Sunday, January 21, 2007

Spread the Joy

For most of my life, I have been the preeminent “gaming guru” of my social circle. That doesn’t mean I’m the best player, but it does mean I’m the most enthusiastic about games. There are many advantages to being the local guru, as I tend to be the game supplier on any given gaming night I can be sure to bring games that I want to play. This also means I tend to be the game teacher, so have a slight leg up on the competition as I’ve spent more time thinking about a game before it comes to the table for the first time. However, there are some drawbacks. As the designated guru, it falls upon me to find the next interesting game. Now, this isn’t too bad as I enjoy spending some of my time researching new games on the internet and trying to calculate if it is a game that I would enjoy and would be one that could be brought to the table for playing. Any hardcore game fan will realize both of those conditions are necessary for a good game. It doesn’t matter how much I think I will like a game if I won’t be able to ever arrange a time and a place to play it. The biggest drawback comes in as the supplier of boardgames. While it is nice to have a bit more control over what gets played on any given evening, it also means that if I don’t own a game and can’t afford adding it to my collection, I just won’t ever get to play it. This also means I tend to never get to play some of the older classics, as I typically have my eye on the newest and brightest stars on the horizon and don’t have the cash to go back and pick up some of the older “classics”.

With the creation of a regular gaming group over the summer, I have found myself with an excellent opportunity to observe the birth and growth of several new gamers as they enter the fold of full-fledged gaming enthusiasts. After several months of playing games primarily from my collection, the Christmas season hit and a wealth of games has entered into the homes of members of our gaming group. In fact, one has even gone so far as to try to establish a definitive beginner collection of boardgames. You can read his thoughts over at a very well-thought out GeekList at the boardgame geek: Starting Your Game Collection - A Guide for Advanced Newbies . Not only do I now have access to several titles that I have never played before, but I have a real paternal sense of having brought a new gamer into the fold. Introducing folks to boardgaming is always fun for me as it brings me new opponents and thus more opportunities for gaming, but in the case of our fledgling gaming group, I feel as if I got to watch the entire life cycle of a gamer unfold. First there was the wonder and enjoyment of finding out about “these games of ours”, next came a hunger for testing the waters of various new games combined with a desire to give a few select games a really good work-over to explore their depth. We’ve now reached the final stage of acquiring and establishing a game collection so that they can independently propagate the joys of gaming.

Everyone have a virtual cigar, on me!


Recent games played:

With the second edition/printing of Twilight Struggle by GMT Games I’ve finally had the chance to give the game a try. Surprisingly, it was actually a pretty good hit with my wife. While she is highly intelligent (being a physics professor and all), she is not much of a game fan and typically plays only to spend more time with me (isn’t she so nice). While one might thing a quasi-wargame based on the cold war wouldn’t be the ticket to draw her in, she actually enjoyed the game quite a bit despite falling behind early and never being able to catch up. I attribute this to two main reasons. First, even though she was behind on points, there was always something for her to do. Just because I had more points didn’t mean she wasn’t able to significantly affect positions on the board. In fact, due to the way some of the cards work a player who is behind will often get a greater benefit from card events than if they were ahead. Secondly, the game is highly historical. Both my wife and I enjoy learning just about anything and taking a stroll down recent historical events in the last century was a blast. The rules thankfully have a short paragraph explaining the event(s) associated with each card, giving players a handy resource to learn more about that interesting era.

My only beef with the game comes in the randomness. There are die rolls that can really make or break you, but typically only affect things in the short term and they tend to average out over time. A larger problem was if one player was dealt less valuable cards (values of all 1’s and 2’s with no cards worth 3 or 4) for an entire hand. That meant an entire hand of cards could go by while one player felt rather impotent to significantly change their position on the game board.

On the whole, we both enjoyed the game and look forward to future plays. I am anxious to show it off to the social studies teachers at our local high school where I teach. I can see why the game won several awards last year.

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