I love games. There is something about a good game that rubs my brain just right. I enjoy critically discussing games, listening to gaming podcasts, and reading rulebooks. There is a great sense of discovery to learning how a game works, and then seeing how at all comes together as the game mechanisms operate in full view. Best of all, gaming is a social hobby. I used to be a video gamer, but these days I usually find spending time playing a video game to be unfulfilling. Sitting around a table and sharing an experience with my friends and family just feels so much more *real*. Boardgaming is also a great way to interact with others you might not know so well. Games can give so you insight into people's thinking process and personalities, and make a great way to break the ice, learn about your fellow humans, and accelerate friendships. Boardgames are just good, all right?
Boardgames were my favorite toys as a kid, but took a back seat to video games once the first Atari landed in my house. I came back to boardgames about 10 years ago, and was amazed to see how far they have come. I am very much enjoying exploring the evolution of my own gaming tastes and trying to identify what it is about certain games that connects with me so well. I am currently curating my personal game library, with the goal of filling my shelves with nothing but AAA games. I've got too many great games to spend my time and shelf space on merely good ones. In BGG terms, this more or less means that a game needs to earn an "8" or better rating from me to earn "shelf tenure." Anything less will be heading out the door.
I've learned through this process that the most important aspects of games to me are #1 mechanisms, #2 components, and #3 theme, in that order. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good theme, particularly an original one, but a good theme won't save a game with dull gameplay. Interesting mechanisms are king, especially ones that create dynamic interactions between players and other game elements. Components are also important. One of the main draws of boardgames is putting your hands on THINGS, which is very nice considering how much time is otherwise spent in front of video screens. The esthetics of a good game production add tremendously to the physical experience and emphasize how special it is these days to engage in nondigital activities. You give me a game with inspired gameplay, great bits, and gorgeous art, and I will most likely get onboard with whatever theme comes attached. Original and/or particularly well-executed themes definitely earn bonus points from me, however.
I enjoy games across the spectrum from Euro to Ameritrash, heavy thinkers to lightweight fillers. My favorite types of games let you plan and pursue an overall strategy, but also require you to react to a dynamic tactical environment. Variable setups are good, as are random in-game events. Most of all, I love games that present your with tough, meaningful choices, especially when players can deliberately inflict these on each other. Most of my top games share this trait.
On competition: I play to win, and games are best when everyone at the table does the same. However, I am not in it for the winning. When I think back on a game, I will remember who I played with, where I was, and any cool things that happened. I am unconcerned with the ultimate victory, except as far as it contributed to the game's story. As long as I play well enough to do justice to the strategy I am attempting, I am satisfied! However, I must admit that if I am sharing with a table with someone who clearly cares too much if they win, I will go out of my way to ensure that they don't. I suppose this is my misguided attempt to teach them a lesson.
I play games with my wife, kids, and a couple different gamer groups. I have made some great friends through this group, and if you live near Worcester, Mass and would like to join us, send me a Geekmail.
The meaning of my ratings:
1-5: I find the game somewhere between aggressively offensive to mildly tedious.
6: I think this game is is "meh", meaning that I'll play it if you like, but won't seek it out.
7: This game just missed the cut for me. I do like it, and will happily play it, but I don't need to own it, often because it is not quite as good a certain similar game.
8: This game is very good and does what it does better than other games I have played. An 8 game has earned "shelf tenure" in my library!
9: A really great game that I love to play. Just seeing a photo of this game will make we want to play it.
10: Of course I love to play this game too, but it also has some transcendent quality that turns every play into a deeply fulfilling experience.
Hall of Avatars (my past and future avatars):