I hear a lot of “board gamers” lament about how they grew up playing board games, and then they talk about all these old, kind of obscure games like Dark Tower. I didn’t discover “designer” board games until I was well into my 20’s. Sure, I played board games when I was a kid…but I played games like Sorry, Monopoly and Disney Trivial Pursuit.
The first time I went to GenCon (I was pretty much forced to go, almost against my will), I had no inkling of the new world that was about to open up to me. I’m told by my traveling companion from that first GenCon that the look on my face when I got my first look into the exhibit hall was “priceless.” I really was like a kind in a candy store as I walked up and down the aisles of that exhibit hall. I think I played more board game demos that first year than I ever have since. I couldn’t get enough of them because I had never dreamed there were so many different kind of board games.
Before that trip to GenCon, I really had only played trivia games or roll and move games and I came home that year with a lot of new games I had discovered…the beginning of my “designer game” collection. What’s really kind of funny about that now is the fact that I don’t even play many of those games any more. The first “designer games” I bought included Kung Fu Fighting (which I do still play), Showbiz Shuffle (which I also still enjoy), Quest for the Dragon Lords (and its expansion), Dracula’s Revenge, Geek Wars, Hex Hex (which I still enjoy), a CCG called Mystical Empire and Succession: Intrigue in the Royal Court (which I don’t think I have played even once since I bought it).
Wow! Looking at that list of my con swag from my very first con…I can’t help but wonder how many people go home from a gaming convention with a pile of crappy games. I can honestly say I have NEVER bought that many games since that first year at a gaming convention (due, in part, to a lack of money to do so, but also because I have become far more selective). I don’t think I even sit down to try nearly as many games at a GenCon or an Origins as I once did.
So, am I more like a majority of board gamers…or am I a minority?
It seems the more of a board game enthusiast I become, the less games there are that appeal to me. And now that I am learning about the entire new level of board gaming that is designing and developing…I am becoming a far harsher critic. I find myself wondering if this is a good thing, or a bad thing? It is certainly good for my bank account, but am I missing out on potentially fun games because the mechanics are a little wonky or because I’m not a fan of their designer or publisher?
I don’t think the answer is one I am going to like. I don’t want to be a board game snob, so as I am poised to venture through this next season of great gaming conventions (Origins Game Fair is next weekend), I am setting a new goal: I want to sit down and try at least two games that, at first glance, I am not interested in. Because who knows: I might be pleasantly surprised!
I also have just made a new goal to sit down and replay all those games I got 11 years ago at my first GenCon…because maybe I can recapture that excitement I felt when I first discovered this new world of board gaming!