I'm Not Dead Hot

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Egg ShenEgg Shen   February 06, 2017  
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I'm done writing boardgame reviews.  I know people like hearing about the latest games, but it was never really what I set out to achieve here at the Fort.  My initial vision was to write articles about various different boardgaming topics...and occasionally review something random/obscure that wasn't getting proper exposure.  So I'd like to get back to that, and this article is my first step towards that original direction.  Basically, I'm going to go over where I'm at as a person roughly 12 years into this hobby.  

 

The Great Purge of 2017

 

The first thing that I realized and needed to change was the simple fact that I own too many games. I own a stupid amount of games.  I don't play roughly 75% of them.  A few months ago I (mostly) stopped buying new games and started selling off the useless chaff of my collection.  So far I've managed to remove some 20+ games from my shelves.  A cursory glance tells me that I've got at least another 20-30 games that can be sold.  If I look at the box and think, “Christ, I’m NEVER gonna get that to the table.” consider it terminated from the collection.  

 

Let me be clear that this isn't a shelf space thing or something dictated by my wife.  It also isn’t some “I’m holier than thou” because I don’t need a storage unit of games rant.  This all came about because I realized I don’t ever play my favorite games.  How utterly daft is that?  You have a hobby that you love, but you never actually play the games you completely adore?  How does that even happen?

 

You guys know exactly how it happens.  New exciting games would get purchased and I would gleefully tear through the rules and get them to the table.  Older games would get pushed aside because of this.  Pretty simple really.  Over time this led to a boardgaming malaise where I just wasn't excited by too much.  Reading up on the latest and greatest games made me realize that what I found exciting in the hobby didn't match up with the tastemakers.  At this point I know exactly the type of games I want and frankly I'm always more interested in weird, different, not exactly perfect designs.  Coming to gripes with this has made me much less frustrated with the hobby.

 

Re-centering My Boardgaming Qi

 

A big reason why my interest in games waned and I needed a “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” type experience was because I lost track of WHY I played boardgames.  It’s taken me years, but I think I've managed to figure out exactly what I want out of the hobby.  

 

When I open up a box, lay out the cardboard and plastic on the table I want to do one single, solitary thing.  Escape.  Not only escape, but become a part of the world set up before me.  It doesn’t matter if it's a Euro, hybrid, or Ameritrash game, if it’s good then the world around me will melt away.  I can happily get lost in the narrative of everyone’s actions.  The fury of combat, the planning of treachery untold, or bracing for inevitable doom.  Each game can offer something delicious and exciting that makes you forget you’re plopped squarely on a wooden chair in front of cardboard bits and plastic-y trinkets.

 

I think this says more about me as player than I initially realized.  Come closer and I'll let you in on a little secret.  I suck at boardgames.  I've finally figured out why.  It's not because I'm bad at strategy, tactics or planning.  It's because I tend to get too involved in the game with my imagination.  When I'm playing Lords of Waterdeep and I place an Agent at the tavern, I'm not simply collecting 2 black cubes.  Maybe that is all YOU’RE doing with that action.  But me?  In my mind I'm sending in a cloaked messenger to bribe two scoundrels to do my bidding.  They are but a tiny part in my laborious plot that I’m weaving in the shadows of Waterdeep.  In Mission: Red Planet when selecting the Saboteur role, I think about that evil son of a bitch twirling his mustache and taking sadistic pleasure in blowing up a rocket ship devoid of my astronauts.  I absolutely LIVE for these “theatre of the mind” moments.  If I'm unable to internally visualize the action/mechanics of a game I tend to get bored.  The catch is that this can really only occur when the rules have become second nature.  As you might have suspected by now, constantly learning new rules/games will over time make me sort of unhappy with the hobby. 

 

Entering Familiar Worlds

 

Another aspect of my “self reflection” in the hobby is taking the time to explore the worlds of the games I already own.  All of those Talisman expansions I snatched up when the FFG/GW split happened?  Yeah, I want to head back into that game for a slew of absurd, fantasy hi-jinks.  I’m in the process of putting together an Imperial Assault campaign with a few friends, because it’s a game that, frankly, I don’t get to play as often as I’d like.  These are the worlds I want to fully explore in two different ways.  With Talisman I want to taste all of the different flavors and variations that the expansions can offer.  With Imperial Assault it's the thrill and joy of actually devoting time to finishing a campaign with friends.  I want to play these games so often that they’re forever seared into my cerebral cortex like a favorite pop song.

 

 

Think about other mediums of entertainment for a moment.  Music, movies, TV shows, books and videogames are all things where you constantly revisit your favorites (or at least I do).  Why do favorite boardgames get constantly pushed aside for something new?  Is it because the hobby is more reliant on groups?  Are we in a proverbial “Golden Age” where so much amazing shit is coming out that we dare not miss ANY of it?  I’m not exactly sure, but I know that moving forward I want two things to happen:  1) Play my favorites more often.  2) When I play a new game, play the ever loving SHIT out of it before I move on to something else. 

 

As someone that needs to get lost in the false cardboard world set out before me I think these two simple choices will greatly enhance the joy I get out of the hobby. 

 

2017 and Beyond?

 

If you read this article and think that I'm being pessimistic, you couldn't be further from the truth.  I love boardgames more than ever.  For a person to evolve and question things in a hobby that they're deeply involved in is only natural.  Taking a step back to assess what I love most about the hobby has allowed me to embrace it even more.  I've come to fully appreciate the unique and impossible to replicate escapism that is only found in tabletop gaming.  The hobby looks a hell of alot different than it did back in the mid 2000s.   See exhibit A) Hamburgum 

 

 

There was a time when this type of shit was normal.  2007 Ladies and Gentlemen...what a time to be alive!

 

The boardgaming hobby has certainly grown and more than ever people are discovering the allure of plastic and cardboard.  I'm excited to see what games break new ground in 2017 and I'm looking forward to getting re-acquainted with many of my favorites.  Boardgames are a HUGE part of my life and I'm always humbled when they find new and surprising ways to make me appreciate them.  

Posted: 07 Feb 2017 07:43 by Rafael Silva #243590
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Hey Egg I like your views on gaming, please keep the articles coming. Can you expand on why and what games are you keeping?
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 08:17 by SuperflyTNT #243591
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I did the same thing. I sold off, gave away, and donated around 140 games. Bought some guitars, bought the kids some stuff, paid bills etc.

It's liberating.

Still don't play games like I want to (or guitar) but at least when I do get to, they're not bad.
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 09:07 by francisca #243593
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I need to purge as well. You're a better man than I!
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 09:28 by Jackwraith #243597
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Sweet. Sounds like a healthy transition. I did the same thing over the past year or two when I came to the same realization: I have too many and I don't play the ones I really like often enough. I picked up a copy of The Others (largely on your recommendation from the thread I started) and it was the first game I'd actually bought in 2 or 3 years. Everything else new that I've acquired have been trades and I've also sold off well over half my collection. My girlfriend and I just moved into a new house and we bought two sets of shelves for our combined collection of games... and then realized we only needed one set because mine had shrunk so much.

But I echo Rafael: don't stop writing, even if it's just game reports or a change in view of a game as it ages, because I appreciate your perspective, too.
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 09:39 by stoic #243598
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Pssst...[whispers in a low tone]...Egg Shen, hey, buddy [slowly opens a long trench coat], wanna buy some games? Just look at that cardboard [gently caressing an attractive cardboard box with his hands]...Make you a good deal...first one's free, even, 'on the house'...that's what friends are for, ya know? It keeps ya hands from shaking...I'll always be here when yoose needs me


shady_the_drug_dealer_by_tokkiko-d4xn9oh.jpg
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 10:52 by Gregarius #243602
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Great article! I wish you all the best in your quest for quality over quantity!
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 11:08 by hotseatgames #243603
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Dumping shelf toads is always a good feeling.
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 12:16 by Frohike #243606
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I'm going through something similar.

I'm also taking a step back from reading reviews, which I find is often the momentum that causes me to ride the CotN wave.

I don't think they're a disservice, certainly not from the contributors on this site. I've acquired excellent games because of some of those reviews... but many of these games also aren't getting played as much as I'd like and sometimes don't command my attention enough to make any firm plans to play them again.

I think it's a consequence of owning a large collection and an increasingly defined idea of what I'm looking for in a game; even small hiccups in newer games tend to make me set them aside and revisit older games that hit the same notes, maybe less elaborately, before the ongoing salvo of incremental designs started happening. It has the effect of a constant tide of reviews that implicitly, and understandably, value the new things that games are introducing, which are genuinely compelling, but whose purpose inevitably crashes against the bulwark of games I've already learned and continue to play, mostly because... they got there first.

The new aspects need to be that much more worthwhile and I'm learning that they are seldom worth it for me any more.

When newer games mostly distinguish themselves through incremental differences, they also damn themselves through those differences at times: little design missteps and flourishes with negligible payoff that make me think twice about taking the game off of the shelf when it's sitting next to something more classic and solid, or simply more enjoyable & already learned.
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 13:26 by Vlad #243612
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I'm going to add to the opinion "don't write game reviews, but don't stop writing about games". I enjoy reading your stuff, Egg, and I am sure you enjoy writing. Don't give it up, try to find a different focus.
This "new games fatigue" I think is something of a trend. This doesn't mean we're not interested in boardgaming, but simply that there're a LOT of games both out there and in our collections and we'd rather go deeper than broader.
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 14:58 by engineer Al #243616
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Great article Mike. Certainly made me think about my gaming habits. I think my main reasons for gaming are the same as yours. I love the escapism and the fantasy. This is why Talisman really hooked me way back in the 1980's "before time". It provided an instant and usually funny story that we could laugh about for days. Zippin' around between boards, attacking your friends, the feeling of fear and anticipation as you flip over an adventure card. Damn I love me some Talisman! LET"S PLAY TALISMAN!
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 15:38 by Black Barney #243624
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is that Hamburgum think for real??
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 17:29 by cranberries #243631
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I quit spending much time over at That Other Site, which helped immensely. I dumped a lot of stuff when we moved to Qatar, and got rid of some favorites when we moved back, but have slowly started buying games again and need to reign it in. Even if they're classics but I'm not going to play them then there's no point to a purchase. Someone tell Barnes to quit selling me games.
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 18:20 by wadenels #243634
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This is what I've been feeling about the large number of games I have, and I've started getting rid of them too.

I was thinking about writing something about it, but this nails what I'm thinking so clearly and exactly that I don't need to!

So, well-put.
Posted: 07 Feb 2017 19:47 by Egg Shen #243639
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Thanks for the feedback and the encouraging words about my articles. I love sharing them with you guys and I have no intentions of stopping. Also, let's take a second to give a hand to guy's like Thrower and Barnes who continue to write new, excellent reviews...;pretty much week in and week out. Another thing that I didn't mention in the article, but I was certainly cognizant of was just how hard it actually is to constantly pump out reviews. Michael Barnes makes it looks easy. I certainly want to contribute reviews every now and then, but it will mostly be to shine a light on something left in the dark. My favorite reviews to write have been for little offbeat games like The Bloody Inn, CV, and Zombiaki II. In the future that is what I will cover more of.

Rafael Silva asked about games that I'm keeping and why....perhaps that is an entire article for further down the road when I feel that the purge is complete.

Here is a peek at some of the stuff that didn't make the cut:

Small World - I think Small World is a fine game. However, I don't love it. It's just a touch too clean and mechanical for me. If I'm going to break out an area control game or something that scratches a similar itch I'll reach for EVO or Origin instead.

Arena Roma II - This battle line variant is fun...but it doesn't blow me away. I'd rather reach for Blood Bowl Team Manager...or um Battle Line.

Dungeon Lords - One of my favorite games actually. It's just such a motherfucker to teach and it requires experienced players...so I finally said aidios. I struggle to fight the urge to replace this with the big ass anniversary edition like some chump resisting getting back with his ex girlfriend.

Defenders of the Realm - I like Defenders of the Last Stand much better. Plus I've got more fantasy games than I know what to do with.

Bruges - There was a time when I thought this game was good. I was wrong.

Hyperborea - Another instance of getting rid of a legitimate game that I adore. It's very unique, but the chances of it getting played were next to none.

Spartacus - Yeah, I know this is like heresy. It just wasn't ever getting played. And if we're being honest with ourselves the gladiator combat is kind of shit.

I'm not going to bore you with an entire list, but yeah sometimes you get rid of stuff you like...other times you part with junk you don't know why you bought it in the first place.

@ Black Barney
Yes that box of Hamburgum is very real. Drink it in!

@Engineer Al
You know you never need to twist my arm to play some Talisman. I'm always up for a game!
Posted: 08 Feb 2017 03:22 by Bojack #243647
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ive never been happier than when i canned everything I own and just kept my one favourite game. Variety can be fun, but in my experience, a lot of "gamerz" delude themselves with what variety they're really getting, because when you boil most of it down, all games at their core have a fairly similar set of principles, and cycling through combinations of the basic ludic puzzles which make them up is not really the same as a new experience, only in pretend. This is especially true in Euro games, but even in AT games and wargames, the difference with the latter two are a greater tendency to invest in the story/narrative (AT) and the history and study (wargames). Euro games in general havent improved since the classics of the 90s, only become more obfuscated fiddly, overly busy crap pretending to be "new" but being nothing of the sort, but they fit the needs of your average nerd consumer buying into the slightly elitist smartest guy in the room vibe. That may sting, but its overwhelmingly true in my experience with a wide range of groups, CONs, FLGS crowds, and online communities. Thats OK though, whatever floats their/your/our boat. Not worth obsessing over, just make your choice and own it. I personally most games are utterly pointless now, it just took me many years to find the cool aid.

Very nice point which I recognise about the difference between wanting your game to give you something experiential in your imagination, against someone sat just optimizing the game based underlying maths of it.
Posted: 09 Feb 2017 08:52 by DukeofChutney #243695
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I think the age of the by the numbers boardgame review and best of year lists etc might be done for me. I dont really care much about boardgaming as a hobby anymore. I am far more interested in the personel experiences and people like you Egg talking about things they love or things they found interesting.
Posted: 09 Feb 2017 09:59 by san il defanso #243701
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I have not yet gotten the nerve to really gut my board game collection, though I have more than once made a list to determine the really non-negotiable games. It changes every time though, so I haven't yet gone through with it.

I'm with you on reading fewer reviews and tracking less with new games though. That's even coming from a guy who writes reviews. I find my own enjoyment of what I already have goes way up when I keep a certain set of blinders on. It's much easier to be satisfied with the games I already have when I'm not reading about the games I don't.
Posted: 09 Feb 2017 10:52 by JEM #243703
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I think I've thrown out over 20 games in the last month. Half of the rest are in big plastic totes for moving/disposing of with the rest on the shelves. It's been tough because the last game I sold off was one I really enjoyed, Discworld: Ankh-Morpork about two months before it transpired there would never be any more copies again. The FOMO is real, but a lot of Kickstarter shite has gone in the big black bags, as well as a good amount of "bought for $5-$10 on Amazon" nonsense.

I'd like to get the whole collection down to one Expedit 2x4 shelf, but I can't see it happening without some major upheaval.
Posted: 09 Feb 2017 22:43 by Egg Shen #243734
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Bojack wrote:

Very nice point which I recognise about the difference between wanting your game to give you something experiential in your imagination, against someone sat just optimizing the game based underlying maths of it.

Yeah it's crazy how important it is to me as a gamer. The funny thing is that the imagination thing isn't necessarily a thing reserved for AT games. Sure when you flip a card and read some flavor text in Eldritch Horror it's easy to picture what just happened. I also REALLY like it when in some abstract way the mechanics directly tie into action/theme that is happening. For instance, in the Bloody Inn, after the round is over if there are policemen staying at the Inn they look for anything fishy going on (i.e. they find corpses that haven't been buried). It totally makes sense thematically and it's actually an incredibly fun way to dick someone over in the game. I find that these moments get even better once the rules fade away and everyone is just playing. It really makes boardgames stand out as this truly unique form of entertainment.

On a side note, it snowed like a bastard in New England today and I was able to play a game of Talisman with the Winter themed expansion mixed in. We also used the City board. So much goddamn fun. Yetis, Ice Drakes and polar bears were slain while a couple of adventurers cruised around the icy realm. We played using the Ice Queen end game variant because it felt right. Lots of laughs...we even had the dreaded "roll a 1, get toaded...spend fate, roll another 1 get toaded for real" turn. I could play Talisman once a week until the end of time and never get sick of it.

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