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#BixbyFifty #Day13 – Boardgames

Well, today I am really going to lighten things up. I love boardgames. I think I would like to explore some of the reasons today and see what takes shape. Time to look back over the years…

I have always been a “thinky” person. Even as a kid, I was overly analytical. I liked to see what made things work. I took apart clocks and watches, built stuff, destroyed stuff, the whole nine yards. I enjoyed playing games as a young lad too, but then again, I think all children enjoy the act of play. When I was young, I got to play games like Monopoly, Clue, Payday, Careers, Masterpiece, Billionaire. All of the Parker Brothers classics. Most of the time, I played these games with other  kids in my neighbourhood, and occasional games with mom or a brother. When I was 11 years old, I remember visiting my brother Phil in Alberta (I was living in Nova Scotia). He introduced me to the game Stratego and I was blown away. It was not a roll and move game like Monopoly or Payday. It had elements of strategy I had not seen in other games. I really liked a game that made you use your mind. This was an important paving stone on my road to enjoying this hobby.

A couple of years later I made my own version of Stratego that had air units, naval units, and land units. I made the units by hand by sawing a large number of dominoes in half and applying stickers to denote the unit. The front of each unit had a color sticker on it telling your opponent whether it was a land, naval, or air unit. I hand drew a grid map with water and land to play on. One of the cool attributes of the game was that air units could spawn from an aircraft carrier and just show up on the board. If you had a lot of naval units in play, your opponent was left to try to figure out which unit was the aircraft carrier. Lots of fun. I still have the pieces to that game. I have fond memories of thinking about strategy then. Little did I know back then, how deep the rabbit hole would go…

…Let’s fast forward a few years…

When I was in my early teens, I went to Halifax with my older brother Charlie to spend the day. We stopped at a house in town where his buddy Peter Horne lived. Peter had a war game set up on his dining room table and I remember looking at the wonderful map with all of the cardboard chits with tanks and army men depicted on them. I was quite mesmerized. I always had a fascination with maps and to me, this game was an object of beauty. Years later, Peter and I would become gaming buddies although I never did get to play any of the old Avalon Hill classic Hex & Counter war games with him. We did play Supremacy, a session or two of Star Fleet Battles, and a few other games whose names I can’t remember.

Many years later I moved to Halifax to go to community college and that is when I bought the Dungeons & Dragons basic set. I opened it, read through the description of the game, and was really taken with the thought that a game could be a narrative without a board. That is what really got me to take the plunge and start buying / acquiring material and pursuing gaming as a hobby. Peter Horne joined the D&D group I started and we had a good D&D game going for many years.

During the tail end of my D&D years I got into Magic: the Gathering in a big way. Another interesting design that completed captivated me. As a Collectible Card Game it was expensive though. I did acquire a very large collection of cards in the early to mid nineties.

At this point, if you are still reading along, if you are not a gamer than your eyes have probably glazed over and you are questioning why you are even reading this. No worries, this is pretty geeky stuff. In essence this was all just background information for where I am at with the hobby today.

So, in the early 2000’s, I found myself living in Saskatchewan with a huge collection of Dungeons & Dragons materials and an even bigger collection of Magic: The Gathering cards. Neither game really resonated with me anymore. The demands of career and family took precedence. During these years, we would play a periodic game with friends, but nothing regular. This was a dormant period. I sold or gave away all of my Dungeons & Dragons books, modules, miniatures and magazines. Next on the list to get rid of were all of the Magic: The Gathering cards.

It was around this time that I discovered modern “Euro” games. They are very well designed and have so many advantages over the games I knew from my youth. Nothing against Parker Brothers, but this new style of game was much more socially engaging. These games were quick to play, all of the players were involved in the game and not eliminated part way through, the themes and mechanics were fresh and inviting. The European Designer style boardgames were designed with families and social engagement in mind.

I decided that I would turn in my entire collection of Magic: The Gathering cards to a local boardgame store for a large store credit. I figured it would be enough for me to buy 20 to 50 boardgames and that would be more than I would ever need in my lifetime. A perfect collection of games spanning many styles and variety of play.

What happened next was my full immersion into the hobby. In 2005 I started into the hobby in earnest; I acquired a number of games and started hosting regular boardgame nights for friends. Many of my friends were very taken with these new designs and our collection of games grew. It was around this time that I started to meet a lot of very cool people. This hobby attracts some of the most thoughtful and interesting people. Most of my close friends in Regina I owe to meeting through this hobby. Truth be told, I have met many cool people around the world, and many of them I call friend today. That, to me is damn awesome.

I could go on and on, but I really should bring this back to gratitude.

I really crave intellectual stimulation. The hobby in general allows me to focus my attention on some interesting challenges, mental contests, puzzles, or however else you would like to describe the mental immersion. I guess in some ways it is a means to side step some of the daily stresses we encounter and enter a microcosm that takes us away on a journey. Some games are full of theme. You can be part of a team of scientists trying to save the world from a host of deadly diseases, you can be a formula one race car driver burning around the track at high speeds. How about you are great leader in the midst of building the civilization of Egypt, Rome, China, Persia etc. In another game you could be expanding the lands around the walled city of Carcassonne putting your meeples to work as Knights, Monks, Farmers, or Thieves. It could be that you would like to test your mettle with the tension of the cold war as you embark on a Twilight Struggle.

All of these things are much more appealing to me than television. I do not mean to completely eschew television or movies, but I can only handle them in small doses these days. I much prefer an active form of entertainment to a passive one. I want to be a part of the journey or story. One could say that video games offer this, but they lack another important ingredient for me; people.

Games are a fantastic way to socialize. Like I mentioned above, I owe many of my friendships to this hobby.

Today, I am very grateful for this hobby. The countless hours of entertainment and the rich friendships I have formed. I owe a lot to the hobby that has given me so much. It is the enduring gratitude I have for the hobby that was the idea and energy behind www.saskgames.com The website is now 650 members strong and weekly gatherings indicate many other people derive a lot of pleasure from the hobby too. That warms my heart.

“Life is Short; Play Games!”

#BixbyFifty #Day12 – Dark Clouds

I was not in a very good mood yesterday. I felt annoyed. Not sure why, perhaps it is some more detritus of the April 15th events working their way to the surface. That is okay.

I want to walk a fine line. I do not want to dwell or fixate on the events of that day; I do not want those events to own or define me. That said, I also do not want to stuff any thoughts or feelings about them into a dark closet either. Any feelings have a welcome home in my heart, I will calmly inform some of them that they only have a visitor’s pass though.

On Saturday, Kathy and I pruned the mayday tree, cutting out various sections of black knot. We raked some of the tell tale signs of winter past from the back yard. We gave the barbeque a thorough cleaning. We removed last year’s apples from the tree as they had become perilous apple-sauce bombs just waiting to fall. The patio furniture was placed around the fire pit. Our backyard was prepared to herald in a new season of gatherings.

As if to mirror my mood of yesterday, we received 3 inches of snow last night. Thank you nature for providing metaphors for me. It is interesting to think of dark moods in this manner. Just like the new fallen snow, my mood of yesterday is temporary. The inevitability of the warm spring sun will take the snow away, the commitment to an attitude of gratitude will dissipate the clouds of any dark mood. I am constantly reminded how wonderful life is and how many blessings we have. In an odd way, it makes me grateful for passing dark moods. It allows me to own them without them owning me. So, in a strange yet sincere way, I am grateful for being out of sorts yesterday. It came and went much like the fleeting nature of the snow on my lawn.

#BixbyFifty #Day11 – Time of the Season

Given the nature of my last entries on this blog, I think I need to lighten it up a bit. Mostly, I woke up this morning feeling lighter and more akin to my normal self. I just saw the lovely Lady Lew off to work, walked her to her car, and sent her off with a kiss. The morning is quite cool, but the sun is shining and it casts a strong warmth. The yard is showing a strong desire to put winter behind and focus on the spring chore of growth. I do believe the yard is telling me something.

There are a multitude of things to be grateful for today, but I think I will focus on the changing of the seasons. For whatever reason, I view seasonal changes as opportunities to pause and think of my own changes.

Autumn is my favourite season and it represents opportunity to learn and grow. It is the time when universities start back up and city streets are full of autumn leaves. People are shuffling around with books under their arm on a journey to learn and ponder life’s mysteries. The air is crisp and fresh and sweet with the smell of autumn leaves. There are those leaves again. Most of this imagery is from when I lived in Halifax. Halifax is a university town and there is such a vibrant energy in the fall that the air is electric. Ideas, philosophies, and new beginnings are discussed at length in coffee houses. Autumn is about new ideas.

Winter is a time for redefinition. With all of the ponderings of fall fresh under our belt, we can put in motion our plans to change our lives. I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but it generally is in the winter that I make some choices for new habits, new plans, new adventures. Winter is about selecting ideas and making plans.

Spring is a call to action for me. It is when the thoughts from winter need to germinate and grow into deeds. Ideas by themselves are not much good without some inertia. Spring is a time to connect action to intention. As the world throws off the cold blanket of winter, I too view this as a time to enact, grow, move, do. I have noticed in recent years that the transition to spring officially occurs for me when I rake the back yard and prepare it for a new season of gatherings, fire pits, and basically add the backyard to our house as another functional room to enjoy and spend time in. Spring is about putting plans into motion.

Summer is a time to be active. I tend to spend a lot of time in my head throughout the year, I guess summer is when I spend time in my body. I generally set aside many of the abstract musings that occupy my thoughts in the other months. This is a season to canoe, hike, camp, throw darts, bike, play bocce, and enjoy the various gatherings of friends over large tables replete with food and drink. Summer is about being active and enjoying the fruits of plans made earlier in the year.

I know that is a great over simplification, but it mostly rings true for me. It is aptly timed for me to move into spring now. Given recent events, I need to focus on renewal and growth. I feel stronger today, more myself. Perhaps the blogging and interactions I have had with friends and family over the last few days have been the warm sun that I needed. Thank you.

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”
– Sitting Bull

#BixbyFifty #Day10 – Sharing Burdens

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Yesterday’s entry was tough for me to write. I am very glad that I did write it though, it was a great release for me. The amount of comments and outpouring of support and love has been phenomenal. Thank you. I cannot begin to tell you how important those words have been.

It strikes me as sounding cliché to say that all of the posts and words are a great support, but truthfully, they are. Knowing that there are people out there that empathize with our pain somehow lessens that pain.

I remember a long time ago thinking about social media and that it was very difficult to post or say anything when someone shared the loss of a loved one or other personal tragedy. I used to spend a lot of time searching for the perfect thing to say, and quite often would not say anything. I realize now that any words that are gently and lovingly spoken/written are the perfect words. It was when mom passed away and many people wrote words of love and support; I cherished everything people said. I realized then the power of support is in those small gestures and simple words. I realized the power of sharing burdens.

The events of last week will be with us for a long time. They will be with Teri a long time. The healing process will take awhile. My natural tendencies have always been to withdraw and face my challenges alone. Faced with a problem, I would steel my nerves, and find a quiet place to chew on my problem in isolation. That is fine for intellectual problems, but not so effective for matters of the spirit or heart. It has been a lesson for me, and still is. I try to be more open with my challenges these days and in doing so I find that their power over me is diminished.

Today, I am grateful for the lessons I have received about sharing burdens, but more importantly, I am grateful for the love, support, and kindness from family and friends.

2009 – My year of Gaming

Be a Merger Mogul with the Game of Acquire.

Hey all:

I have been slicing an dicing some of my game play recently so I thought I would share. My goal is to play 1 game / day on average and I was curious how 2009 was for gaming. Turns out:

I logged 444 Plays of 127 different games in 2009.

Game / Plays

    Poker 32
    Sequence 28
    Aggravation 23
    HeroScape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie 21
    Formula Dé 15
    Pandemic 14
    Battle Line 12
    Coda 9
    Dominion 9
    Cartagena 8
    Cribbage 8
    Incan Gold 8
    Ingenious 8
    Blue Moon 7
    Carcassonne 7
    Galaxy Trucker 6
    Infinite City 6
    Rack-O 6
    Backgammon 5
    Neuroshima Hex! 5
    Powerboats 5
    Railways of the World 5
    RoboRally 5
    Snow Tails 5
    Taktika 5
    Unpublished Prototype 5
    Alhambra: Big Box 4
    Citadels 4
    Fluxx 4
    Hamsterrolle 4
    Mexican Train 4
    Mille Bornes 4
    Tomb 4
    Ca$h ‘n Gun$ 3
    Crokinole 3
    Dungeon Twister 3
    FITS 3
    Hey! That’s My Fish! 3
    Himalaya 3
    Lost Cities 3
    Maharaja: Palace Building in India 3
    Passe Trappe Grande 3
    Space Alert 3
    Wasabi! 3
    Wings of War – Famous Aces 3
    Yahtzee 3
    ZÈRTZ 3
    Acquire 2
    Agricola 2
    Arcana 2
    Army Ants 2
    Automobile 2
    Bamboleo 2
    Bang! The Bullet! 2
    Battleball 2
    Battlestar Galactica 2
    Bausack 2
    Blokus 3D 2
    Blue Moon City 2
    Caledea: the Epic Strategy Game 2
    Code 777 2
    Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix 2
    Duell 2
    Elk Fest 2
    Jamaica 2
    King’s Breakfast 2
    Leader 1 2
    Metal Warriors 2
    Micro Mutants: Evolution 2
    Modern Art 2
    Power Grid 2
    Sky Runner 2
    Ta Yü 2
    Winner’s Circle 2
    The Adventurers 1
    Army of Frogs 1
    Ave Caesar 1
    Big League Hockey Manager 1
    Blitz 1
    The Bridges of Shangri-La 1
    Castle Panic 1
    Chess 1
    China Moon 1
    Chrononauts 1
    Cleopatra and the Society of Architects 1
    Diplomacy 1
    Dogfight 1
    Dragonriders 1
    Dutch Blitz 1
    Empire Builder 1
    Fearsome Floors 1
    Formula Motor Racing 1
    A Game of Thrones 1
    Hammer of the Scots 1
    Le Havre 1
    HeroQuest 1
    Kremlin 1
    Liar’s Dice 1
    Mamma Mia! 1
    Mississippi Queen 1
    Moto Grand Prix 1
    Odin’s Ravens 1
    Pit 1
    Power Grid – Factory Manager 1
    Rod Hockey 1
    Rukshuk 1
    Rummy 1
    Rush n’ Crush 1
    Savannah Tails 1
    Shogun 1
    Sorry! Sliders 1
    Speed Circuit 1
    Spinball 1
    Steel Driver 1
    Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game 1
    Sub Search 1
    Thunderstone 1
    Thurn and Taxis 1
    Tobago 1
    Tsuro 1
    TurfMaster 1
    Twilight Struggle 1
    Wealth of Nations 1
    Web of Power 1
    WeyKick 1
    Zendo 1
    Zooloretto 1

    Some of highlights were:
    …Season Two of BFD (Bixby’s Formula De) Racing League.
    …Launch of BoWoW (Bixby’s official Wings of War) League.
    …2009 BSOP (Bixby Series of Poker).
    …Evenings of Carcassonne with Kathy.
    …Monthly Family Game Nights at Mount Olive Lutheran Church.
    …Play By Email Diplomacy.
    …FallCON in Calgary.
    …BGG.CON in Dallas.
    …BixCON at my place. 🙂

    I feel incredibly lucky that Kathy enjoys games and we have a wonderful circle of friends that enjoy games as well.

    “Life is short; play games.”

    Happy new year to all of you. May 2010 be filled with the joy of play and the opportunity to share that with those you hold dear.

Merry Christmas 2009

As I reflect upon 2009, I am reminded what a blessed year this has been. I have great people in my life; both in person and people I interact with on the web. I have so much to be thankful for that it is humbling and it is hard to know where to start. When I began to reflect on 2009, I really did not think that I did that much. Going through the process of distilling the year into a short video recap was a wonderful exercise in reflecting on the joys of the year. I would very much like to thank all of the people in my life for the memories, lessons, and laughs. I am a better person today for knowing you.

From our household, we want to wish you a most Merry Christmas and a new year full of health & happiness. In lieu of purchasing gifts for our extended family and friends, we have once again decided that we want to try to make the world a better place through KIVA. Please visit our KIVA profile and know that we honour our friends and families through this opportunity.
CLICK on Our Kiva Profile

Krystal has done a stellar job with our Christmas letter this year. Here is our YouTube Christmas Card:
embedded by Embedded Video

Finally, here is our year distilled into a 10 minute recap. Many of you make a cameo appearance and for that you get an oscar for best supporting cool person. 🙂

“Fun Boardgames, Great Poker, Tasty Beverages, Good Eats, Fantastic Travel, Incredible People… …these are a few of my favourite things.”
embedded by Embedded Video

Merry Christmas 2009,
Matt

Crossroads

Crossroads

Crossroads

 

Crossroads are a funny thing. They represent opportunity, but they are also very unsettling. As long as we are walking down a straight path we are not faced with many choices, but the sudden appearance of a crossroads make us stop, think, and make a choice. I appear to be at a major crossroad now and it is very daunting.

 

Through the years I have accumulated a number of people that I have brought openly and completely into my life. A series of recent events has caused me to pause and examine what I get out of these relationships. I am proud that I am such a kind and giving person, I am proud to say that I possess a great reservoir of inner strength. I ask very little of the people around me. I give emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially, mentally, and recreationally to all family & friends. I have not requested much in return.

 

A few of the people I know are absolutely wonderful giving spirits. They are the people I admire and look to for personal inspiration and motivation. I hold them very dear. There are many others in my life that do not enrich my soul. The balance sheet of our interactions ends up being one-sided. That has never really been a problem for me, until now. Perhaps, much like an adolescent having physical growth spurts, I am having a spiritual growth spurt. I feel a strong need to excise all forms of negativity, drama, and needless petty conflict from my life. I am at a crossroads that I do not fully understand, other than, I want more for myself. I need to shift my focus from quantity to quality.

 

Over the last few years, I have been blessed by the company of some truly life-affirming people. They carry themselves with an aura of peace and inner calm that is infectious. They have created a personal environment that is filled with emotional maturity. They are impervious to the petty conflicts and drama of life. Their resilience is constructed out of a strong self-identity and well crafted boundaries with those they interact with.

 

There is no Nirvana where life is a Disney-fied fairy tale of perfect existence. I am quite realistic about that. It is a matter of saying no to the daily dose of drama, conflict, and negativity from those who are struggling on their journey. Just like a drowning man can often harm or kill a person trying to save them, proximity to those poor struggling souls can be very emotionally and spiritually draining.

 

I have created a strong sense of self-identity over the years. I am quite comfortable with who I am and what I am about. My failing has been boundaries. I give too much and accept too little. I realize now that it will be impossible for me to have a high degree of self-respect if I allow those around me to show dis-respect. This will be a tough crossroads for me as I slowly turn  to walk down a path that is unfamiliar to me. This path does not look like it has had much traffic; a sign it is the right path but one of solitude.