The Many Styles of Play

And how it shapes your gaming habits

Finca will always have a special place in our hearts

I think how people play games dictates many aspects of the hobby. The style of play likely determines what type of games they play, who they play with, how they play, the size of their collection and where they choose to spend their resources. In short, the style of play is a statement of YOUR gaming priorities. Importantly, styles of play can change over time as priorities change. What you play in your teens will be different during adulthood and when you retire. While styles of play exists in a continuous spectrum, there are very distinct styles to suit everybody’s needs.

My style of play hasn’t really changed much since my graduate school days. I love games and enjoy gaming and given the opportunity, I’d love to spend more time gaming. But the constraints of parenthood and career puts a limit to my gaming opportunities. When I do play games, I prefer to game with people I know and would normally hang out with. A small gaming circle has always been my preferred choice as I feel that board gaming is 3/4 social interaction. Having tried conventions and large gatherings, I don’t gain nearly as much enjoyment from playing games partly because I am also aware of social decorum with strangers. People are different and quirky and it can often translate to difficult board games interactions. While I have had more positive than negative interactions, overall, conventions and gatherings just aren’t for me. This also means that my gaming circle is small and the number of games I am exposed to are a fraction of what is out there. It also means that I have to obtain most of the games I want to play.

As far as gaming goes, I enjoy variety. I prefer diversity over mastery when playing games. Dominating my opponents has never been the main objective of playing games and I am not even sure I care that much about winning. To be clear, I do always play to win, but I’d always choose to play for the sake of playing. My usual preference is to play a single game a few times before putting it away for sometime. A few plays is enough to understand the depth, strategy and limitations of the game, but not quite enough to gain mastery over it. If the game is good or great, after some time has passed, there will be a growing desire to play the game again. The desire to replay a game grows until it gets played, quelling my desires and and the cycle continues. If a game continuously cycles through this waxing and waning of desires, then I know it is a Great game. If a game cycles with a longer period, then it’s a Good game. Games that never enter the cycle or are stagnant usually means I should sell or trade the game, though I must admit it does not always happen. For me this systems works because when I stare at my games, I can feel which are the ones that are calling out to me and those are the ones that are my hits.

Because of my style of play, it is necessary to own a collection large enough to cycle through different games. My collection is not huge by gamer standards, but it is not small either. At the current count of about 300+ not including expansions, it is more than enough to cycle through multiple games over the year. To sustain a relatively large collection, most of my games are gently used copies via purchase or trade. I trade, buy and sell aggressively to tailor my collection to suit my preference, but it is also true that my collection is still growing, albeit slowly. I do buy new games, but sparingly so. Games that I buy usually come from specific designers that I am always keen to try (Knizia, Pfister, Feld, Kramer… know the drill). It is also true that my style of play has greatly affected my collection. Time constraints have forced me to pare down parts of my collection which “I wanted to play”. Those include Twilight Imperium, Horus Heresy, Descent and many more. Those games have all been replaced by light-to-mid weight Euros which are more manageable length wise and also more self-contained. While I do miss these heavy thematic constructs, it is unlikely I will get to it in the immediate future. Still, my copy of Space Hulk, Merchant of Venus and War of the Ring is stashed somewhere.

As my playing style evolves, I am also less likely to splurge on the shiniest game on the shelf. Sure, I am an honorary member of the cult-of-the-new but as my collection has reached a stable (or insane) size, I am happy with my collection and there is always a game that will feel new when I play it again. That means, I am happy to wait out a game I really want and see if the game floats or sinks in the public before hunting down a used copy. The way you approach playing games will really impact your collection size.

These days, my style of play has sort of stabilized. I can imagine many busy families having the same gaming structure. There is a small evolution going on in my play style though. My kid is growing up and now is part of the gaming scene. Perhaps my style of play has to change to accommodate a younger gamer. As it is, her “large’ gaming closet is already chock full of HABAs’. I do hope ultimately, I will have another big change in the style of play when I retire. Who knows if the thematic gaming will make a return and we shall see my life go a full cycle and end up where it all began.

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