Monday, 12 November 2007

the convenient gaming group: my wife

If you believe some of the people at, boardgame geeks (I'm stereotyping here, saying that the average boardgame geek is male) will marry any woman as long as she is a gamer.

I am lucky to have a wife who enjoys boardgames. Michelle is not a boardgame geek like I am. She doesn't prowl and every day. In fact, she doesn't visit these sites at all. She doesn't remember who designed which game. She sometimes replies to me saying "the same guy who designed Lord of the Rings?" because I always tell her so-and-so game is yet another Reiner Knizia game. She doesn't organise boardgame sessions. She sometimes joins to play. Sometimes she offers to play a game with me. Occasionally she tells me she feels like playing so-and-so game (or feels like playing a game), and I'll be going head over feels and heading to pick up whatever game it is she wants to play.

Certainly having a spouse who can enjoy boardgames is very convenient and helps to scratch that boardgaming itch. Coming from another perspective, playing boardgames together is a good activity to spend time together. Probably better than watching TV, or watching a movie, definitely better than roaming shopping centres aimlessly (which both of us hate). I remember a time when she was very much into Japanese TV series, and I was very much into PC games (before I got into boardgames). Both were pretty "solitaire" activities (quoting a much used term at

Michelle and I started playing boardgames regularly since around end of 2003 or early 2004, when I got into the hobby seriously. At the time we were in Taiwan and we visited the Witch House boardgame cafe regularly to try different boardgames. I gradually established a regular boardgame group when in Taiwan, and Michelle joined to play almost every time. After we returned to Malaysia, we still play regularly. Sadly I do not have a regular group now, unless you call two players (myself and my guest blogger Han) a group. Sometimes Michelle joins us to play. There were times when she played more, and times when she played less, mostly dictated by the arrival of our two children. Boardgames take a backseat. Now that our younger daughter is nearing one year old, things are getting easier and she is playing more games again.

Michelle's favourite games include Carcassonne (with the Inns & Cathedrals expansion), Ticket To Ride (and others in the series), the Mystery Rummy series (we've played about 200 games of Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper), andBlokus (we mostly use our Blokus set to play Blokus Duo, the 2-player only version). She tends to prefer playing card games, because they are shorter. With two young girls to take care of, that's natural. So, sometimes she is also reluctant to learn new games, and prefers to just play a game she already knows well. She is sometimes impatient when learning a game and wants to start straight-away and just learn along the way. Typical non-gamer behaviour, although I wouldn't say she's a non-gamer, since she plays so many games. I sometimes need to rein her in, at least long enough for me to cover the important points, else she'd say "you didn't tell me that!" when she loses. Recently she also enjoyed Risk Express, a quick dice game, which can be quite exciting at times. I think the excitement is inherent in rolling dice.

She wins a fair share of games. I usually have an advantage, because I'm the one who researches games, reads the rules, and teaches them to her, and of course I also play more games (with other friends too) than she does. But when it comes to a game that she is already familiar with and good at, she plays competitively and does well. I still remember we had a stretch of 10 games of Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld, where she beat me in all 10 games. What are the chances of that? 1 in 1024. She also tends to win more than a fair share of San Juan.

20 Dec 2007. Michelle at the hospital waiting for the birth of our second daughter Chen Rui. Chen Rui was born on 21 Dec 2006.

One of the implications of having a gamer wife is when I buy games (or, more precisely, when I consider what games to buy from a long, long list of potential buys) I will specifically consider whether the games are suitable to be played as a two player game. Some games get some brownie points because Michelle may like them. Well, maybe I'm just giving myself excuses to buy more games. E.g. Ticket To Ride: Europe, Ticket To Ride: Marklin, Ticket To Ride: USA 1910 (because she likes the series), On the Underground (because Michelle lived in London for a few years), and games in the Mystery Rummy series. Well, I guess it's just practical to buy games that you think you will get the chance to play. Other than Michelle I have only one regular opponent, so it doesn't really make sense to buy games that are only playable (or only good) with 4 or more players. Well, sometimes I still cannot resist it if the game really really interests me.

Tips for having a convenient gaming group:

  • Get married.
  • Have kids. (long term investment)
  • Let her win sometimes. (although sometimes I have difficulty making her lose)
  • Patience. Sometimes it takes time to cultivate the interest in boardgames.
  • Find games that she may like, or games with themes that she may like. You'll strike jackpot if you find a game that she falls in love with. Then she'll ask to play. For my case, that's Ticket To Ride, Carcassonne.
  • Use the kids. Buy children's games, and convince her to play together with the children. Eventually children's games will (hopefully) "upgrade" to your boardgames.
  • Live with it. She may never become a gamer, but at least you can set a secondary aim of having her accept your hobby. It helps if you also accept her hobby (or in case it is something like flower arrangement, which you probably won't ever be able to sincerely get into, then give her space and time for it).

And lastly, Michelle's colour is red.


Josh said...

Hey Hiew,

Josh here from Wellington NZ, originally from M'sia. Have been reading your blog for a few times now and nice writings you have got there. Just want to say that your gaming experience pretty much echo with mine :)

Perhaps we can get together for some gaming if there's a chance of me going back to M'sia...

keep it up!

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Thanks Josh. Do let me know if you return to Malaysia. Maybe we can meet up for some gaming. It'll be good for me to have more than 2 players at a gaming session, for a change. :-)

wankongyew said...

Obviously in my case my wife is my primary boardgaming partner as well. If anything, she's probably more enthusiastic than me at this. If you've talked to Han, you'd know she's currently bugging everyone to join in a 2 day / 1 night boardgaming retreat at a resort or hotel in KK. However, this is also probably because if I weren't playing boardgames, I'd be just as happily playing PC games and she's just not really into that.

So far she also likes the complex games much more than the simple ones. Her favourite game currently is Agricola while she disdains lightweight games like Ticket to Ride. She's also trending towards Euro-games at the moment and doesn't seem to like war themes very much.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

It's great that your wife is keen on boardgames. My wife enjoys games too, but one challenge is she is usually very impatient to learn new games.