* Background (or, my gaming life)
My gaming life started in the mid-80s, when I was about 9 years old: a friend of my parents was working for a printing company and gave us issues of a game magazine (Jeux & Stratégie
[Games & Strategy]). Boy did the board games they reviewed look cool! Each issue included a board game, and I succeeded to bring a couple of them to the family table on a few occasions. Jeux & Stratégie
also had column on Go
, which caught my attention because the finished game boards looked so nice.
The first game I bought was Dungeons & Dragons; I was about 14, and this drained almost all the pocket money I had amassed during my childhood. I partly read the rules, never played the game, and sold it back. I had caught the virus of the impulsive buyer.
My subscription to Jeux & Stratégie
ended (my parents paid for it) when I was about 17. My interest in games faded, except for the game of Go: a couple of books and a small magnetic goban were not too expensive for me. It was relatively hard to find opponents and time to play go; I played maybe 10 times in 5 years.
Fast forward to summer 2006. A 5 year old girl was with her parents in the train not far from us; my son started talking to her. They had a small game and I joined the two children, who wanted to play. Memories from my youth flashed back: I decided to buy games for my son, that the whole family would enjoy. That was good enough a reason to justify spending money on games. This is when I discovered the French version of BoardGameGeek, Tric Trac
, which provided me with some ideas and guidance.
This worked quite well, but I really felt that something was missing: board games for adults. While slowly getting rid of the psychological justification of buying games for my son
, I started buying games for myself. At a boardgame convention (Jeux en Fêtes 2007, I believe), I discovered Race for the Galaxy; the first with 4 players play burned my brain, I loved it, and ended up happily buying it. With the help of Tric Trac, I slowly (and sometimes painfully) discovered what games were really appropriate for my tastes.
Then I found out about BoardGameGeek, and the quality of the games I was buying increased substantially, thanks to the wealth of information found here. In the mean time, I realized that my most common game partner was my wife, and that this should not change any soon. And my wife started to enjoy board games more and more! Now, I was fully justified in buying games, as they were for both of us.
I'm now a careful buyer (still haunted by my memories of getting Dungeons & Dragons for no practical purpose), spending hours and hours of research before getting any game; thanks to BoardGameGeek, I'm rarely disappointed with what I bring back home! After experimenting, I reached the following conclusion:
* Characteristics of games that end up being played a lot:
- Short (30-45 minutes): Magic the Gathering, Dominion, Race for the Galaxy, Hive,…
- With a high ratio of thinking/interaction time over playing time.
- Rich in situations, events, etc.: Magic the Gathering and its huge number of special powers; Agricola with its different and impactful starting hands, and a farm which is never the same (however, unfortunately, the "do everything" strategy is quite forced); A Few Acres of Snow with the various board situations, the variety of hands to handle; Race for the Galaxy with the numerous viable ways of creating a good tableau; Claustrophobia with the story that unfolds and the diversity of situations that the players are in; Twilight Struggle with it huge variety (deck draws, board situation,…).
- Direct interaction is a plus: games are a good setting for enjoying some Schadenfreude.
* Games that do not see many play, but that I am very happy to own: longer games, when they have a a similar high ratio of thinking/interaction over playing time, or
when they are especially immersive:
- Mid-length games: Agricola, Innovation, Space Hulk, Claustrophobia, Reef Encounter, A Few Acres of Snow, Cosmic Encounter,…
- Long games: Twilight Struggle
* Characteristics of typical games that can make it to my collection (or remain in it):
- Games that are among the best in their category
--money is limited, as is shelf space. I do like some outsiders, though, so I'm open to suggestions!
- Variety of in-game situations
and reasonings (this is related to the first point). Each game feels fresh. Playing well often involves some creative moves
adapted to the new situation at hand. Each game is satisfying. Examples: Innovation, Magic: the Gathering, Warhammer: Diskwars, Agricola, Race for the Galaxy,… but also abstracts like Hive, Go, Yinsh,… The variety I am thinking of here thus has two sides: the minimal side is a variety where you have to think in a specific way for each game (abstracts…); the expansive side is when the game creates a different situation for each game in terms of theme/options available, etc., with many memorable moments (in Race for the Galaxy, players have a tableau that can feel quite different from game to game; in Magic: the Gathering, the balance of power and the tension can change dramatically from one game to the next, even with the same deck; in Warhammer: Diskwars, many games highlight a particular point of the conflict that generates very specific memories that will *not* be recreated before many, many other games,…).
- Rules that are streamlined
(with a few exceptions, with a theme easily tied to the mechanics, with a minimal number of details to remember (hand size, etc.)). This makes going back to the game easier (the rules fit better int he brain). Example: Go, Hive, Innovation, Race for the Galaxy, Agricola,…
- Games that are dense
in terms of reflection or interaction (almost all the time spent playing [thinking, even during your opponent's turn, interacting,…]).
- Shorter games
(less than 1 hour)--we have limited free time. However, I can also really love a longer, epic game if it has many qualities (e.g. Twilight Struggle
- Some randomness
is fine when it adds variety and tension.
- Room for table talk
(cursing, threatening, commenting, laughing,…), for a more social and memorable experience.
** Games that are very good with 2 players
--it is easier to find another fellow player than to have 4 people meet together for a game.
** Some games for 3+ players
, so as to enjoy social interaction.
- Not too much luck-driven
, so that decisions are meaningful.
games: I'm always open to new games! New mechanics, well-tested games, etc. appeal to me.
* More information about me: http://lebigot.pip.verisignlabs.com/
. I'm also a musician
, a programmer
, and a physicist.
Here is a great video on one of the pieces of my album Intuitions: