Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why Do I Need So Many Games?

~I would like to preface this week's blog by saying that when I started writing it, I had no idea what Jehuda's article this week was going to be about but by a strange coincidence my article seems to touch on his topic just a bit. ~

I discovered the BoardGameGeek about 2 years ago and became fascinated with the idea of games that allowed you meaningful choices during your turn and a level of control that is missing in the American games I'd always played. Since then I've bought over 100 games, most of which are very good or excellent games (thanks to the research I could do on BGG).

Like many gamers, I don't have a large game group--usually it's just my husband and me; sometimes our daughter will join us, and ocassionally Mike and Teresa will come down from Lead for a few hours. I don't have a weekly Game Night--I count myself lucky if I get to play a couple games a week. So why do I need so many games? An even better question is why do I keep looking for and buying more games? As it is, I could spend the rest of my life playing the games I own without becoming bored with most of them.

I would love to be able to play a game until I had it "figured out", or until I knew it well enough to offer useful strategy tips, but I can't really see that happening. Many of my games have been played only once or twice before I'm off pursuing the next prey. Yes, I'm one of those people who love the idea of trying something new, seeing what the designers have come up with that may be novel, dreaming of the next big hit with the family.

One reason I can think of is that I love variety. I have 100's of books to choose from so when I want something to read I can choose anything from sci-fi to Louis Lamour; there are 100's of movies on VHS and DVD so I always have a huge selection of what to watch; I have CDs and records (you youngsters, find someone over 35 to explain records to you) ranging from Johnny Cash to New Age so I never want for just the right music to fit my mood; I have dozens of cookbooks to browse when I feel like something different from the usual; and my game collection likewise shows variety, in mechanics, themes, number of players and general feel.

Maybe it's the exploration phase we go through when our eyes have been opened to something new and wonderful. There's a need to experience it all, to explore everything we've been missing. My game buying has slowed down very much lately. In fact, there isn't anything that's seriously calling to me at this time. Of course, with Essen coming up, I don't expect that to last long.

Why do I need so many games? I really don't know, and thankfully my husband has stopped asking, just like I don't ask why he has 5 working motorcycles in the garage and 2 in the shed that need CPR.


I just got Crusader Rex but haven't played with my husband yet and would love to but...

O.k., here's the 'but' and I don't want to hear any snickers from the audience: the thought of teaching it is intimidating. It's not a difficult game as war games go but the rules are more complex than any game I own except Euphrat & Tigris. It wouldn't be so scary if I had an interested, enthusiastic listener but Richard doesn't have the gamer drive to seek out new games, to explore new rules and new themes, to go where no man has gone...oops, Trekkie flashback.

So, how to teach a game with more complexities. I can't see a non-gamer sitting and listening to the rule book being read; it's too easy to space out (no Trekkie pun intended). You can't just hit the highlights, adding bits of rules as they occur as you can in some games because you need all that information to plan your move. Maybe a Reader's Digest Condensed version of the rules would work for a first play, going into the minute details as they occur such as exactly how seiges work in Crusader Rex.

For now, here's my plan: re-read the rules (for the 3rd time), then set up the game and play alone, checking rules as needed, trying to incorporate all the situations I can think of so that I'm familiar with the game BEFORE I have to teach it. And of course, re-read the rules one more time to catch anything I may have missed. Now I suppose I have to admit that I'm a list-maker, mainly because I tend to forget things easily, so I'll take notes of anything that's easy to over-look while teaching.

Unfortunately, it may be a while before I can test out my plan since we don't have 2-3 hours worth of brain power left at the end of the day. Any days off are now devoted to preparing the house, yard and vehicles for winter. If anyone has any suggestions, hints or first-hand stories about teaching Crusader Rex, or any war game, they'd be very welcome.

Until next time, talk nice to your dice.



Peter said...

Wargames are an order of magnitude more difficult to teach than your average Euro, simply because of all the exceptions and chrome that most of them contain. Looking back, I can't believe that I have successfully taught such monsters as Paths of Glory, Europe Engulfed, ASL Starter Kit, and Thirty Years War to people. Admittedly these were experienced wargamers whoc arrived with a certain level of understanding of how these games usually work. I think another factor was lack of perfectionism - a willingness to live with not getting it 100%, or even 90%, correct first play through. Most wargames are fairly forgiving of mistakes in the chrome type rules, as long as you get the core "engine" working correctly. And time is another factor - being willing to dedicate quite a few hours to essentially a learning game. Then being ready to come back to it within a week or so for a "proper" game while you still remember the rules. But don't let me put you off - and Columbia games such as Crusader and Hammer are an excellent place to start, with a very high entertainment/rules-weight ratio!

Coldfoot said...

Thanks, Peter. Stressing that it's a learning game and that we might miss a few rule exceptions is a good point. It seems that CR's rules fit very well with the actions, once you know them, which should make them easy to remember.

huzonfirst said...

I have to agree, Mary. There are lots of players who enjoy repeatedly playing a game until they feel they have mastered it and the appeal of this is obvious. But I have to say I love playing new games. Given the choice between playing an old favorite and a new design that I might or might not like, I'll almost always go for the latter. I'm also one who craves variety, but it goes beyond that. It's the thrill of discovery, trying new mechanics, having a new game experience. I really can't say why I get such a charge out of playing new games, but it's my favorite gaming activity and I always look forward to it. I tend to prefer tactical games anyway, so trying to quickly pick up new mechanics and figure out how to play well is a very enjoyable challenge.

Thanks to all the gaming information in print and on the web, I usually have a very good idea what the new games are about. Some new games are great and some are just okay, but it's rare that I find myself playing "crap". So it's not like I feel I'm losing out by not playing my favorites all the time. Besides, the enjoyment I get out of new designs more than makes up for that. And I certainly don't get to play as many as "300" new games a year (although it does sound tempting!). The total is probably closer to 50 new games annually.

So I'll gladly let those who want to master a few games do so. I'll keep mixing in my favorites with the great new games that come out each year!

Coldfoot said...

Good idea, Fubar, adding tactics one or two at a time. Your player aids were downloaded even before I got the game! They're very good as far as I can tell.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

It is not the end-result of "mastering the game" that appeals to me. It is facing up to a task that requires commitment for the long haul.

Getting better at a game takes sweat and fortitude, requires you to start looking beyond the surface, and ultimately gives a sense of satisfaction at having achieved something.

I think one of the greatest elements of beauty in games is this opportunity, which is achievable in a relatively safe environment. I think it is sad to miss this opportunity in favor of the constant glitter of a new experience, however fun.


Coldfoot said...

I *do* agree with you, Yehuda, and there are some games that we've come back to several times. They tend to be more middle-weight games with easy set-ups but that give you mind a nice work-out. But there is still something attractive about something new and unknown--well, relatively unknown, anyway, since doing pre-buying research is a must.