Wednesday, 18 September 2013

how it should be

Boardgamers often joke about things like buying too many games and not playing enough of games already bought. There are things that we tend to consider bad or embarrassing. And then there are also certain boardgame genres that we sometimes frown upon, e.g. Collectible Card Games, party games, or some genres that we don't understand and also don't bother to understand, e.g. hex and counter wargames, deep games requiring commitment like Chess or Go, and Role Playing Games. The world of non-electronic games is huge, and many different types of gamers exist. It is no wonder that many have prejudices towards others. Sometimes we set expectations about how we should enjoy our hobby, e.g. we keep telling ourselves that we should try different types of games, or we force ourselves to play every game at least three times. It's actually quite silly. Gaming is a hobby, and as long as you are not spending money that you should be spending on, say, your daughter's education, and nobody is getting hurt, and you're not doing anything illegal, then you should enjoy your hobby in whatever way you feel like. I think sometimes we judge ourselves more than others do us. It is quite unnecessary to take yourself on a guilt trip. Here are some of the different ways that people enjoy the boardgame hobby that I can think of.

Game taster vs dedicated player (or breadth vs width): Some people only play Magic: The Gathering, or Go, Chess, Mahjong, Chinese Chess, Big 2, Scrabble, Bridge, Shogi. We probably don't even call them boardgamers. We just call them Chess players, or Scrabble players etc. Nothing wrong with that. No need to try to convince them to try something different. Focusing on a single game means you can learn to play at a high level, and that's a wonderful thing. On the other hand, there is also no need to try to master every game that you play, if you don't feel like doing so. It's okay being a game taster, playing most games just once or twice to enjoy the variety, and only playing more of a few select games. It is okay to focus on enjoying the discovery process when learning new games.

Money: Don't waste money. That's a good principle. However it's not always easy to determine what is "spending" and what is "wasting". Our disposable incomes are different. I think most boardgamers feel guilty about games purchased but not played or only played a few times. A boardgame is made to last probably hundreds of plays (unless you play rough), so we tend to feel bad if we only play it a handful of times. This problem will only get worse when we buy more games. Here are two different ways to look at it: (1) You are not buying the physical components but the time spent playing. RM150 (~USD50) for 3 games would be RM50 per game, and let's say you have four players, that would be RM12 per person for 90 minutes of fun. That's not too bad. (2) You are not only buying the physical game, you are enjoying the whole process of researching the game, deciding to buy the game, eagerly anticipating the delivery or collecting the game from the post office, opening it up, punching out the components, bagging them, fondling them, inhaling that new game smell. All that must be worth something! Yeah, I can use (2) to justify the games that I still have not played.

I don't mean to encourage you to spend money recklessly. You need to decide how much you can afford. Once you have done so, just enjoy the hobby and don't feel guilty. If you want to, you can always do some game-selling or game-trading.

Look at the size of that collection: It's OK to be a collector. People collect stamps, postcards, coins, matchboxes, buttons, Gundam. Boardgames do take up more space, but not as much as, say, cars. I also think of it as buying freedom - the freedom to be able to pick a suitable game for any occasion. Heh heh... that's a nicer way of saying "I should buy this, because maybe one day I will play it".

Genres: Eurogames, Ameritrash games, RPG's, hex-and-counter wargames, CCG's, cards games, trick-taking games, 18XX games. Some people do multiple genres, some do one or two. If you feel adventurous, by all means explore. If you are content, then no need to feel that you owe it to yourself to venture off.

Light / casual / party games vs heavy games: I think many seasoned gamers tend to be a little condescending towards light games, party games and children games, dismissing them as too simplistic or lacking depth. We forget that strategising is not a prerequisite for fun. Watching my children play boardgames reminds me of this. We recently played Dungeon Petz. The strategy is definitely beyond them, but they had fun operating their pet shops. Shee Yun (8) loved one of the monsters (because it was fluffy and cute) and when it came up, she bought it, without caring whether it really suited her shop or the potential customers. She was so happy she beat us to it. And she kept collecting artifacts, which she thought was fun. Chen Rui (6) was even more clueless about competing to win. To her it was just collecting stuff from the board and running her pet shop. We recently visited Meeples Cafe, and one simple game turned out to be a lot of fun - Cloud 9. I would never have considered trying this with my regular boardgame kaki's (mates).

Shee Yun playing Dungeon Petz.

Look at all her artifacts (round markers)!

Chen Rui actually came in second place! It was because of one big move which Michelle advised her on. She gained a lot of points selling one particular pet to one very satisfied customer.

Experienced boardgamers tend to have preconceived notions of fun - what a game should have in order to be fun, and how a boardgamer should enjoy his hobby. We sometimes unconsciously limit ourselves, or we think too much and fuss over things which are not worth the trouble. Boardgaming is a hobby afterall. There are no rules to fun. You are doing it right as long as you are enjoying yourself.

So, it's okay that I still have not played Paths of Glory. I'll get around to it some day. No pressure.

Antiquity. Pollution all over the countryside is fun. But it's not the only form of fun.


Mustachio Pets said...

Should I make the Washington's War purchase when Twilight Struggle is still yet to get the plays it deserves? Thanks for answering my question. I've done the research. Can't wait to open it up and smell the cardboard.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Good on you. :-) I have played both games and both are great games!

Mustachio Pets said...

Enjoy your game reviews. I had to laugh when I saw Mustachio Pets pop up as my name. My daughter hijacked my account for her own blogs. Time to set up a separate account for her...

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Ha ha... mystery solved. I was indeed quite curious about this username Mustachio Pets.

James Torr said...

Great post.

I do think it's the *size* of board games that contributes to gamers' anxiety. When you spend money on a board game, you've got this big 12"x12"x3" reminder of it, and even a relatively small collection amounts to a big bookshelf of games staring at you (whereas there's no physical reminder of all the times over the past 10 years that you spent money on movies or dinner out).

Anyway, totally agree, gamers (including me) should spend more time enjoying games and much less time agonizing over what games they need to acquire/get to the table/get rid of.

Love Cloud 9!

Chen J. Y. said...

There is also the matter of space. I envy you for having the space to store your collection, which is unlikely in, eg, urban Singapore or Hong Kong. My cousins joked that I could stack my games in the shape of a bed and sleep like a dragon on its hoard.

Then there is a rumoured prophecy stating that when a boardgamer can only die if he/she finishes playing everything on his/her wish list at least once. I think we all aim to be immortal.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I have heard a theory that boardgame cafes work well in Hong Kong and Singapore because most people's homes have limited space.