Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Antidote for a Hectic Life

Our world has changed very much in the last 30 years. For many people it’s hard to find the time in our busy days to do all that we HAVE to do, let alone the extra time to do what we’d LIKE to do. The technology, that 30 years ago would have sounded like science fiction right out of an Asimov story, hasn’t given us more time to relax; rather it seems to push us faster, and enables us to draw away from the community and into ourselves.

I love most of today's technology: computers that are small enough to carry around with you, phones the size of a deck of cards that go wherever you go, the Internet which lets me talk to all of you in whatever part of the world you live, cars that tell you where to go and can call for help, right down to the convenience of buying a movie from the comfort of your easy chair with a push of a button and then recording it to watch over and over.

But all of these conveniences cost money which means we have to work more. Some people work 2 jobs, some put in longer hours, and many families have to have more than one “bread winner”. There's now less time for our families so when we do have time for the ones we love, we pull deep into our own little world, hiding in our castles. We put up fences, both physical and metaphorical.

Front porches where neighbors used to sit and talk have disappeared, replaced by garages that push their noses towards the street. The family room hides in the back of the house where no one can see, as if to distance itself from the world out there. The children who used to run through the front yards are now holed up in their bedrooms or the family room playing video games which can be delivered right to their front door. Adults push themselves to do the household chores, then collapse in front of the TV.

Many people find ways to stay connected to people and still take a break from their hurried lives. Some help in their community, others join local sports teams or a rock band, some have a humorous flair and do stand-up on the weekends. For us, the gaming community, the answer lies in board games.

The games take us out of ourselves and back into society, whether it’s meeting at a game convention, the local brick and mortar, or in our own kitchens. Playing face-to-face games can take us back to that simpler time when interacting with other people was more than just saying, "Have a nice day".

Gaming with our families can show our children that we're more than just the ruling force in their lives. It teaches them to think for themselves and that their actions have consequences. And there’s nothing like beating Mom or Dad or Uncle Dan, fair and square, at a game to boost a child’s self-confidence. Games can be the catalyst for communication and laughter, creating fond memories that will remain with us for the rest of our lives. They can slow down the pace and let us breathe.

Technology offers us another way to play games by letting us meet to play and chat at an online site which, in the process, lets us learn about people and ways of life that are different from our own. It’s not as good as face-to-face, hearing the laughter and watching facial expressions, but the camaraderie is still there as is the humor and conversation, the heart of playing games.

So if the world has left you feeling listless and irritable, sit down and choose a color.

*Possible side effects: laughter, renewed energy and an overall feeling of happiness.

**Some studies have shown that playing games may reduce hair loss.

This week I got to play Rheinlander for the 3rd time and I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys area control games. You create your kingdoms (duchies) along the banks of a winding river, expanding in either direction or across the river, merging areas to make them bigger, or reinforcing your color inside someone else’s kingdom to overtake it from within. This game has the feel of Carolus Magnus with its merging, growing provinces but with more variety in your choices since you can expand areas in 3 directions (4 directions in a couple of places along the river where it connects back to back).

I also like the touch of hand-management in Rheinlander since you have the choice of playing a piece to the numbered area on the card, using any numbered card as a wild card to reinforce one of your knights, or holding a card that could be useful later in the game either to join 2 areas or convert a knight to your color if you have control of the Archbishop. In the last game I played, all four players held a card or 2 for almost half the game waiting for just the right time to use it.

My opinion is that the luck factor in Rheinlander is less than Euphrat & Tigris’ tile draw and equal to Carolus Magnus’ dice roll because any card can be used to reinforce somewhere so isn’t useless, and the deck gets reshuffled regularly (sometimes after playing only 2 cards if that sneaky Jester finds himself at the top of the new deck) so the numbers you need for attacking can come around again and again. If your kingdom (duchy) isn’t large enough to defend itself, it’s more a matter of the choices you made than the luck of the draw. Keep in mind, this is just my opinion and that I love area control games.
Until next time, may your men control the Castillo.



huzonfirst said...

As it turns out, Mary, I played Rheinlander for the first time this weekend and would like to echo your recommendation. The game was tense and enjoyable. I also agree that the luck factor is considerably less than it seems it might be, because of the reinforcement mechanic. This was a game that got pretty mediocre reviews when it first came out, but it appears to have recovered with a solid fan base. I'm sure the new version by Face2Face will only increase the game's popularity. I'm glad I finally got the chance to play it and look forward to investigating its strategies.

ekted said...

I've owned Rheinlander for weeks, but since I buy so many games at a time, we haven't gotten to it yet. I love area control games as well (Carolus Magnux, San Marco, Cracssonne, China, Samurai, Louis XIV, and hopefully El Grande soon). Hope this one hits the table soon.

Dame Koldfoot said...

Wonderful post, Mary. Growing up on a farm meant lots of hard work. But we also made plenty of time to play. I remember my grandparents hosting pinochle parties on Friday nights. Grandma would make her famour taffy and always have licorice mix, popcorn, peanuts, cookies and plenty of coffee out for the guests. The neighbors (or at least the folks in a 20 mile radius) stopped by and the grown-ups would play cards until the wee hours. I learned to play pinochle and cribbage with Grandpa when I was 8. Until we moved to Alaska, Brian and I made it a point to play cards nearly every weekend with my grandparents. That is what I miss the most about being in North. I want our kids to have the same fond memories of playing games, whether it's pinochle or Puerto Rico, with family and friends. Our oldest daughter (age 5-1/2) has already started to play Carcasonne and Ingenious with Dad, albeit with scaled down rules.

Anonymous said...

I just had a chance to play Rhienlander for the first time about two weeks ago. The first time through I got trounced, but we played a second game right after and it was a lot tighter and much better played by everyone.

I would definately consider purcahsing this one.

Thanks for the great articles. We have several new neighbors & I'm wanting to start inviting them over for some gaming. We'll see how that works out.

gamesgrandpa said...

Mary --

Great post, as always. As you know, I certainly second your comments about family gaming.

After hearing about Rheinlander from you and seeing others' comments about it here, I guess I had better look into it. Thanks for the suggestion.