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Keep Yer Durn Teck-nology Outta My Games!
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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Let’s debate, baby!

While we may live in the golden age of board gaming, count me among those who fret about the encroachment of technology into the hobby. Recently I took some time away from the thriving cardiovascular surgery practice I own in my mind to muse upon just why I’m so leery of those dang neighbor kids and their dang iOSes they’re swingin’ all over the place. Below are nine reasons I want absolutely no part of the digital world converging with my well-worn copy of Eminent Romaine, Rio Grande’s new deck builder in which you strive to become the greatest lettuce merchant of the middle ages. Feel free to add your own reasons that no component of a board game should ever have a low battery warning, or maybe convince me that I’m just being a doddering old dinosaur who fears the future like Christian Petersen fears abstracts.

Twitter: @SorenNarnia
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1. Board Game: Power Grid: Transformer Station [Average Rating:7.53 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.53 Unranked]
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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1. Enough with the beeping and the flashing!

Like a lot of people, I stare at a computer most of the day, and when I’m not I have an iPod crammed into my ear as I check my smartphone for potentially life-saving information about impending Evil Dead reboots or what Lady Gaga thinks about curly fries. Board games give me the welcome opportunity to shut all the electricity and technology off for a while and embrace the natural serenity that comes when the ones and zeroes stop breakdancing in my cerebral cortex. Please oh please, can we just have ninety dang minutes free from the infernal curse of Thomas Edison?
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2. Board Game: Nemo's War [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:1946]
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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2. Revel in the beauty of limitation, or I’ll hurt you

For me, there’s an elegant art to forms of entertainment and expression which are limited by the resources their creators must work with. I love opening a box--and sometimes just a plastic bag as with VPG's offerings--and discovering how a team worked within the same constraints everyone else must obey, whether it's FFG or Eerily Quiet Dude in Mom’s Basement Productions, in order to create something that fires the imagination. It’s awesome to me that nothing more than simple cardboard, plastic bits, vivid text and inspired art can combine to form a great game which can be enjoyed over and over again (or, if not a great game, then at least Reiner Knizia’s Let’s Collect the Red Cards with a 6 and Some Kind of Picture On Them!) I’m not nearly as impressed when technology opens up a game and removes so many of those limits. It’s the difference between an artist drawing a haunting landscape with a piece of charcoal, and three code monkeys named Kurt using AutoCad to create one that moves and transforms and changes colors when you hit the space bar. The latter may be very cool, but the former gets more of my respect and appreciation.
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3. Board Game: Instant Math Games that Teach [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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3. The rulebook that kept going and going

I wonder if board game designers might get lazier if they know they can just have an app created to take care of the bookkeeping or the parts of the game which demand that the participants take time to organize, regroup, do a wee bit of math, and pay close attention to what’s going on. Many people point to apps as a great way to take care of a game’s fiddly accounting, but if you ask me, if an app is necessary to sort your cards and calculate your modifiers and keep things running smoothly, it’s an indictment of the game’s basic design. It’s a real challenge for a complex, ambitious game to keep its fiddlyness under control, and I want a designer to rise to that challenge, not ask me to leave my iPhone on during the game to make it seem less bloated.

Even worse, I imagine a nightmare scenario in which playtesting gets weaker and weaker because companies figure "Hey, we’ll just post a 2.0 if we forgot something, and a 2.5 if we really screwed up, and why even print a rulebook when we can just keep changing it online, and people can sign up to receive automatic updates and win cool prizes as long as they tell us their zip code for our creepy marketing purposes?" (This all becomes far more sinister if you imagine the words spoken by Christopher Lee, so go ahead and do that now. I’ll wait here.)
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4. Board Game: Quarriors! [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:451]
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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4. Pips ahoy!

Ahhhhhh, dice. The ultimate, incredibly satisfying slap in the face to technology in gaming. Sure, you can have all sorts of wacky randomizers work for you if they’re wired to a server, and modern times have given us the d4000 we’ve always dreamed of, but there’s something about rolling little plastic blocks that totally Brunos my Faidutti. What other activity allows me to work my wrist muscles in such a rewarding fashion? (All right, I set you up on this one; let’s see if you’re mature enough to just walk past it.) Beyond dice, of course, there’s the glorious and undeniable tactile goodness of nice components, both in the way they feel in our hands and the way they complement each other in the service of game play while scoring points for plating and presentation. I loves me some goober; it’s a vital part of the art form. 3-D glasses and an earphone which allows you to hear the rich sound effects generated by some irritating future version of Dungeon Lords, not so much.
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5. Board Game: Stonehenge: An Anthology Board Game [Average Rating:5.46 Unranked] [Average Rating:5.46 Unranked]
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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5. All sales final. Thanks for shopping!

One of my biggest pleasures in this hobby is playing a game and then deciding to dig under the hood to ramp up its horsepower with a few self-designed, and often deliriously ill-advised, tweaks and fixes. (See my Summoner Wars variant which employs the Hit & Run table from APBA Baseball.) This becomes far more of an arduous proposition if the engine is rooted in place by coding I’ll never understand and probably can’t ever even touch. Hell, without house rules, half of the games in my collection would be on eBay tonight along with my Beta copy of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, and keeping things a wholly cardboard affair makes every game an endless honking golden playground for my demented Frankensteinian tinkering. I especially salute YOU, Stonehenge anthology game, for laying on your back right out of the box and begging me to violate you night and day!
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6. Board Game: Dixit [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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6. Who you talking to, anyway?

Social interaction is the #1 benefit of board gaming to many, Dixit being a most pleasant example of how nice it can be, and it’s hard to see how matters wouldn’t suffer when everyone’s got their iPads on during play--don’t tell me people aren’t going to get distracted by emails or calls or sudden Google searches to find out if there’s time to catch the 9:40 showing of Shameless Leonardo Di Caprio Oscar Grab 2013. "Hold up, I’ll make my move in a second," I can hear my idiot friend McThump saying, "I think the Patriots just scored and I gotta see if I got fantasy points." Now, no one’s denying that Tom Brady is God, but why does McThump have to ruin the mood with that kind of talk? Plus, I’m not sure how digital gaming isn’t going to mean more gawking directly downwards instead of at least toward a vaguely central, shared area where my miniatures are about to go totally Mordor on McThump’s sorry unpainted paladins.
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7. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:6]
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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7. I’M in charge here, dang it!

This one might get some eye-rolling and yet another charge that I have an overactive imagination, but here goes: I love board games because they play at the exact pace that I decide to set. When electronic dealies are turned on, I can never get past the sense that they’re waiting for me, quietly buzzing, using battery power, or generally just tapping their e-feet while I suffer a fit of analysis paralysis so intense that I become a one-man sculpture garden. There’s something about the analog way of gaming that encourages a more relaxing--even pastoral--pace and state of mind. Encounter cards and mounted boards never give a rat’s thorax that we’re taking our sweet time, but an Android phone wants constant attention, like a newborn infant or the president of Iran.
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8. Board Game: Facts in Five [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:3007]
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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8. A Room With a View

In keeping with my increasingly shrill tone, here’s a childish rant against digital games in general! Sometimes I look up at my massive game collection (8 and counting!) up there on the shelf and I think how nice it is to behold them, and how good they look, much like a collection of books I’ve claimed to have read. I like re-arranging them from time to time as new ones come on board and old ones leave for a farm somewhere where they can roam in the fields as much as they like and have as many new player aids as they want. Having a bunch of icons in a folder somewhere just isn’t the same. Anyone as old as I am (93 in December) kind of misses the big LPs of yesteryore and how nice it was to just look at the cover art and read the liner notes and imagine that Olivia Newton-John was gazing at you directly. Downloading albums song by song doesn’t give you that same eye candy, doesn’t give you fond memories of the dude with all those sticks on his back from that Led Zep album, and definitely doesn’t have a pleasant heft that makes you feel okay about spending all that cash. I suppose you can see the connection to board games, and to those old 3M bookshelf gems in particular. (Plus, I want my games where I can always see them, because frankly, I don’t trust Panic Station and I always think it’s about to sneak up behind me and take me out.)
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9. Board Game: The Omega Virus [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:2305]
Soren
United States
Falls Church
Virginia
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9. Electronic gaming tables: Man, whatever.

Electronic gaming tables: Man, whatever. Look, if I want to watch an animation of the dude from Hansa Teutonica’s box cover shaking his quill pen at me when I make a bad move, I’ll make a flip book of it during detention. In short, if I want video, I’ll play a freakin’ video game. Now you kids turn this geeklist off and get outta here--the sign clearly says that no more than two teenagers can come into my convenience store without being accompanied by an adult. I'm going to just sit here denying the onrush of the future and praying I never own a board game any more digital than the little fella shown to the left.

Which I refuse to play, naturally.
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10. Board Game: Mouse Trap [Average Rating:4.10 Overall Rank:11063]
Roger Howell
United States
Lenexa
Kansas
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Too technical. A simple wood plated wire trap would suffice.
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