After spending close to 20 years playing board games, I consider myself a veteran gamer and have developed specific preferences and tastes about the hobby. These preferences have largely shape which games I choose to purchase and play with friends. As a veteran gamer, I have also developed strong opinions about different aspects of the hobby. To capture a better snapshot of myself as a gamer, I have written short blurbs on several topics below. These topics will provide the framework and context for approaching my blog. Collectively, I believe these likes, dislikes and personal thoughts form my philosophy on gaming.
Games I play
Games that initially came out from Germany during the late 90s’ and early 00’s really shaped the types of games I played and enjoyed. As companies such as Rio Grande Games and Mayfair translated and reprinted the foreign games in United States, these games slowly formed the backbone of my board game collection. Even as my collection has fluctuated over the years, one can easily see that the majority of the games I own are European in origin, with a strong slant toward games from specific designers such as Reiner Knizia, Wolfgang Kramer, Micheal Kiesling, Rudiger Dorn, Uwe Rosenberg, Michael Schacht and friends. Closer inspection will also reveal that my game collection has aged. Most of the games I own have been published a while back but many have been constantly reprinted and still in circulation. This is a testament to the longevity of these games and many remain my firm favorites. While I still purchase new games, my collection’s rate of growth has slowed. Some of the newer designers I enjoy include Stefan Feld, Michael Pfister, Kristian Amundsen Ostby and more. My favorite publisher, hands down, is Hans im Gluck (and by extension, Rio Grande Games back in the 00s’ when they reprinted HiG games in the US). HiG almost always publishes Euro games inthe light-middle weight category and I am predisposed to enjoy their games because I think they do an excellent job of playtesting and publishing only high quality designs in the genre.
To be clear, while I overwhelmingly favor Euro games, I also enjoy the more immersive and thematic designs often known as “Ameritrash” games. These games are heavy, requires lots of upfront time investment and often spot a sci-fi or fantasy element which plays well with select groups. I can safely say that I do enjoy some of these games as well. However, at present, these heavier games are not in my rotation. That may change in the future depending on circumstances, but I do not foresee my gaming tastes to change drastically. As the preamble of my blog from Knizia indicates, there is a right game for the right time. right place and right group of people.
How I enjoy playing my games
I have given a lot of thought about this and over the years and I have grown to accept and make peace with my style of gaming. Basically, I crave variety. I want to explore new games, soak in the new designs and admire novel mechanisms. However, I am NOT a card carrying member of the Cult of the New. I do not feel compelled to buy the latest and greatest and am happy waiting for 2-3 years before purchasing a game, preferably used to avoid waste, once the hype subsides. I am just as happy to pick up a game that is 20 years old or revisit a title in my collection which I haven’t played in many years. This means that I generally enjoy playing a game a few times until a get a good feel for the game and then moving on. This could range from 1-5 plays and then I would decide if I still have a desire to play the game and if it is worth keeping. In other words, I much rather sample widely than deeply. I don’t care if I ever become good in a game. In fact, I don’t really want to explore the nuances because I couldn’t give a hoot about beating an opponent repeatedly. I just don’t care. Finally, because of my style of play, I also actively avoid purchasing expansions, modules, add ons, promos, etc. because I much rather spend the money to purchase a new game than to get more of the same. I tend to think that base games ought to stand on its own and it is closest to the original vision of the designer.
There are many downsides to my style of play: First, you need a somewhat larger collection to rotate games. Mind you, most gamers already have a sizeable collection, so this is not an issue for most. But a larger collection just means you can rotate things around, and come back to the same game a year or two or three down the road. Next, not everyone loves learning new games. Tell that to my partner who shakes her head when a new “old” title makes an appearance. In fact, we have very contrasting play styles. I understand why some folks would hate doing this. I think it makes sense from their perspective. For me, I just love learning and exploring new things. So, not a big deal.
Evolution of a board gamer
I would like to say that the great Pandemic of 2019 brought about changes to my gaming habits, but in truth, I think age has more to do with it. Board game preferences evolve depending on the state of one’s life and career. For me, my gaming tastes have stabilized after more than 20 plus years of playing Euros. Purchases of new games have dropped dramatically as many new games simply do not fit my current playing criteria. I am ok with that. My collection is extensive enough that even if I don’t buy anything new, I am set. Perhaps due to time constraints and a having a pre-teen kid, games that are mid-to-light weight are heavily preferred, which is wonderful since I get to bring out all the Euros from the 90s’ and early 00s’. These are games that I started with when I entered the hobby and it has now come a full circle. I always treasured these games – even though many have only been played once or twice – and after having seen how board game designs are evolving, I think I cherish them even more. I still do enjoy complex Euros, but no longer feel the urge to buy or play them. On the other hand, seeing a good copy of El Grande on the secondary market still makes my heart skip a beat or two.
Initial impressions and reviews
Almost all gaming blogs have some form of board game reviews accompanied by ratings. In that sense, this blog is not all that different. What is different though is my approach toward the review process and ratings. I feel that good game reviews should be informative, opinionated but fair. Playing the game once or twice probably doesn’t do the game enough justice to merit a comprehensive review. Yet, not all of us have the luxury of playing each game half a dozen times before penning our thoughts. To find a middle ground, I have decided to give “initial impressions” of the games I play. These impressions usually come after a single play (or two) and is followed by subsequent updates if deemed necessary. In this way, I don’t feel as obliged to give an impartial or fully-informed comments on the game because they are merely first impressions. More often than not, I find my initial impressions to accurately reflect my feelings of a game even after subsequent plays.
Since I started the blog, I have gone back to write my thoughts on older games as they get played and replayed in my group. It dawned on me that these games are hardly first impressions. As such, I have retroactively introduced a “final word” category to complement my “initial impression”. These “reviews” so to speak, are games that I have played over the years and kept in my collection. Naturally, the games I have kept tend to be more highly rated.
I have strong feelings about game ratings. I think that most ratings do a poor job of capturing our state of enjoyment of games. A numerical scale of game preferences in the form of rankings or ratings is simply too quantitative to capture our subjective “likes” and “dislikes” of a game. I suppose in a way, this is an issue with most questionnaires. This is more of an issue if the scale becomes too broad (i.e. 1-10) and you are forced to distinguish if a game is a “7” or “8”. Moreover, individual preferences for different aspects of a game can skew the overall score. For example, there are some areas of the game I like, such as design, theme, etc. while other areas I dislike such as components or mechanism. Different players will attach different weights to different aspects of the game and the final tally may not be indicative of whether you truly “love” a game. Finally, almost all game ratings fail to take into account the evolution of a gamer. Games rated as a newbie are bound to be different when replayed as a veteran. Overall rankings or ratings quickly becomes outdated and no longer have any predictive value. However, what I do know is the general feeling I have after playing each game as well as my desire to replay the game. I can usually feel the rush of dopamine in my brain if the game is good and if I enjoyed the experience. This is usually accompanied by a growing desire to replay the game in the the near future. I can look at my collection and consistently assess which games I have a strong urge to replay. As such, I have decided to employ a more subjective classification for the games I review based on my desire to replay each game. This also means that the “rating” may change with each play.
- Great!: I love the game and there is a strong and continuous desire to replay the game
- Good: I enjoy the game and don’t mind if we replay it soon
- Average: I feel neutral and ambivalent about replaying the game
- Not for me: I don’t think this game is for me and hence I don’t need to replay
Ultimately, there is no absolute method for ranking games. One person’s poison is a cure for another. A game which you dislike playing with one group could be a delight with another. A game that is mediocre when you were 28 may be awesome when you turn 60. There are just too many variables to contend with. All I know is how I feel at this moment in time. So, I try my best to capture this moment based on my desire to replay.
I have daughter who is growing up fast and I am fascinated by her mental development. Like most gamers, I need no convincing that playing board games is a powerful way to cultivate positive traits in kids. I want her to learn how to compete fairly but also be gracious after losing. I want her to learn math, logic, probability, opportunity cost and critical thinking skills in a fun way. Most of all, I just want to play and have some fun family time together. To that end, I have decided to add a rating to the kids game we play. Particularly, I try to catalog her development and observe how she improves as she grows older. I have included her age at the point of the review and will periodically update. I hope this will be useful to someone wishing to purchase the game.
The joys of redesigning a game
I guess I have found a creative outlet after all. In between work and playing games, I have found joy in redesigning games using desktop publishing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. These are mainly simple games I have wanted to try, but balk at buying a commercial copy due to cost, but also because it is tough to find a copy in the local market. In addition, I have been trying to be a good global citizen by repurposing used KOSMOS EXIT game boxes, pieces and cards. So, a win-win-win from all angles. If you want a copy of the digital formats I have created, please send me an email at contact page. Obviously, it is not for sale, just for personal use.