Wednesday, 2 June 2010


Do you get headaches when playing games?

I find that recently there has been some game sessions that gave me headaches. These were sessions that were so engrossing and tense that by the end of the game I found myself slightly worn out. My head literally hurt, not the bad type that makes you want to take Panadol (or aspirin) and lie down, but the good type knowing that you've just completed a challenging feat. E.g. sessions of Homesteaders and Die Handler. In Homesteaders, the game was very compressed, with much to learn and digest in my first game. This is the learning curve type headache. In Die Handler, the competition among the players was fierce, there was a lot of double guessing and secret scheming, we were all walking on tightropes because one misstep or mishap could completely ruin one's position. This is the player competition type headache. Both types are very satisfying. Satisfying headaches... who would have thought...

Brass, a game that provides learning curve type headache.

Cyclades, a game that provides player competition type headache.

For me, the biggest attraction of playing boardgames is the intellectual challenge, not the company of friends, not the escapade to an alternative / imaginary world, although I enjoy these too. It is the discovery of how the game works, and the mental sparring, that makes me so addicted to boardgames. I think many non-gamers will wonder why gamers choose such a thinky hobby. You already feel so mentally tired from work / school, why do you still want to spend your free time on such a brain power intensive hobby? Most people will probably prefer doing something that's relaxing for the mind, or even something that requires no thinking. Self-inflicted headaches is probably the last thing on most people's minds when it comes to choosing pasttimes.

I find playing challenging boardgames very satisfying. And winning is only a small part of that. The satisfaction comes from knowing that I did well in a game. I would be happier if I lose a game but have put up a good fight, than if I win a poorly played game only because I have been lucky. Han has been my long-time boardgame kaki (fellow addict), and he is one very smart guy, winning more than a fair share of games. It's always challenging to play against him. When we play, we both know there is no "playing nice", and we have to be on our toes. Opportunities will be fought over. Mistakes will be exploited. Thankfully neither of us are rules lawyers, else things will get ugly all the time. We quickly agree on rules interpretations and move on.

Since September last year, I started occasionally joining the Old Town Kopitiam Cheras game group, who regularly meet at OTK cafe on Friday nights. Some of these guys are real sharks at the game table. It has been a lot of fun playing with them. So now in addition to the Han shark, I have the Jeff shark, the Allen shark etc to swim with. I think that's a wonderful development for my boardgame hobby.

So, do you play games for the headaches?


Aik Yong said...

Curiously, i have not thought of boardgaming as a headache ever since my first introduction to them few years ago playing Railroad Tycoon.

I however, relish boardgaming as an intellectual challenge, not a headache. It's a puzzle with human opponent moving parts. But at the end of the day, it's the people that draws me everytime, so i'm game for any game!

Notso said...

I like a game that has some extent of "headache" as you define it but not too much. Die Handler was too much for me because I had to figure out how to play the game, my future strategy, and try to take into account what other players might do. When I play Pandemic, I think had and can think a few turns ahead. I love that. I hate Die Handler with an almighty passion (but that has some to do with the negotiation aspect; that hate does not come completely from the hard-thinking type headache you speak of)

Hiew Chok Sien said...

You've found a new friend who also hates Die Handler! :-D

Indeed the negotiation part of Die Handler makes me a little nervous. It can cause hard feelings when players get very competitive. Similar to Quo Vadis. I quite admire Quo Vadis, but it being such a pure negotiation game makes me nervous to play it. Games with a negotiation aspect can be influenced by the metagame (e.g. who's the game owner, who's the perceived game guru who wins too many other games, who's the spouse of who). I guess Settlers of Catan has a negotiation aspect too, but its trading system is not too open, and you won't get hurt too badly by any single refused trade. In Die Handler one wagon master refusing to load your goods can really ruin you.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

If I ever get tired of Eurogames, another "headache frontier" I can explore is wargames. I am not able to handle those yet, having only dabbled in some of lower complexity ones, e.g. Warriors of God, Hammer of the Scots. I still have not played my copy of Wilderness War.

Aik Yong said...

wargames is a different beast altogether. The variety of moves available stopped me in my analysis paralysis. Although I am told that I have to make moves by thinking in terms of realistic situations instead of trying to optimise my moves or to 'game' the game. I am talking of course about ASLSK...

I did like Target Arnhem though. less options.

Ben said...

If you have only recently started getting headaches you shoudl go and check it out. it could be anything from a bit of dehydration to soem high blood pressure. Drink lots fo water, and keep gaming!