Monday, February 06, 2006

Game Store Confidential ~ Make room! Make room!

There really are a lot of big games.

It’s not as if I wasn’t peripherally aware that quite a number of board games take up a fair amount of real estate when you get them spread out, it just never surfaced as a problem for me.

Until now.

Now I don’t have the game tables at my store. Now I don’t have a larger house, replete with “Bonus Room” to set up a large game in.

Now I am temporarily in what I refer to, only partially in jest, as my hovel. It's 900 square feet of early 1970’s luxury, courtesy of Boise-Cascade’s pre-cut, staple and glue home building assembly line from the glory days of Idaho’s first housing boom. That was the one where the state population finally increased to approximately the size of Cleveland.

What this means is I have a garage stuffed to the rafters, a storage rental in Boise, a storage rental about a mile from The Hovel and I still have a full storage building back at Mosquito Acres… along with about 40 boxes, a tall file cabinet, a motorcycle fairing, a printer, two typewriters and a pair of waders in the shop at the old ranch. No wonder my charming former girlfriend (and proud new owner of a large amount of mud and horse manure) keeps asking when I’m getting a new place. She needs the room out there so she can buy new crap and fill up the storage areas.

The other night four of us got together at The Hovel for a little gaming. In attendance was my new friend Shaun, who used to shop at my store in Boise about 20 years ago, his cousin Jumbo-Tron and Jumbo’s brother, RoBee. I’m not a big guy, 5’11” (and descending as I age) and maybe 158 pounds, soaking wet. Shaun is my height but built like a tree stump, wide but not gamer-sized. Jumbo-Tron is aptly named, he’s jumbo. And RoBee, his younger brother is either slightly larger or slightly smaller, it’s hard to tell because he wears those really stupid looking giant skate shoes that are purposely left unlaced and I think they create some sort of visual paradox or something. When I see RoBee at his place of work he looks smaller, when he shows up to game with the shoes on he seems larger.

So there we sat, in the tiny little dining area of The Hovel’s kitchen, playing, of all things, a card game called Fairy Tale. My back was against the door to the garage, Shaun was to my right, the window overlooking the yard to my left and Jumbo-Tron and RoBee towering like a shield wall across the table from me. The little table, one I had actually built myself about 20 years ago, could handle a card game. It even handled Way out West when that was brought out. It did fine for Russian Rails a few weeks ago too. But if we wanted to play World of Warcraft, or any of the Eagle Games, or Mare Nostrum or Formula De or Power Grid we would be screwed. And if we added a fifth player to the tiny little dining area my innate fear of being trapped in a small room by huge gamers would probably rear its ugly head.

So how do Europeans do it? Or people who live in those tiny little houses in Japan? For that matter, how did I play big games in the early days before I bought my first house?

Thinking back, I have some vague and murky memories of large maps spread on living room floors or sawhorses set up with a sheet of plywood on top. In truth, my first home didn’t have a big enough extra room for a really large game so I had a ping-pong table in the garage, wedged in with about 12 motorcycles and a 1962 MG with no top. As a twenty-something gamer I easily adapted to the situation of having big games and small rooms. Other things were less important. And by the time my first child came along I had bought a brand new home with plenty of extra room.

That was 28 years ago and in 28 years I have been totally spoiled. I have either had a large family room, extra bedroom, den, office, basement or a game store with purpose-built tables and I have been able to play any game I want of any size without giving it a second thought.

And now I’m living in… The Hovel.

By the way, if anyone believes for a second that I have any empathy for Europeans, Asians, college students, trailer park residents or gamers who live in a tight situation, I don’t. This article is merely commentary about the fact that some games are big and should not be misconstrued as sympathy. I worked around it when I was in their shoes, so can they.

Time to get to the point here though… I have been looking for a suitable home since I rented The Hovel. This is where things get weird because it wasn’t until about two weeks ago, when I discovered two places the same day that fit what I wanted, that an anomaly in my personality occurred to me that I had never before noticed. It was when I called the rep for the second house and told her that was the one I wanted that it struck me why I chose that one. It’s more money. It’s not any better located. In fact, it might even cost more per month to run and maintain.

But it has what realtors now call “The Bonus Room”.

What struck me about my decision making process was that I never really thought about the fact that when looking for a place to live, gaming space is not optional. This may not be significant to other gamers, but it is to me because I have never thought about it before. When I was a teenaged gamer and when I was in my twenties I simply lived where I could afford or bought what I could scrape the money together for. Then I spent 23 years owning a game store and two large homes in succession. In that period of time playing games became so much a part of my life that now I reject, out of hand, anything that I can’t fit both Jumbo-Tron and RoBee into comfortably, along with several other gamer-sized friends, a game of Railroad Tycoon or Conquest of the Empire, lots of space for snacks and drinks and a pc, TV, stereo, coat rack and spare bathroom. The spare bathroom is vital so I can keep my gaming buddies from seeing my stash of Rogain and Geritol as well as my ear hair trimmer.

All of this transitioning in my life fits in with some of the discussions I see cropping up on lately about game size. Now perhaps I’m being a bit judgmental here, but when you have people who are griping about some games taking up too much space don’t you wonder why they are griping about that rather than just buying a house or renting a place that can accommodate large games and larger game crowds?

Look, let’s get real, you aren’t really a Game Geek, a real one, if you buy games that fit your home rather than buy a home to accommodate your games. People who carp about Eagle Games board sizes, or lament not being able to play a real war game because they’re too big aren’t real Geeks. They posers. Also rans. Back markers. Squids.

What kind of person would sell their Warhammer Army or their Napoleonic miniatures because they didn’t have room to play? A dilettante, a dabbler, that’s who. But not a real Geek, a real Geek would figure it out. Then they’d email Eagle Games and bitch at Glenn Drover because they don’t make their boards large enough.

So hopefully in about a month’s time I’ll be back to normal. I really don’t need three bedrooms and the three baths are okay and yes, the garage is large enough that I can almost get everything in it, all that is fine. The real prize is the 14X18 Bonus Room.

Now that I've settled this whole space situation I'm off to email Eagle Games and prod them some more about making a Western USA extension map for Railroad Tycoon and find out if the rumors are true that they're working on a miniatures version of World in Flames.


Gaming sideline time ~

We enjoyed Fairy Tale quite a bit. The rules could be better written Zev, so perhaps in a reprint you can make the flip/unflip mechanic a little less fuzzy?

Way Out West is definitely okay. Not as refined as Martin Wallace did on later designs with similar mechanics, but a solid game.

We have also recently played Mall Of Horror. I like this game very much but it suffers unless there is a full complement of six players. We have played with five and it was good, but I'd never choose to play it with four.

Jumbo-Tron and RoBee can't get enough of RK's Formula Motor Racing and whether we have three or six players on game night they always request it. I am aware that many on BGG pan it slightly for being weak because the last couple of plays are what determines the winner, but I think they're missing the whole thing that makes the game fun ~ it's one of the best "take that" games out there. And moving the little cars back and forth is just plain fun.

I pulled out Reef Encounter and gave the rules a once over. Huh? How the hell do you play this game? These rules make the Power Grid rules look like the state of the art! What a confusing and jumbled mess. I know there are many who sneer at American games but one thing for sure, most American games can be at least partially understood on the first read through.

Okay, I'm done here. I think I'll go log onto The Geek and piss some Euro-Snoots off.


Anonymous said...

DW I am with ya on this one! Having just moved from a smallish town home in the city to a larger single family house in the country, I know the feeling.
When I walked into the basement of my new place and saw the extra 8x10 room with a locking door (for storage, I have young children who like to eat games, gw minis and RC warships) and the large sunroom for playing I was like .... sold! who do I pay?


Anonymous said...

WOW! can you like NOT use so much of them damm BOLD styles, as that "offends" my 'senses', and do you have any of that left-over "goat cheese" to go with my 'whi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ne'?

& I am NOT "GROGnads"
(where's the damm COLORS in this?)
for REAL!

Christopher Stogdill said...

DW....give a shout out if you need some moving help.

Anonymous said...

When my wife and I look for houses, I have only a few requirements. It must be within 20 minutes of work, it must have a basement room large enough for the games and a table and the (large) dining room table has to fit.
Everything else is whatever she wants. :-)
I'm with you on the Reef Encounter rules, too. When I read rules, I expect to have an idea what happens in a game without the components in front of me. I read the RE rules three times and still had no clue. I finally jumped in a newbie game at spielbyweb and understand it now. (It's not that good a game, IMO, but I do know the rules.)

Anonymous said...

To understand Reef Encounter, at least reading the original R&D rules, you almost want to start at the back of the book, then work your way forward: Points are based on how many tiles you eat and how dominant they are --> How do you eat tiles? Feed the parrotfish --> How do you get tiles in the first place? You pick them at the end of your turn --> How do you place tiles? Pay algae.

And so on. I find Reef Encounter to be an extremely tense game that plays somewhat like Tigris & Euphrates with the flow and development of reefs (empires). Of course I love snooty games...

DWTripp said...

Henry ~ Duh! I feel like slapping myself for not seeing right off the bat that these rules were meant to be read backwards to forwards. I am such an idiot.

In truth, if that's really the case, they are certainly poorly written and poorly laid out. Which says nothing at all about the game. I've not heard it compared to Tigris & Euphrates before. I like that particular game quite a lot so perhaps I'll turn my copy of Reef Encounter over to some friends to read and then they can teach me later.