages of historical information relevant to the action cards. (Edit: Actually, that is the same thing as what I mentioned above, and am looking for, because the action cards are played in the game and depict the events; having to read the appendix in the rulebook is just an extra step. (see my comment below)) Also, a quick search of the forums tells me that the rulebook for Here I Stand is quite informative.
It seems to me that one could spend as much time or longer reading about the personages or histories of these games as one would playing them. More to the point, these games seem to contain a multitude of finer points. Take I, Spy, for example; most of us probably are familiar with the grander names of WWI, such as Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Wilhelm II, King George V, and such, and even Mata Hari. However, the game includes 39 tiles of political figures, plus an additional 6 represented in the various capitals on the board. So far, game sessions have consisted of a repeated "Who was that?". I like the idea of games being full of history (or at least presenting something that a fan of the game can work with to create an informative file), rather than simply being about the history. That is a fine line to distinguish, probably; we can hash it out in the comments.
So, dear readers, what other games out there are jam-packed with historical figures and stories?
Alan, "Son of Hett"
Shameless Plug Ahead!(Okay, I am just going to post this and hope it is allowed.)https://www.gameunplugged.com/Make the most of your gaming by playing the right game, with the right players, at the right time and location!
Game Unplugged is a new app for finding or scheduling playing sessions for specific games. It is not perfect, but you should download it anyway, because I need to be able to easily find other people to play certain boardgames with. The app is still in early days, so the designers are looking for user feedback. Go check it out and tell them what you think of it or what you think it needs or what needs fixing. The more people that know about it, the more useful it will become.
After some months of struggling, I have finally found some local groups of boardgamers. There are groups on the Faceplace and Meetup, and the local game stores have boardgame nights. However, all of this activity still leaves one problem. Those nights usually happen in the format of "show up and see (or hope for) what gets played". Sometimes, nay often, I want to play a particular game, that perhaps no one else at the time is interested in. Or perhaps it is the scheduling. What if I want to play something between the usual dates of every third Saturday and Second Tuesdays? Hopefully this app will fix that.
Alan, "Son of Hett"
¹ white, male, (educated, (and financially stable)) …mostly.
Forgive me; this is not going to be as articulate as I want it to be. I am merely throwing thoughts at the keyboard.
Recent events have forced me to once again realize a reality of my hobby interests, that reality being money. It seems the things I enjoy doing most always end up being expensive. "Expensive" is relative, I know, so let us just leave it at "expensive relative to me (and my wife)". I always find cool things to do that ultimately cost beyond our means, like rally racing, swordfighting, or blacksmithing …or collecting boardgames.
My wife and I do not have children, and we are happy with that. Instead, cats keep finding their ways to us and we keep adopting them. The one in these photographs is Amira (which is Arabic for "princess"). She is missing a leg, which had to be amputated when she was young, but that has not slowed her down even a little. She is nearly 13 years of age now.
Earlier this week we had to rush her to the emergency veterinary hospital. She is home now and getting better, but the bill was far more than we could ever afford; thankfully, we have kind and generous friends who swooped in like superheros to save us.
The end result, however, is that we will not be buying any more boardgames for the forseeable future. This is okay. We recently acquired several that we have played only a few times or not at all — a few of which are Spirit Island, Twilight Struggle, Princes of the Renaissance, and Vinci — and we have found our local community of boardgamers who all have their own well-stocked libraries. I believe we are set for playing games for a while.
I was forced to remember, however, that this hobby, like most, is a luxury. At the beginning of my "Growing Up Gameless" journal entry, I mentioned researching why people play boardgames. A significant aspect of that question is also knowing who plays boardgames. As the title of this post alludes, most of the discussion has centered on race or sex and gender. I agree with those assessments, and I am glad the discussions are happening, but I believe that sometimes the broader topic of class is overlooked in those discussions (class disparity often can explain, historically, the racial disparity)(and not just on the topic of boardgames).
typical results for an image search of "boardgame people";
a similar cross-section of people appears in image searches
for "essen spiel" or "gencon".
Some of you, dear readers, might have taken part in the 2018 survey "Why do you play boardgames? Contribute to PhD research on boardgames!" I Geekmailed the creator of that thread, Joe, and he was kind enough to send me his preliminary work. Except for one data point (people who want immersion seek acting mechanics in games) it is not conclusive, but it is indicative of our motivations in boardgaming; it was a fascinating read. I want to point out the demographic data, specifically those concerning education. I wish questions about income had been asked, but I suppose generalizations can be inferred.
Wasserman, Joe A. and Weiss, Julia K. 'Development and Validation of the Boardgaming Motivations Scale (DRAFT)'. West Virginia University and The University of Virginia's College at Wise; 2018. (p.19) wrote:
participants (N = 652) were on average 28.32 years old (SD = 10.15). Of those who reported gender (n = 642), most identified as male (n = 402, 62.62%), followed by female (n = 229, 35.67%) and nonbinary (n = 11, 1.71%). Of those who reported race (n = 599), most identified as White (n = 490, 81.80%), followed by Asian (n = 52, 8.68%). Of those who reported education (n = 639), most held at least a four-year degree (n = 332, 51.96%), followed by some college (n = 131, 20.51%) and high school (n = 108, 16.90%). Of those who reported country of residence (n = 639), a plurality lived in Europe outside of the UK (n = 275, 43.04%), followed by the United States (n = 166, 25.98%). Participants had played boardgames for on average 11.81 years (SD = 10.12)
I cannot help but think of the guy I once met who had a collection of Magic: the Gathering cards valued in the tens of thousands of dollars. A quick browse of Owned games here on BGG reveals people with libraries numbered in the hundreds and even thousands of games; at maybe an average of $40 per game (maybe?), well, you do the maths.
Another possible point of investigation just occurred to me: BGG microbadges under the Profession heading. I know, it is a self-selected subset (members with microbadges) of another self-selected subset (members of BGG), but the information probably is telling. At a glance, most choices appear to be so-called white-collar.
Ah, but now I am merely rambling on, and surely this is no revelation to anyone. We all probably have heard the stories about people at lower income levels having to make difficult choices; the option of "wasting" money on a game is, well, not an option. Although, perhaps that scope, of individual or class purchasing ability, is too narrow. The choice not to become involved with such "frivolities" might be a cultural or national matter, one of time or place.
Back in the comments on my aforementioned journal entry, member S. Mileta shared his personal story and it really caught my attention. Here is most of it (with my highlighting added):
Although sometimes demanding and stiff, my father was all-present in my childhood and played a lot of games with me (meaning lot of Monopoly, Prince of Persia and Grand Prix Circuit). Nowadays however my hobby is the strongest estranging factor between us. It is perceived as regression to childhood, escapism, turning away from "life-goals" or worse. And no matter how hard I tried to shatter his preconceptions of gaming I failed miserably every time. I cannot even mention it during small talks and obviously that is crippling since gaming has been a big part of my life for the past seven or so years. It certainly doesn't help that many years ago he befriended one of the pioneers of Yugoslav game design who was a recluse that also took part in miniature hobby and ultimately divorced their common friend. But nevertheless, being high-educated, open minded (for a guy born in the Balkans in the 1950s), himself interested in various hobbies and even close to social groups (namely early programmers) that carried the torch of proto-gaming (tabletop and video) in our country, I cannot fathom why is he so completely dismissive of board games.
My late grandfather from father's side was enthusiastic about railroad toys and translating (on the typewriter) rulebooks of early German board games smuggled through customs in our country, but there was always some sort of rift between them. Maybe therein lies the reason...
Be it as it may, I'm still puzzled that father (and mother for that matter) does not want to remember many joyous gaming nights that we had back in the day (over terrible games of course) as something positive and much prefers to endlessly discuss same old politics again and again. It may have something to do with general well-being of a nation that struggles and "doesn't have time for childish play" when surviving is at stake. I envy Germany where I saw gaming being real family affair and not just geek-niche. I saw grannies and grandsons picking together through heavy euros at Essen... image that will stay with me forever.
Adam Deverell soon commented with his own reflection on those words:
I can definitely see where his attitude is coming from. A friend of mine is married to a woman from Eritrea who came to Australia as a refugee. She cannot understand gaming as a leisure activity, and especially incredulous about conventions and all day games!
I also remember seeing board gaming featured prominently on "stuff white people like" sites and books! Something that only the educated, white leisure class has time for.
In one country, the ordeals of history leave many resistant to "childish play". The visitor to another country sees the effects of history being far enough behind and the national wealth great enough to see "grannies and grandsons picking together through heavy euros". But then again, I would wager that there are many German laborers for whom the idea of playing boardgames is just as foreign to them as to the immigrant from Eritrea, just as there are in Australia, Japan, Mexico, the United States, and so on the world over. Some (most) people just do not have the luxury of tossing money at bits of cardboard to play with in their nonexistent free time.
Really that is the sum of this long, blathering post. Some of us are lucky to live in countries that have boardgame cafés and conventions, lucky to have the leisure to spend time in such places, lucky to have the livelihood to amass a wall of bits of cardboard to play with.
But do not misunderstand me. I am not saying it is bad or good; it simply is what it is. The working classes or the less well-off are not missing out on enjoyment of life; they find it in different ways. Maybe they play simpler games, like Dominoes or Hearts, or maybe they go to the pub or to futbol matches. And I do not expect us to give up our collections of cardboard in some sense of solidarity. I do believe that it is something we should be aware of, something to bear in mind every once in a while. And, yes, in a perfect world we would all (be able to) share in this hobby. Do I think boardgames will save the world? No, of course not, but common ground helps to placate the ills of the world. I have forgotten where I read it (even though I read it just today), but somewhere there is a quotation from Wil Wheaton describing that very idea as his motivation for bringing boardgames to people.
Okay, I have been typing for far too long, and I probably have forgotten half of what I wanted to say along the way, and I am long overdue for snuggling with my convalescing kitty, so I will shut up now.
Just remember the luck you have and what a time to be alive! Sometimes I get annoyed by all the Kickstarter boardgames, but then I think wow! that there is even enough demand for it all, and just look at all the choices we have. Just look at all that fun! That wall of luxurious cardboard!
P.S.— If anyone wants to send me suggestions for newbies playing Twilight Struggle or Spirit Island, my wife and I would much appreciate it. Thanks!
Alan, "Son of Hett"
A couple of weeks ago, Amanda & I went to a stranger's house to play boardgames with even more strangers. The host has a standing invitation in groups on several websites, so it is okay, we did not just crash someone's party, ha! We had a great time, and at the end of the evening our host mentioned the Whose Turn Is It Anyway? boardgaming convention. We had no idea what he was talking about, so then he extended yet another invitation to us!
Well, last weekend we attended the convention. It was quite an experience, but I am not here to talk about the convention itself. Instead I want to discuss some of the games I played there. I knew there would be a ton of games available, so I made a point to find copies of certain games on my Wishlist, in order to try them out.
Some games you just have a gut feeling about; you know for certain that you will love the game, so you just buy it. I knew from the first time I read about them that I was going to love Tigris & Euphrates and Twilight Struggle, and I know for certain that I will love my first game of Concordia this weekend. But some games you want to test drive first, just to be sure.
The thing is, we all build mental ideas of what our desired games are about or how they will play. If we read enough about the game or watch playthrough videos, then generally we gain a fairly accurate mental model. But if your wishlist is long, then getting to know those games requires significant research, which I wager most of us do not do. We have an idea of a game. We want the game. We go buy the game. And hopefully all goes well. But maybe there are blind spots in the mental models. You get a chance to play the game and "Wait. What? What is this?". Hopefully all goes well anyway.
So the good news is that late on the first day of the convention I had a chance to play Kemet. It was exactly as I imagined it would be. It was fast! It was fighty! It was epic! It was- Wait, did I say fast? Huh. That is a bit surprising, well, for me anyway. I get stuck in my decision cycle often — you know, analysis paralysis (AP) — and not just in boardgames; too many choices at the grocery store will leave me staring at the shelves for minutes on end. So upon seeing up close and realizing just how many battle cards and power cards and action choices there were in the game made me think, "Crap. These guys are going to hate me. Every turn will be agonizing while I try to figure out what to do." And that is exactly how it did not go. I have no idea what it is about Kemet, but I had very little problem making choices in the game. "What does this tile do? … Sounds good; I want it. /later/ And now I am going to attack you!" So I am definitely going to buy this game. My wife will love kicking my butt at it.
Then there was Samurai. I knew that it played very differently from Tigris & Euphrates, but as a tile laying, area control game I imagined it would plod along while everyone contemplated their optimal moves. I did not know beforehand that the board was modular for scaling to the number of players, nor did I know that the players get only 20 tiles each (in T&E there are 57 red tiles alone). So I planned to settle in for a cozy game of think-about-it, but after some more turns I said, "This game is going to be done soon, isn't it?" Again, though, I was pleasantly surprised. So now I have moved Samurai from "I will think about getting it someday, because I already have T&E" to "I must have this game!".
Lastly there is Hansa Teutonica. When I first joined BGG and began searching for games, this one soon caught my attention. I was looking for medieval to renaissance merchant or economic games. I added it to my Wishlist, along with Merchants of the Middle Ages, Medieval Merchant, Hansa, and Merkator. And there I left it. Occasionally it popped into view again; I read several laudatory reviews about its merits, thus it always remained in the back of my mind. So when I realized I could play a game of it at the convention I jumped at the chance.
I should have watched some videos or read more about it. Hansa Teutonica is not a merchant game. Looking at the game entry page the obvious reaction to that statement is, "Well, duh." I think I got so stuck on the theme of trading houses that I simply overlooked that there is no trading in the game, just shuffling workers to and fro to gain position to gain points. The joke is on me, and I am the fool who played it on himself. Still, I do not dislike the game. It is an elegant game, and I probably will buy it. But for the moment I feel betrayed (by my own stupidity), so I shall have to ignore it until the disappointment wears off and I can approach the game again with a fresh perspective.
So, dear readers, what are your stories of some of the games that you had ideas about which did not turn out quite as you expected?
Alan, "Son of Hett"
Bear with me; this is personal, but it is relevant to all of us players of games.
A few weeks ago I searched the forums for reasons why people play games. In one discussion, a particular comment stood out to me:
Because my dad was really strict, and would rarely buy me things which he considers as childish indulgences. Now that I have my own discretionary budgets, and have grown weary of spending on Steam games I'd never play, I'm spending impulsively to fill that gaping childhood void.
Note to parents: Don't discourage children's sense of longing and wonder. If you just tell them NO their entire young lives, they grow up into adults who impulsively buy those things. Or do other stupid things which seek to fill that deep hole... like shoot elephants or something.
I still remember that little red magic rubber man which moves around on the ground on its own... My dad just said it's a con, and wouldn't buy me one from that street-side magician hawker... How much would that have cost? I could have become a magician...
I sometimes think of my own, estranged father. He, too, was strict and humorless. And efficient. I should clarify. The title of this entry is a little misleading. Some games were permitted in the house. My sister and I played the boardgames of the era, and I remember our family playing cards with another family. However, my father did not play boardgames, and I suspect, in hindsight, that my father socialized with that other family only as an intra-office socio-political move (the other father worked at the same company). Furthermore, my parents fell victim to the sensational news of the time, so my father banned AD&D from the house. He even tossed in the garbage my full collection of gaming materials — maps, character sheets, notes, and any books I did not have stashed at a friend's house … everything, things I miss to this day, decades later.
I wonder what he would think of boardgames today, with their popularity and progression from (mostly) simplistic, family-oriented games of the past to complex, mainly-for-adults games of this era. Probably, he would see them still as childish endeavors, as a waste of time. That was how he was: efficient. Looking back to my childhood, I cannot think of anyone who I might describe as a friend of my father; there was work, and there was family, and sometimes there was entertainment as an escape from one or the other.
Tonight my wife and I went to one of our local games stores and began teaching ourselves how to play Twilight Struggle. We have been playing boardgames (and role-playing games) with friends on a regular basis for about ten years. A few tables away from us was a group playing other boardgames (I think they began with Kemet); they meet every week. The people at the table behind us were playing a session of Pathfinder. Across the room were miniatures gamers. Of course there were also tables of Magic: the Gathering. And this coming weekend my wife and I with some friends will pass the time at Whose Turn Is It Anyway? boardgaming convention. Oh, and let us not forget video games; my wife loves video games. She and a friend bonded over Borderlands 2.
All of that would be unacceptable to my father, but he is a soulless man with no friends, whereas we gamers meet every month, every week, or every day to enrich our lives with the company of each other and the joy or endeavor of our games. My father is a successful man, and I often wish that I had his wealth. However, if the choice were between a shortage of funds in the company of friends playing games, or wealth and lonliness, then I believe the obvious choice is the empty wallet but a full heart.
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