Friday, January 6, 2012

Board Games: Commodity Trading Vs. Hobby Vs. Addiction

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about games as they sit on the shelf, collecting dust, as less of a  "durable good" or "commodity" as much as "collector's item". What I mean by this is that, as I'm sure you know, most games have a short lifespan of "buzz" on the Internet, then appear to ride off into the sunset. I'm not sure that they end up being shelved indefinitely, but they certainly don't command the attention as they did when they were all fresh and new. Maybe that's just human nature, to want to play with the new, shiny toy even though the one you got last week is still in perfect working order and just as awesome as it was when you clicked "buy it now" two weeks back. But maybe it's not. Maybe it's because the allure isn't a "new game to play" as much as "getting something new" and having something to look forward to.

But let's start with the original thought: What is the useful lifespan of a board game?  I used to think, probably in a minority opinion, that games are to be kept and played often rather than played a lot for a short period and then shelved, only to be re-investigated sparingly to quench a particular hankering. But now that I'm laid up, and my friends are pretty much out of action or disinterested, I'm starting to see things from the perspective of someone who doesn't value the idea of getting new games often, but from someone who wants to play games that I have, and enjoy, more often. Because I've been playing video games more often, I've started comparing board games to other types of interactive entertainment, and the realization has been pretty eye opening.

When you look at a video game, especially an RPG game, for instance, there's maybe one or two "plays to completion" in the game. That said, with each play consuming 20 hours or more, and 100 hours or more in some cases, the fifty bones you drop on a video game may be better spent than the fifty you spent on a boardgame that will be played an average of 10 times before shelving it, with each play being two hours. The difference is that with video games, you generally play the hell out of them until completion, whereas with a board game, you'll likely play it four or five times in rapid succession, then sporadically, and then rarely after, if ever again. I'm not even sure that this has to do with the quality of a game as much as the human condition, especially when it comes to collectors and OCD completists.

Then look at a first person shooter, like Halo was or like Battlefield 3 or COD: Black Ops is. People spend hundreds of hours a MONTH playing those games, and honestly, I'd say it's more in line with a boardgame since they're both forms of entertainment that require other people to utilize. So, when looked at under that lens, you can see that board games are not nearly the value, when looked at from a use perspective, as some of these games might be. I mean, even the most die-hard Heroscape guy can't say that he plays Heroscape as much as a FPS enthusiast plays online shooters. Thus, it's certainly arguable that the board game hobby itself isn't about the actual play value as much as the collecting aspect, and certainly not about the lifespan of a board game as a durable good.

Let's go back and take a look at board games when viewed as a durable good. What is the lifespan of a game? And should it be judged by that? At what point does one accept that they will never play a game again and the only reason it's still sitting on the shelf is sentimentality? I'm not very sentimental or nostalgic in this regard, so as a pragmatist, it's a very, very short time for most of my games. Some games, though, such as El Grande or Space Hulk, have such a high probability of being played that I cannot envision arbitrarily dismissing them.

By that rationale, I'd have to say that for most games, their viable lifespan is not all that long. As noted, this doesn't include a very few games, arguably "the classics" or games you particularly love, that may see use for years and years. And in my research for this article, which was comprised of talking to a great many folks without telling them why I was asking the question, it appears that I am correct in assuming that "value" isn't the real motivator, and that people hold onto games not primarily based on their interest in playing the game a lot. Primarily, the motivation they almost universally offered was that they wanted the 'experience' of playing the new game.

What this exercise has shown me is that my original view that a board game is really not that different from other forms of entertainment as I once thought. You go out and buy a DVD not because you plan to watch it four hundred times, but because you believe that you will watch it enough times in the long-term to justify its price, and you want it to always be available to you. You buy video games going into it for the experience as well, not really taking into consideration how long the game will last, or how much value-per-hour you're going to receive for your money.

So it's not really about the value of the game as far as how many times you will play it, it's about feeding your desire to have something available to you, on demand, and the experience. Boil that down, and it appears to be about instant gratification. But with board games, it seems, the mental justification often is there for the purpose of allowing the purchase rather than justifying it based on value terms. In other words, the person getting the game has no real anticipation of playing it so many times that it would justify the purchase, but simply owning it is justification and reward in and of itself.

What I find interesting about board game collecting, or should I say collectors, are the parallels to substance addiction. I've talked to, and read Internet forum posts from, ample people who brag about ordering something online and how the waiting is unbearable; how they look outside at the post box, praying their wee parcel of goodness will appear. It's akin to the guy who calls his dealer up looking to score, and how he can't wait for the black-on-black Maxima with 20" rims to appear in his driveway. Continuing with the corollary, the game will most certainly prove to be a short-term fix, like that eight ball of coke, because before long, the "new game smell" will have worn thin, and the guy will be back at BGG researching the next purchase to ease their need for a new game. If you then pair that with the desire for the "experience", irrespective of the value received or the cost, it really starts looking like an addiction.

I'd point out that there's nothing wrong with this in and of itself for many people. People tend to need something to do with their time, and collecting boardgames is certainly far less destructive than drug use, or at least to one's health. But what I am saying is that, like drug use, the enjoyment tends to manifest more in the researching and collecting than the playing. Sure, playing the game is great fun, but the fact that the game gets stale so quickly and becomes perpetually shelved so soon after purchase would support the idea that "having something to look forward to" vis-a-vis waiting for a parcel to arrive is the real draw. Sort of like a kid's anticipation before Christmas, waiting for the special day that they can open the presents. It's not so much the present as the anticipation and the act of opening it.

So, the question then becomes, does the quality of the game really matter all that much, in the long run? There are some truly great games out there, but there's far more games being churned out by the Euromills that are simply re-themed versions of other games with almost identical mechanics, or worse, the nebulously themed mash-up games. Yet, these games seem to be consistent sellers just as the great games are, although their buzz dies on the vine far sooner than a good game's buzz would.

If the draw is in the collecting, and the anticipation, then the answer becomes clear: a great game will see the table more often, but in the grand scheme of things, mediocre games that are played 5 times and then sent to the bench are just as intrinsically valuable because they feed the need to collect, or the need to perpetually anticipate an inbound game. Maybe the "bragging rights" of having a great game on your shelf is nice, but were it the primary motivator, people would have nothing but the greats, with the chaff being sold or donated off, which is simply not the case with many, many board gamers.

But let's get back to the idea of collection versus playability...if a game is poor or average, and so many games are superior, why keep them? Why have a collection in the mid hundreds if the games will very likely never see a table again? This is the one thing I just can't seem to figure out. Maybe it's the pain of having to sell and ship games, maybe it's the unappealing idea of spending money on something and then selling it for less shortly thereafter.

Maybe it's because the only viable alternative is BoardGameExchange, where you can rent them. There simply is no "Gamestop" for Board Games as of yet. Some FLGS stores provide a buy-back service, but again, this isn't utilized often because every FLGS I've been to, and there have been a great many of them, there is almost never much "used game" inventory with respect to board games. A lot of Magic cards and miniatures, but very few boardgames. Thus, I'm let to believe that the demand for such a service doesn't truly exist, or all FLGS would be doing it, and it would be the norm.

This is compounded by the fact that unlike video games, boardgames are far more expensive to dispose of via the same means normally available to other entertainment venues. Shipping them is expensive, which is hampered by the fact that most online sellers offer free freight upon initial purchase, and therefore upon sale, the price must generally be exponentially decreased in order to attract buyers.  It's a real pisser, in short. Sure, few games will actually appreciate, but those games are generally the ones that the original purchaser is most inclined to keep.

Even when you consider trading games online, there are significant barriers as you are losing the price of the initial purchase, the initial shipping price, and then the price to ship the game to another person, all of which adds up to a snowballing financial loss for each game that is traded. There are obvious deterrents to buying mediocre games, available for all to see, yet people for some reason are compelled to continue buying crap games by the bushel, only to perpetually store them.

Whatever the case may be, it surely appears to an outside observer that boardgame collecting is just as addictive as crack or tobacco, and provide the same fix as a junkie gets with virtually the same cycle: the continual craving for more, the anticipation of the arrival, the use which results in euphoria, and then, finally, the crave hits again and the 'user' goes back out 'doctor shopping' on BGG to find their next fix.

But, the question remains: If it's not an addiction or mental issue, why would one continually buy mediocre games and shelve them, knowing they'll be hard to sell and thus will cause financial loss? Why not simply buy only the best games, and forgo the poor ones? The only conclusion I can come up with is that it is indeed either an addiction or mental disorder along the lines of 'hoarding'. I'm sure there's a minority of aficionados who want, for idealistic reasons, to collect every single boardgame ever made, but I'd argue that it's a very, very small and quiet minority. The majority just seem to want more and more, and it doesn't matter how much the games get played or how fun they are.

This idea is cemented by the fact that I cannot tell you how many people I know that have bought hundreds of dollars in games that are sitting, right now, on their shelves with the shrink wrap still on them. And it's likely that they will ALWAYS sit there, with the shrink on. So, what purpose could that serve? If you buy something and haven't even bothered to open it a year later, let alone actually use it, it's a good bet that you might have an addiction. Now, I'm not saying that EVERYONE is like this. I know plenty of people that use weed or drink a lot, and are productive people that aren't addicted. What I am saying is that there's a definite subculture of addicts, or at least those who exhibit addictive behavior. I think it's fair to say that this is the core constituency of "The Cult Of The New".

My conclusion really comes down to the idea that boardgames, more so than video games, are not actually a durable good or commodity. They are, for many hobby gamers, a consumable item prone to few uses before being discarded, but that happens to be collectible. Sort of like a Pez dispenser, really; they're used several times, then set aside as a decoration. But for other folks, the game will sit on a shelf for many, many moons, maybe even in the shrink wrap having never been played, because the goal may never have been to play the game at all; that was the simply subtext to justify the purchase. The real goal was to have something 'precious' sit on your doorstep when you come home. In both cases, though, the useful lifespan of virtually all boardgames is incredibly short, and the fact that the game sits eternally on a shelf makes it no less discarded, it simply redefines the garbage bin.


kenchan13 said...

Wow, Awesome article! I have a few "unplayed" games. Mostly "vintage" stuff i bought for nostalgia reasons, (old start wars, pac man, centipede, etc. ) board games. But an awesome article!

Steven Davis said...

Speaking as someone with a lot of board games, some in shrink wrap, this article struck dangerously close to home.

However, I've come to think that perhaps it is the way we make/publish our games as part of the problem.

After all, many game publishers were basically making games to use their printing presses when they weren't getting paid.

Games as comic books, basically.

But, if I look at the games I keep "out": my chess set, backgammon, Go board, and some others, perhaps it is the cardboard box and board that are part of the problem.

Is it time to return to games as craft as in woodworking?

zoki said...

Play value while spending evening with your family is invaluable. The game, even only once played, could cost as much as going to the cinema. The same goes to playing with friends - one evening of drinking booze outside would cost more than Agricola.

I want to be away from computer and to socialize in real world, and buying a game keeps this illusion of better times coming, that whenever friends will have time, well play it... soon.. one day, when our kids grow a little.. any day now..

=+=SuperflyTNT=+= said...

Gotcha Zoki, but there's something you're avoiding. The fact that if you GO to the movies once, you don't have to put the theater somewhere when you're done. It's meant to be a one-time experience. Boardgames are not.

Why buy a game and play it once, stating "ah, that was fun" when you'll never play it again. It wasn't that fun, clearly, or you'd be keen on a repeat.

Mb said...

You've got to kiss a lot of girls in order to figure out which ones you want to sleep with.

=+=SuperflyTNT=+= said...

Cute, but the fact is that if you were born with testicles, you want to sleep with them all. :)

Seriously, though, using that analogy, every girl on earth, even ones that are just preparing to enter the dating pool, have so much information on BGG and the internet that it's not very hard to see which ones are the swallowers and which are the ones that have a nasty "scheister" fetish.

Further, do people really need to start dating them immediately, without knowing much about them, or can they wait until other people have had their way with them, and have reported back that they may be 26/32DD/28 but they just don't know how to rock that funky joint.

Alex Hoffman said...

Really great article, Pete.

Rob said...

Definitely a lot of truths in this. As a relatively new board gamer I have already exhibited some of this crazy behavior.

I saw a microbadge on BGG that said something along the lines of "I spend way more time on BGG than I do actually playing games." And for me that is definitely true. If you're analogy about games being like crack is true than BGG is like the seedy part of downtown where you can go and find the best stuff.

Anyhow, as a newer member to the hobby there is just so much out there. In the process of building my collection I've picked up quite a few stinkers along the way. I feel that I have a lot more restraint now when it comes to buying games. More importantly though, is the fact that I am more aware of what I will like. So when I do buy games my percentage of duds is much less.

Lately I've placed a self imposed ban on myself for buying games. Even with only 70 games, which is miniscule compared to many out there, I feel I need to stop and savor what I have. To do this I've stopped visiting BGG as much. It's just too tempting when you see a Geekbay auction and you just "need" to place a BIN bid on an item you've had your eye on for a while. Or when you see the game that has risen to the top of the hotness list with glowing review after glowing review. Again, if I stay out of the seedy part of town where the good dope is and I delete my dealer's number from my cell I will be less likely to buy.

If I'm honest with myself I could probably trim my collection down to about 10 games or so...yes JUST 10..and still get plenty of enjoyment out of this hobby. For instance, do I really need Memoir '44, Battlelore, AND C&C Ancients? Do I need to have Twilight Struggle, 1960: TMOTP, and Washington's War? Shouldn't one card driven game of this style be enough. If I were to pare down my games to the bare essentials of what I like I'd probably do just as well and save a lot of money in the long run. Oh well.

Pete said...

I've figured out a sure-fire way to make sure I have ONLY what I need: Only keep the best-in-class of any one genre or "style". So, only one (or one series) of Slash-n-Loot Dungeon Crawler. One "corridor bug hunt". One "Fantasy DoaM". One "Pseudo-War DoaM". One Dexterity-based game. And so on....

I have a little crossover in some of my games, like owning Clue, Spy Trackdown, and Scotland Yard, but they do things differently enough that I feel they're unique "bests" in the field.

I think I have maybe 50-60 "full games", not counting things like Runebound 'card deck' expansions, and I still feel like I should cut maybe 20 more out that just won't see any play.

Anonymous said...

I've been playing board games more heavily for about....2.5 years now. According to BGG (which I keep pretty-well updated), I own a bit under 30 games (if you add on expansions, probably 45ish).

Now granted, I'm part of a large board game group, so if each person buys 1 new game here and there, everyone gets to try a TON of new stuff and if someone brings in a game I try out and really like, I'll run out and get it, but honestly, in the past year, I can only think of maybe 2-3 games I've tried new which I thought, "I need to go out and get this!" As the article mentions, most games are either derivative or just not very good

So really, the only people going nuts buying hundreds (or thousands....yes, I know a couple like this) of games are people who could/probably would become the same level of obsessed with collecting in another hobby just as easily. Maybe it's because too many people grew up with "gotta catch em all!" drilled into their heads, who knows.

So nice look at obsessive collectors in general, but I think limiting it to a look at only board games is looking at it in too narrow of a scope.

Anonymous said...


Cool, that works well for you. I look at it as if I like a certain style, I'd like to have some more like it, for variety. Like music, I can't just have one best-in-class. I like rock and have lots of cd's of rock. The CD's vary. I dislike classical music so I don't own any. Games are like that for me. I enjoy area control games, for example. I, personally, would get bored playing only El Grande. So, I have more that are similar, some perhaps not as good but then I found some that others had written off as "average schlock" to be outstanding games. You don't know. ON the same line, I dislike fantasy games, so I don't buy em. I see no need of having the best of that genre.

Caleb said...

I think you hit pretty close to the mark here. There is a very strong urge to have that anticipatory experience. Once the game arrives, there's nothing to 'anticipate' so you go for the next anticipatory experience.

That said, some of us are in different circumstances from you. For example, I buy all the games for my group. If I don't buy it, there's very little chance I'll get to play it, ever. So I may take a flyer on something that's not quite so highly regarded, if it seems interesting.

But yeah, even with a collection of around 75 games, I have more than I can reasonably play, and several stinkers it's not worth my while to trade or sell.

And some I keep for nostalgia, and some for hopefully playing with my kids some day.

But my game buying has slowed down quite a bit in recent years, and I'm not planning much except targeted small purchases for the foreseeable future.

Colorcrayons said...

I posted this on BGG before I realized that this is blogspotware and I could have posted my thoughts here instead...

I agree with the article to some extent and is the main reason why BoardGameGeek is both a blessing and a curse.

It is a blessing because we as consumers can make much more informed decisions on the types of games we ultimately do decide to purchase.

It is a curse though because if you are inclined to rampant consumerism that many consumers fall into of "Buying to fill the void left inexplicably by something else in your life" then BGG doesnt do you many favors with all the advertising and cult of the new geekbuzz for games going on.

I lean more on the blessing side because I recognize such an addictive personality trait in myself and use it to exhaustively research even the cheapest games.

I only have so many minutes of my life that I am given to dedicate to hobbies, and only so much money and space in which to fulfill them.

It is why I made my own geeklist for my personal picks of games I would never part with simply because it gave me the perspective I needed in order to be quite discerning in my gaming purchases and to play the games I love as frequently as possible.

That said, I still have several versions of the same damn game. But at least I recognize the problem and deal with it instead of becoming buried in a cardboard tomb of my own making.

I think I will put a link to this article in my geeklist for future reference when I need to keep the collection bug into perspective.

Anonymous said...

You might find it interesting the read "In Realm of the Hungry Ghosts". It's written by a doctor who has a compulsive buying problem with classical musics cd's. He buys more that he can listen to and with the same sense of urgency that I see some people buy boardgames. He works professionally with drug addicts. He compares/contrasts his compulsive spending with their addiction issues. Obviously the problems are not the same, but there are some interesting behavioral and biological parallels.

Bunnyloaf said...

I don't own that many board games yet, but I bought one or two RPG books a month for the last two years. This is definitely more than I can use in a once a week game.

On the bright side, many of them were entertaining to just sit and read even if they never got used (my Dark Sun Campaign Setting for instance). And the storage problems are much less severe than board games.

I figured I would use them eventually, but then I heard D&D 5th edition was currently in playtesting. So 90% of the books I own may be obsolete in year or two, depending on whether my group decides to update.

Jiiri said...

Great essay, as usual, Pete. Even when I disagree with you (I'm not sure I do here) I find that your arguments and opinions provoke thought, which is always welcome (I am a philosophy major, after all).

I can't disagree with you, and I find myself needing some introspection on this particular point. I would add a few things that you might not have touched on, though.

For one, I find that one of the things that can drive this "compulsion" for new games, is the fact that, as a niche community, board games tend to be produced by a bevy of smallish companies. These companies make small print runs and then games cannot be purchased through simple retail chains. This fear, of games that I have on my radar as wanting to try out, drives me to feel like if I miss out on buying a game, it may go out of print and then I won't be able to get it reasonably. I am MUCH more likely to purchase a game if I think the company is small, or the print run is small, or anything else of this nature. There isn't really a corollary for this phenomenon in books or video games.

The other thing that can drive this, is the $100 free shipping plateau. It's not enough to just buy one game, say, once a month, because you add that game to your cart, add shipping, and see that now you're paying $ if I just add a few more games I can get 3 or 4 games for $100 and save on shipping. This makes me buy more than I probably would otherwise.

Another thing, which some people here have rightly pointed out, is that it is easy to justify buying a shitload of board games for a few reasons. Family time or face-to-face time with people whose company I enjoy seems like a worthwhile experience when you look at the price of games(Here, I think you're right that it can steamroll, and rationalization is definitely easy to come by for this reason primarily, I think). It's easy to say, as an above poster did, "Hey, this game only cost me $30, and I'll have it for 10 years and be able to play it hundreds of times, so it's better than going to the movies!" And this is, on the surface, true. But you're not really going to the movie to the tune of $100 or $200 a month, are you? That's what I've spent on board games.

Another driver of this behavior in my case is the idea that my children (14, 4, and almost 1, all boys) will all be able to enjoy certain of these games with my wife and I, increasing our familial bond and giving us all a hobby we can collectively share. But again, rationalization here runs rampant. I can achieve this goal with my family on much fewer games. If I only had 50 games instead of the 350 I have, I could still spend many a fun family evening gaming with my boys. So, again, no compelling reason here.

the last driving factor for me, is the idea that there are wonderful games out there that I'm not going to catch; the search for my gaming "Holy Grail." This seems like a Moby Dick scenario - and while I've found a few that I love, I've surely spent a lot of money and collected a lot of mediocrity along the way.

So, thanks, Pete, for facilitating some introspection. I'm not one to get all defensive when I read something that indicates I could check my values; you've provided that for me.

I'll slow down on board gaming, I soon as I get the Mage Knight reprint. That looks awesome. Oh, and Risk: Legacy. And In the Year of the Dragon. Love Stefan Feld. Oh, that reminds me, Trajan! Goddamnit.

=+=SuperflyTNT=+= said...

First, thank you all for reading, and for all the kind words.

Rob: I'm not in any way saying people should go all Leonidas and get all Spartan, sticking to 10 games at a maximum. What I am saying is that if you're going to go out and buy games, make sure they're good ones based on all the pertinent information in the market, and then be SURE TO PLAY IT before heading back to get the 100$ Free Shipping Deal.

Anonymous: There's all kinds of madness and obssessive consumerism in the US. Just look at our kids' toys...they're being brainwashed to be OCD Hoarder/Collectors from 3 years old. Squinkies, BeyBlade, Bakugan, Pokemon...My Little Fucking's all there. This article is about board games primarily because we, as adults, can CHOOSE to break the patterns. And this happens to be a board game site, kind of makes sense. :)

Anonymous #2: I get what you're saying, hell, I have Prophecy, Runebound, and will soon have Merchants and Marauders again. I have Ravenloft AND Ashardalon AND Drizzt. I have Tikal AND El Grande AND Cave Troll.

The point is that it doesn't really matter what you have, as long as you buy it knowing you're going to play the shit out of it. Buying just to buy is the point of all of this.

I know you're alluding to my "best-in-class" method, but remember that it is YOU who defines the class. "Area Control" is a wide category. If you can pare it off into "Area Control with Bidding" or "Area Control with DoaM Warfare" all of a sudden you can have a lot more games on your shelf and still be following your own rules.

Caleb: We're actually in the same boat. I buy all the games for my main group (as it were) and thus I understand your plight. BUT, I draw the line because if they want something I don't consider to be worthy, they can go buy the bastard! :) It seems that at 75 with a few stinkers, you can offload a bunch in a math trade at BGG in a "pile" to entice more people to get it. Then you're out 20 more bucks in shipping but get a hundred dollar game in return. And you're not going to miss the's already spent and was spent on a lark that didn't work out. It's like going to the new Chinese place down the street and getting ptomaine poisoning...never again!

Crayons: Glad you liked it! Spread the word! It's certainly a better addiction than others I can think of, and just like any other addiction, it's manageable.

Anon #3: Thanks for the heads-up. I'll check it out on Amazon!

=+=SuperflyTNT=+= said...

Bunnyloaf: Books are a different medium, I think. I own hundreds of books (I hate E-Readers, and love the smell of old paper novels) and have read them each at least once, but mostly twice or thrice. But that's their scope. Games are meant to be played often, not to be played once "for the experience" otherwise there'd be far less emphasis on "pretty and plastic" aspects. Everything would be "Avalon Hill Wargame Quality" with chits and counters.

Jiiri: I'm glad you enjoy my work. It's always refreshing to hear that it's not only fun for me, but fun for others as well.

I'd argue that while there are a lot of small-press, small-run games out there, very few are really all that good. Those that are, generally get reprinted.

The thing is this: If you spend $500 on small-print guys and get one good game, maybe two out of ten, then you've spent $400 that you didn't need to. Why not wait until all the reviews and comments are in (I find the forums relating to questions truly useful in this regard: the more questions, the poorer the game was designed, it seems) and then go buy it SECOND HAND? Virtually everything can be had. If you offer a guy 150$ for Alien Frontiers, which he paid 50$ for, and then you offer another guy 100$ for a Summoner Wars starter, which he paid 20$ for, you got both the "killer app" games you wanted for 200 or 250$ without having to buy 10 games at 500$, saving 8 games' worth of hassle and space while retaining 200 or 250 dollars in the process.

Patience is truly a virtue, and in America, virtually anything can be had.

Jiiri said...

Pete: Of course what you say is true. I wasn't arguing the small publisher scenario as a justification, just as a psychological driver for buying games; the fear that they go out of print. Which they do fairly often in this small hobby. And, I agree. I think a new rule-of-thumb I'll institute is one game a month, and to spend the month reading and researching so that I can narrow down my purchases to games that I'm more likely to like. My wife will surely be happy.

The other benefit to having less games is the ability to play the ones you end up with more deeply. Right now, I get a game played a handful of times, maybe more if my wife really likes it. Some of these games deserve more attention.

Pete said...

Check out my Red November review, Jiiri; it's the PERFECT husband and wife game. Pandemic and Forbidden Island are great as well, Defenders of the Realm is another one, and my personal 2-player favorite card game is Bhazum. Omen is a close second.

All are reviewed here; I'm eventually going to get the index done on the site (See sidebar to the left on the main blog, bottom) so that people can find what they are looking for more easily.

Until then, use the Search on the upper left sidebar. It's pretty accurate.

Jiiri said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Pete! I have Red November, albeit the small version. Haven't played it yet, but reading up on it the time mechanism seems cool. I have Omen and have played it once, and really liked it. Can't really see my wife getting into it as she is averse to take-that or war-like games. Omen is brutal. I have and love Pandemic, and have avoided Defenders of the Realm for two reasons; one, I hear it is a Pandemic derivative, and two, it is somewhat expensive. I actually am tending more towards Euros as I'm finding theme to be less important to me than solid mechanics. My wife loves Eminent Domain, Race for the Galaxy, London, and her current obsession is Empire Builder (crayon rails), although she's 0-5 against me.

Reading your blog has me inspired and I just started my own last night, although I very much doubt it will have the clarity your writing has. So thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

While I like your article and think you make the point well, from my own personal perspective I have to disagree. It seems the essence of your argument is that "games are meant to be played" and thus games purchased that don't get played represent pathology. I have 600+ games. Many on my shelves in shrink (the apotheosis of addiction by your argument) but I don't buy the games only to be played. Tied with that consideration is the beauty of the games themselves. I get great satisfaction sitting in my office surrounded by the art, the amazing fonts, the narrative suggested by each box cover, the memories of specific instantiations of playing a particular game. When I get burned out on my work, I often pop open a box and admire the board and bits(Sienna for example is a mediocre game that is stunning and always a joy to consider.) I like reading rules even if I don't plan on playing the game anytime soon. The rules themselves give me the sort of pleasure a watch aficionado finds in restoring and cleaning grand, elegant clockworks. I am fascinated by the intricate machine, the cogs, the interlocking wheels, and I like laying out a game and thinking about the design process as I grok the rules. These are all ways I get deep satisfaction from my collection that have little to do with the actual experience of playing-with-other-people. While I enjoy playing boardgames a great deal, I collect games not for the "rush" or the "high" of getting a new carton via FedX (which is really rather pedestrian and actually a PITA given local recycling laws about peanuts) but for all these other reasons that have to do with an aesthetic, a functional beauty as much enjoyed for the suggestion of purpose as for the pragmatic one.

Thanks for your thought-provoking comments and Happy Gaming to you!

Jiiri said...

Anonymous: I think that on the one hand you misunderstood his argument a little, and oversimplified it, and on the other hand you kind of proved his point. Of course you might get satisfaction from looking at unopened boxes on your shelves; the argument isn't that there is no other way to enjoy a game. It's that if you're spending large amounts of money on games obsessively, and constantly chasing the new ones, and not even opening the old ones, then maybe there is a psychological underpinning and it may not be healthy.

Also, I'm not sure Pete even makes much of a judgment about people who do this. He really just points out that a lot of people are compulsive and obsessive and maybe it's something to consider when examining our own behavior and the reasons and rationalizations we use to justify that behavior.

On another note, I've been thinking about this for a few days now, and I'm wondering if there isn't a correlation between personality types that can be obsessive and personality types that are drawn to board gaming. In other words, maybe the nature of the hobby itself attracts the types of people that might become obsessive collectors. I think we all know quite a few gamers who display some OCD tendencies in the way they play or store their games. Video games are similar. Look at things like MMOs, who essentially get people to stick around because the design of the game taps into obsessive personality types. Just a thought.

=+=SuperflyTNT=+= said...

Anon #3:

He's right: I make no judgement or no perjorative commentary on the thesis, I simply point out that the phenomenon exists.

BUT, having 600 games to be surrounded by the art, to "read through the manuals", and all that sure seems like you're an odd bird. 600 x ~$40 = $24,000; for that amount I could print and bind a lot of PDFs of rules and still own a new car. :)