Matching Shirts Hot

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SagrilarusSagrilarus   October 12, 2015  
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  “Matching shirts.”

                Years back I spoke those words to the commissioner of softball for my kids’ local youth athletics organization.  The organization had been merging smaller local athletics programs for the previous three or four years, growing in size and complexity because a big organization “is more suitable to building players for the High School teams.”  When I indicated I didn’t really give a damn about the High School teams the commissioner was simply beside himself.  He thought I was either stupid or crazy, and when he finally asked me what level of organization I thought was best for the kids, I answered with the two words above.  Give them a coach maybe, give them a decent field, give them matching shirts.  Play.


 

       As I thought about the encounter in the following days I realized that “matching shirts” is a solid metaphor for my approach to other things in my life, including hobby gaming.  It came to the surface again this week with Matt’s article on X-Wing Wave 7 and the discussion that followed, where it became very apparent to me how much more complicated X-Wing is than its predecessor, Wings of Glory, a game that I’ve spent in excess of $400 on at this point.  The two games are similar, but one thing X-Wing is not is a “Matching Shirts” kind of game.  X-Wing’s strength comes from its team-build component, the focus on creating a fleet prior to playing with careful combinations of ships, pilots and special abilities in order to excel at the game.  If you don’t prepare ahead of time, you’re not going to do well, because that preparation is part and parcel of the game.  The actual flight is almost a falling action in the plot.  And if you don't buy certain components you'll have trouble competing.  With Wings of Glory you don't HAVE to buy components, you just WANT to.  It's a different vibe to me.

        The market has spoken – most gamers like the X-Wing kind of thing.  And virtually every big, highly-managed sports league for kids in the United States is wildly successful as well, with parents fighting hard to get their kids extra play-time in the game each week.  Clinics, videos, sports camps are all part and parcel of the sporting experience.

        But that’s not my thing personally.  Along with my 40 new airplanes came both Wings of Glory official rulebooks (I’ve been using my original Wings of War rulebooks until now, as nothing but a few wording clarifications have changed).  With a well-stocked set of Pacific Theater airplanes and a new game store opening four miles away in a major-league Navy town I wanted to be fully versed on the altitude and special rules that are in the back-half of the WofG books, so I sat down for a read.  Ten minutes later I closed the books smiling, fully up to speed on what may be the most straightforward set of advanced rules I’ve ever read.  Intuitively implemented, the altitude, ace and tailing rules are virtually identical in both games, and very simple to understand and play with.  A fine use of the money I’ve spent, it’s an interesting game whose simplicity means it can be picked up on short notice and played with wild abandon.

        Looking at X-Wing I’m almost intimidated by the idea of playing with experienced players, knowing that I’ll be a fifth wheel.  Most players are incredibly nice about it so I have no complaints, but it’s still negative pressure on me playing the game.  My best bet would be to find another group of noobs, players with the two or three sessions worth of experience that I have and learn alongside them together.

        But short of being in a position where X-Wing is the only game in town I’m likely going to roll with my Wings of Glory instead.  I’ll be having a monthly Wings night at “my” new store, and X-Wing will almost assuredly appear in someone else’s bag.  And that will be fine.  I’ll even consider sitting in on a session if it’s a new group.  But for true team gaming there’s nothing quite as easy and as good as pulling out a bunch of planes on short notice, splitting into two teams with old friends or new, and being in the air not five minutes later.  It’s just my kind of gaming.

                   S.

Posted: 12 Oct 2015 10:33 by edulis #212316
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I agree that list planning in important in X-wing, but my favorite thing about is that the play matters. It is not just putting your collection on the table and tossing dice, tactics matter way more than list building.
Posted: 12 Oct 2015 11:15 by Black Barney #212320
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The thumbnail is driving my OCD crazy
Posted: 12 Oct 2015 11:17 by Gary Sax #212321
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Unrelated to your gaming philosophy (which I totally agree with but don't always practice)... it's funny because studies show that grinding your kids up in super concentrated single sport activity *doesn't* increase the likelihood of that child being better at sports later in life. In fact, the scattershot cross-training, many sports casually thing is actually a better way to maximize their athletic talents later on if that's what you want for your kid.

You'd never know that based on the number of dads putting their 5 year old kids in pads year-round with the NFL in their eyes.
Posted: 12 Oct 2015 19:19 by Hex Sinister #212348
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X-Wing’s strength comes from its team-build component, the focus on creating a fleet prior to playing with careful combinations of ships, pilots and special abilities in order to excel at the game. If you don’t prepare ahead of time, you’re not going to do well, because that preparation is part and parcel of the game. The actual flight is almost a falling action in the plot. And if you don't buy certain components you'll have trouble competing.
I dig what you are saying but don't forget to take into account the great number of casual players out there, such as myself. The people who have no freaking idea what the current "meta" in X-Wing is and don't particularly care. The folks who just slop some shit together right before the game (usually to try out the new stuff) and bang it out. A crappy build vs. another equally crappy build is just as much fun as best vs. best really. There IS more to the hobby than the hard core tournament scene which the internet or FLGS might make you believe otherwise. Nobody has to play like that or get involved on that level to enjoy the game. But that option is there if you want it. I'm sure it's not too hard to find others with a more "fly casual" approach.

Regarding card-chasing etc... yeah that may be a hurdle for competitive players but outside of that it's just completionist mentality speaking IMO. FFG's distribution of upgrade cards is something that's definitely up for discussion but perhaps not here. What I'm getting at is that there is this perception out there that if you're not using all the upgrade cards available you're not playing the game right or something. The fact is, you can field X pts. of stock ships and it works just fine. The game is 100% season to taste. What you need to bring to the table is people of the same mind-set.
Posted: 13 Oct 2015 09:12 by VonTush #212366
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The "matching shirts" concept is what I've been applying to my game shelves for a few years now as I weed through and tighten them up. I call them Pull-N-Play games. Barnes was calling it the ERP. With my gaming habits and lifestyle, there's only room for a handful of games that demand more engagement than just sitting there ready to play when the moment is right.

But I will keep a handful around to give me something to do to engage my hobby outside of the tabletop. X-Wing is one as well as the Attack Wing games...Those also happen to be easy game for me to find an opponent to play against. But, I'll also keep a nice stock of Wings of Glory around because of the Pull-N-Play traits of the game and just how well it scales players and complexity. It really does fill a niche and is under appreciated for what it does.
Posted: 13 Oct 2015 13:36 by Mr. White #212383
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Gary Sax wrote:
Unrelated to your gaming philosophy (which I totally agree with but don't always practice)... it's funny because studies show that grinding your kids up in super concentrated single sport activity does increase your likelihood of that child being better at sports later in life. In fact, the scattershot cross-training, many sports casually thing is actually a better way to "maximize" their athletic talents when they're older.

You'd never know that based on the number of dads putting their 5 year old kids in pads year-round with the NFL in their eyes.

Is there a typo here? I'm having a hard time parsing this.
It reads as if reports show it is good to go all-in, all-the-time while young, then diversify when older. Yet the last sentence shows bewilderment that kids are in pads year round...which would match the all-in, all-the-time.

I feel like I'm missing something.

Whatever the case, we've pulled our son out of sports teams. He's 8 and has done three seasons of soccer and two of baseball. It was enough. He liked it ok, wasn't super competitive but likes the joint experience of a team, but all the scheduling, dealing with other family/team drama, etc just wore us down. We've now got a lot more free time and everyone seems happier. I still exercise the kids routinely (in fact my son just took 1st in a 3k race this past weekend and we completed our first 8 mile mountain bike loop), but these are things we can not only do on our time but as a family as a whole. It's not my wife, my daughter, and myself watching from the stands. We all run, bike, or swim together. The kids love it. He's in Cub Scouts at the moment for team building.

EDIT: I'm not knocking team sports. They just didn't work for the lifestyle we're shooting for.
Posted: 13 Oct 2015 13:56 by SuperflyTNT #212384
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I love your writing, Sag.
Posted: 13 Oct 2015 14:20 by sagrilarus #212385
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Thanks for the kind words folks!

If organized sports isn't working for you look into www.i9sports.com. I have two boys in their program and they love it. Two hours on Saturdays and I don't have to sell candy. The local franchise is up over a thousand kids now, a testament to how badly the local sports leagues are failing.

S.
Posted: 14 Oct 2015 07:02 by jgriff #212420
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I don't think the X-Wing vs Wings of War thing is as simple as the games themselves. It's a reflection of the store tournament scene. You could play X-Wing with a handful of pre-selected teams or just grabbing some cool stuff until you're about the same point level as your opponent. It's a reflection of the people playing the game and their purpose in playing. I really enjoy the Star Trek Attack Wing rules and the crew cards but I wouldn't dream of playing in an organized tournament because the min-maxing ruins the game for me.

It reminds me alot of Magic the Gathering. The tournament scene and generally anyone playing in the stores are trying to play with cutthroat efficiency. But the game can be played for pennies with a casual approach. One is not better than the other, it's just whether everyone is on the same page.

But yes, I could tell you that X-Wing would soon dominate WoW in the store space because the license is cool and WW2 isn't the same draw for a younger set. Add in the "my list is better than yours" one-upmanship of X-Wing and it's clear that it lends itself to more success in store tourneys.

As I can reflect on a few decades in boardgaming, I no longer care as much about the game itself and more about the players. If everyone is approaching the game in the same manner as I am, then I'm going to have fun.
Posted: 14 Oct 2015 09:56 by Gary Sax #212424
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Mr. White wrote:
Gary Sax wrote:
Unrelated to your gaming philosophy (which I totally agree with but don't always practice)... it's funny because studies show that grinding your kids up in super concentrated single sport activity does increase your likelihood of that child being better at sports later in life. In fact, the scattershot cross-training, many sports casually thing is actually a better way to "maximize" their athletic talents when they're older.

You'd never know that based on the number of dads putting their 5 year old kids in pads year-round with the NFL in their eyes.

Is there a typo here? I'm having a hard time parsing this.
It reads as if reports show it is good to go all-in, all-the-time while young, then diversify when older. Yet the last sentence shows bewilderment that kids are in pads year round...which would match the all-in, all-the-time.

I feel like I'm missing something.

Whatever the case, we've pulled our son out of sports teams. He's 8 and has done three seasons of soccer and two of baseball. It was enough. He liked it ok, wasn't super competitive but likes the joint experience of a team, but all the scheduling, dealing with other family/team drama, etc just wore us down. We've now got a lot more free time and everyone seems happier. I still exercise the kids routinely (in fact my son just took 1st in a 3k race this past weekend and we completed our first 8 mile mountain bike loop), but these are things we can not only do on our time but as a family as a whole. It's not my wife, my daughter, and myself watching from the stands. We all run, bike, or swim together. The kids love it. He's in Cub Scouts at the moment for team building.

EDIT: I'm not knocking team sports. They just didn't work for the lifestyle we're shooting for.

Haha! KEY TYPO FAIL. I edited. Yeah, basically hard core single sport doesn't improve your ability later at a sport.
Posted: 14 Oct 2015 10:06 by SuperflyTNT #212426
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I totally agree, Gary. When I was a kid I played soccer and football, which led to me being better at rugby, basketball, and volleyball later in life. If I only played one sport, likely soccer, I don't know that I'd have been as good at the other sports.

I think that's the summation of life, though: If you specialize in one thing, you become Big Bang Theory's Sheldon: Great at ONE THING and wholly inept in a sea of others. The more experiences you have, the more you grow as a person and the more well-rounded you are.
Posted: 17 Oct 2015 22:53 by engineer Al #212675
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Super article SAG. Thanks!

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