Friday, March 11, 2011

The Jaded Gamer

We've been through a number of phases in our career as boardgame hobbyists. It's been an interesting journey. (Well, it's been interesting to us. If you have no love for the love of boardgames, you'd best stop reading now. What follows is the height of geekery.)

When we first discovered modern boardgames, we were delighted but a bit reluctant to start a collection. I remember trying Reiner Knizia's Samurai and really liking it, but we were put off by the $38 price tag it carried. Back then, that felt like a lot of money for "just a boardgame."

Within a year, our attitude had changed. We'd been to a few specialty game stores, we'd discovered BoardGameGeek, and most importantly, we'd played a bunch of games. We realized that a game that costs less than taking the family to a movie, and which can entertain the whole family not just once but over and over again, is actually a pretty good use of our entertainment budget. We started buying games.

At first it was easy. There were lots of great games, and BoardGameGeek and a growing circle of gamer friends clued us in to the good ones. We liked nearly every game we bought, so we kept buying.

But after a while we noticed that we didn't like all of the games we bought, even some of the most highly-rated ones. We realized that there were quite a few different kinds of boardgames, and we liked some kinds better than others. We now know that we mostly don't like party games, wargames, dexterity games, or games with a high luck factor. We do like strategy games (where the strategy is something other or more than maneuvering military units on a map), "economic" games (where you start with a few resources and a little money, and build a big economic empire or engine of some kind), and low-luck card games.

That understanding helped us refine our purchasing habits, and we once again found that we liked nearly every game we bought.

After a few of years of this, we found that we had become collectors. We had so many games that years went by without some of them getting played. This may sound foolish, but in fact it works for us. The reason is that not every game, even the really good ones, are good choices for every occasion. Selecting the right game to play depends on many factors: how many players we have, how willing they are to learn a new game, how long and complex the rules are, how long the game will take to play. Like us, our gaming partners have their own preferences as to what kinds of game they like, and those preferences aren't a perfect overlap with ours. And then there's mood: sometimes we're up for a highly competitive skull-cracker, while other times we want to take it easy. This is the chief reason for having a large collection of games: the desire to have the right game for every occasion.

And now more years have passed, and I think I've reached a new phase (although in this I won't speak for the rest of the family). I've realized that there are some dusty games in our collection that delighted us when we first got them, but that we haven't played for years, and which I haven't missed. They're perfectly good games, but we now have other, better games that fill the same niche in our collection. Why play a lesser game when I can play a better one that scratches the same itch? Simple variety is worth something, but the collection is large enough now that that really isn't a problem.

If it were just me, I think I'd be making a list of games to purge. We have already done some purging, but so far it's been games we don't like. We're not quite ready to take the step of getting rid of games we actually like-but-not-enough. But I'm getting there!

(Getting rid of games is almost a hobby of its own, by the way. We usually trade with other gamers for games we hope to like better, but we have also sold them off at flea markets. eBay is another option. Other gamers somewhere will want and enjoy our cast-offs!)

But in case you're wondering, let me be clear on one point: I'm not done with adding games to our collection. Perish the thought! We are still adding to our collection: new games keep coming out, and we continue to want to acquire the best of them. But I'm now starting to think in terms of improving the collection instead of merely expanding it.

No comments: