I think many of us can say we started with games like Monopoly, Risk, Sorry, Chutes & Ladders, Connect Four and the like. Growing up in the USA in the 80s, Hasbro, Parker Brothers, and Milton Bradley were where games and toys came from. I had stopped paying attention by the time Settlers of Catan made its way over and the European Board Game Invasion began.
It wasn’t until my late 20s that I happened to find myself in a game store at the mall and had the bright idea of picking out a board game with my wife so we’d have something to play together. We had just bought our first house and were making a go of it without cable TV for the first time in our lives, and we wanted to fill those hours doing something together.
Hello, my name is Steve and I really like board games.
Our gateway game, the game that got us into the board gaming hobby, one of the first games we bought on that trip to the mall, was Carcassonne. The box art (at the time) made this game look dry as dirt. It was so unassuming, seemed to make no effort whatsoever to convince me to buy it, but I had heard somewhere online that it was a good one, and the guy at the store recommended it, so we gave it a shot.
Best. Decision. Ever.
We played this game so often that we just left it on the kitchen table, never even bothering to pack it up, knowing that we’d be playing it again the next night. I became so fascinated with the way the game changed as you developed mastery over its mechanisms, the underlying strategies revealing themselves over time like the petals of a flower opening up. It was just so satisfying! We got to be so good at this game (and its expansions) that it wasn’t even about the simple mechanisms we performed. It was as if there was a game within the game that took place on a mental level as two expert opponents faced each other in a battle of wits.
I was hooked. I had to know what other games were out there that housed such hidden depths for us to explore. And so I began data-mining Board Game Geek – like ya do. I was going to solve this!
A little bit about me.
I get pretty intense sometimes. Whenever my brain latches onto a puzzle, it doesn’t let up until it has collected all of the data, organized it into a spreadsheet, and analyzed it for patterns and truths. No, it’s not normal, and I don’t know why it’s fun for me, but I really do get a kick out of it.
On paper it sounds ridiculous. You can’t solve board gaming. What the hell is the matter with you? I have yet to find an answer to that question, but let me start a spreadsheet about it and get back to you in a few weeks.
Over the next few years I began buying more games, trying them out, trading or selling away the ones that didn’t work for us, taking notes on what worked, what didn’t, and theorizing as to why. I was determined to find only the best games and play them as often as we played Carcassonne. The games got harder, more complicated, longer, deeper. My wife started getting annoyed with me.
“Please don’t buy anymore games. Learning a new game is my least favorite part of this.” And therein lies the problem.
I can’t just throw caution to the wind and submerge myself in all things board games if it means my favorite opponent isn’t going to want to play anymore. Like me, the thing that drew her into board gaming as a hobby was in developing mastery over a game and playing at the expert level, in knowing a game so completely that the rules and mechanisms become second nature and the real game reveals itself – the game within the game. If I’m going to continue with this hobby, and continue my “research”, I’m going to have to dial it down a bit and balance my search for “the best games” with her willingness to play them.
What this site is.
From my part of this joint venture, this site is about a lot of things. It’s going to be about games, clearly, but also about how to get them to the table and how to get your loved ones to play them with you. It’s about parenting and playing games with your kids and teaching them valuable life lessons about playing fairly, losing well, winning gracefully, not cheating, taking turns. It’s about finding the time to get away for a night to play games with your friends. It’s about taking turns with your spouse or partner, so that they can get away once in awhile, too. And it’s about those times when you should put the games away and pay attention to more important things.
What this site isn’t.
This is not a site focused on the Cult of the New, constantly trying to keep up with what is brand new and shiny. I will not be buying every new game and reviewing them after 2 or 3 plays. The internet is full of board game review websites keeping up with the new stuff. Owning all the games was never my goal. I only want to find the best games – games that get played often, games that reward repeated plays, games that fit my lifestyle right now, games that stand the tests of time. I’ll go into more detail about what I look for in a game in a future post.
Wrapping it up.
In a word, it’s about balance. Balancing all of the things you have to do, all of the things you should do, and all of the things you want to do. Whether you’re in a relationship, flying solo, married, have kids or not, we’re going to talk about how we solve the game of life so everybody gets to have more fun. Welcome, and here’s hoping you find something useful here.