I play board games. It’s a recent thing. A few years ago, I suddenly became interested in role playing games. This happened because I discovered that although some people do like to wear a cape and remain in character as a mildly deformed goblin running a small insurance company by the side of the King’s Highway with an undiscovered past as the greatest goblin general of the goblin army of Goblinland that ever there was, there are many other people who grab a beer, pick a wizard and have some fun with the whole thing.
Basically, I learned that it was okay to take the piss.
I joined a group, we had fun. We would drink beer, put on some metal and sometimes throw on some football in the background. The DM once offered the names of two mini-boss characters out to the group and I got to christen the uglier one Gary. I know that this isn’t how a lot of people like to play RPGs but it’s how I like to play them. Dungeons & Dragons 4.0 was a ball. Easy to get into, easy to develop your character over time, just… easy. Some RPG fans can’t stand D&D 4.0 because it’s so similar to video games, but perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I was the demographic that Wizards of the Coast were looking to snag. Pity there weren’t more of me, I suppose.
Well, things change. I’m too shy to go looking for people in my new locale. I can’t handle the inherent awkwardness that will ensue when I realize that I’m expected to put on a weird accent, or worse, the bizarre never-to-be-fulfilled tension when one particularly devoted fan is disgusted by my desire to stop talking and roll some dice or my refusal to call him Throgfawn when his name is Todd. Add to that the fact that it is really, really time consuming. I was in a quandary. Then I started watching video reviews of board games.
Board games. Wizards and imps and ogres and dice. Factories and dice. Historical figures and dice! Presidential elections and dice! The conquest of castles and dice! Actually, some of the games in my head here don’t use dice at all. Just go with it for now.
It’s an interesting thing, but board games scratch an itch that video games don’t quite scratch. The only real issue is finding people to play with. Well, convincing my friends to play with me. I’m still not up to going down to the gaming store and recruiting strangers to play. Increasingly I am reminded that I’m not getting any younger, and although the majority of board game players are perfectly normal, there are guys who fulfill the stereotype.
You know the stereotype I’m talking about. You know.
It’s great though, it really is. It becomes an exercise in will power not to just buy more and more of them. On my current wish list:
- A game about a post-apocalyptic Earth where zombies and mutants and various other dudes fight each other with bullets and mechs and other mad things.
- A game where you hire a team of imps to go out and find small pets for you to rear to adulthood, fawn over, and then enter into supernatural dog show type events.
- A Dungeons & Dragons themed game involving a massive dragon.
- A wargame designed for two people about a world where World War II never ended but became more intense because of the discovery of a new power source. Also: mechs.
- Another wargame, this time where one person defends America against the rest of the players, each of whom controls an enemy invading the US in order to defuse the international crisis caused by the American discovery of the technology needed to build enormous lasers.
- A Game of Thrones themed game that has lots of cool little banners to put on your dudes.
Alright. Ok. Alright. OKAY. I might like board games because they’re toys that I can just about get away with playing with, at my current age. It’s really amazing though, the sheer value you can get. Board games are inherently limited by the fact that they’re normally designed to be an experience that lasts you an evening in with friends at the most. That, and the limitations of creating actual materials for the game means that it’s very difficult for a board game to come close to the potential of video games. You have to accept a certain limitation to the experience. However, in that experience, board games can excel. When the mechanic is solid enough and the theme is fun, a board game has impressive replay value, and the whole thing is a world away from sitting in front of a screen, even if you are interacting with other human beings. It’s just not the same.
Oh dear. I’m not making a very good case at all, am I? I guess I’ll have to write about board games soon. The horror. Until then, go and have a look in on these guys. They do good work.