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.