More, Gimme More, Gimme More
Most modern board game reviewers tend to focus their energy on the games that will get them the most views. The Hotness. This makes good business sense. They cater to the Cult of the New – those among us who are drawn to the new shiny and continuously accumulate new boardgames, filling entire walls of their house with game boxes.
One of my favorite reviewers is Rahdo Runs Through (Richard Hamm). He provides a 1st-person point of view of a game, quickly explains what it’s about, how it all works, and then plays through several rounds of the 2-player experience while thinking out loud so you can get a better sense of what the game is actually like to play. That’s an invaluable perspective to have before you spend your money on a game. There are so many boardgames being released every year that I don’t know how I’d be able to sift through them on a shelf at a game store and walk out with a winner.
While Richard and his peers provide a valuable service, he has admitted that he doesn’t have the time to play individual games more than a mere handful of times. There is always something new coming out and he truly enjoys trying new games. And Rahdo isn’t alone in this. I subscribe to several different boardgame reviewers. An entire niche industry has risen up based on reviewing the constant influx of new games. More games, more reviews, …more views.
Since everybody is talking about the newest games, it’s as if no one is talking about the “older” games (where old is anything beyond 6 months ago). This is creating a sort of gold rush where the entire boardgaming industry is booming in profit and popularity. (Yay, capitalism!) But how about we stop and look around a bit and try to see where this train is headed? Maybe the final destination isn’t all that great.
I’ve come to a point in my boardgaming hobby where I’ve noticed my interest waning for the new stuff. Don’t get the wrong impression — I’m still a junky. Why, just yesterday my cursor was hovering over the checkout button for the Deluxe Edition of Brass: Birmingham. It had only been two days since I told my wife I wasn’t going to buy it. It was a close one, but eventually, I was able to close the tab and walk away. I still want the new shiny, but I’m getting better at talking myself out of adding a new game to the pile. The allure of the deep dive is now stronger for me than the idea of more (and the costs and consequences of more).
Given the choice between 50 shallow gaming experiences or 5 deep ones, I’d pick the latter every time. I want to dive into my most beloved games and find their hidden treasures. I want the people I play games with to get good at the games I want to play. I want them to know the satisfaction and excitement of deeper strategic play. I want the challenge of difficult opponents.
The only way I can get there is by limiting the number of games I ask them to learn and by playing fewer games more often. Adding more games into the mix will just dilute that experience for everybody.
A Dose of Realism
At best, we meet once per week for a four-hour game night. When a new game is introduced, it needs to be taught. We need to work through the first play together, not focusing on winning, but on learning the game’s systems. There will be lots of questions and rule-checking. If the rulebook is bad we’ll check BGG forums, FAQs and Errata, or watch how-to-play videos. I typically try to do all this homework ahead of time so I can make the teach as smooth as possible.
Game night is at least half over by this point and we’re just starting to learn how to play. Maybe we play the game a 2nd time that night. Then a week or more goes by. By the time the next game night rolls around, we have to re-learn how to play, remind and reorient ourselves to the game space, and, oh yeah…
“I got this new game, wanna try it?” (>ლ)
A Few Quiet Voices?
The Long View is a podcast that is dedicated to providing a unique perspective of the boardgame hobby. Games are discussed in depth after many, many plays so that reviews provided are more than just impressions.
Chally goes into quite a bit of depth in his reviews, challenging common misconceptions about a game, highlighting where the theme is tightly integrated into the mechanisms, and how to better understand and navigate some of the systems within a given game. He’s one of the few reviewers that talks about the game within the game and his review of Archipelago is what finally convinced me to buy it.
Aside: If anyone knows of other reviewers out there doing this sort of thing, please mention it in the comments. I’ve been looking for more of this kind of content for ages.
So that’s where my head’s at. I’m gonna try to write about a few of the hidden treasures of some of my favorite games to spotlight the deeper play experience. I don’t think enough is said about this aspect of boardgames, and I get a kick out of it. Hopefully you will, too.