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!”