CHILDHOOD MEMORIES IN CUBA
The first board games I ever played were Monopoly and a Cuban version of Monopoly called "Triunfo". There was another board game made in Cuba called "Deuda Externa", which was about gathering international debts as a country, but it was just another roll-and-move game, which was interesting to me at the time, because I didn't know better, and it looked pretty nice.
I also played chess for a bit until I focused too much on it and my dad told me to give it a break. To this day, I haven't played chess again nor do I wish to do so.FIRST REAL GAMES
I arrived to the United States in 1998, and it was around that time I saw a Wizard magazine promoting the latest set of Magic the Gathering. I bought the magazine, marveling at all the card names in the set spoiler. I had no idea how the game was played, but I sure wanted to find out how I could get my hands on so many fantasy creatures and make them fight each other. I remember my high school web design teacher looking at the cover (I believe the cover had the creepy Delraich, a horror creature) and asking me if I was into demonic things...sigh...Soon after, I bought a how-to-play Magic the Gathering book at Amazon and though it was very basic, it explained the game well. To this day, I still play MTG, but just solo, pitting my created decks against each other (first on Apprentice, nowadays on Cockatrice). I never got too deep into the purchasing/collecting aspect of MTG because I have never had that much disposable income, and I am a completionist, that's why I tend to buy as many expansions of any game as I can. The ones I like of course (though Munchkin burned me for a long time).
The first time I became aware of the Euros was during a trip to the Sci Fi City store in Orlando. I was just looking around when I came upon the board game section. I had no idea there were that many board games out there. I was completely fascinated and very, very curious. Research led me to Boardgamegeek, and the hobby got started in earnest.EVOLUTION OF TASTE
The games I acquired at first were of the Ameritrash variety, since I believed I would only enjoy thematic games. That was proved wrong by RA, when I first played it in a meeting of Alternate Boardgames in Milford, Connecticut. Thus, RA opened the gates to me trying out more Euros and becoming more critical of purely thematic games. Funny that my gateway games were not the usual kind. I have never played Settlers of Catan or Puerto Rico, and I first played Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride when I was already deep in the hobby.MY LOVE FOR RANDOMNESS
As a kid, my favorite "toy" was a deck of cards. With my imagination, I created games where I could emulate anything I wanted with just the cards. I played soccer games, fighting games, shooting games, etc. I would assign a character or an action to each suit and just shuffle the results. Later in my life, I changed the method of randomization to a graphic calculator's random integer function, but when this one stopped working, I discovered the wonderful properties of dice. To this day, I still gleefully roll dice to make game choices, even when I play video games (like which character to pick in Street Fighter, or which weapon to use in Call of Duty). I also use the stopwatch function in my cellphone and www.random.org
for near-true randomness. Yes, all of this makes me weird, but I like it!WHAT DO I PREFER NOW?
Nowadays, I hover at a happy medium. I prefer thematic games with good tactical/strategic choices, or Euros with an appealing visual theme, if not some semblance of a theme. I try not to get games that are more than an hour-and-a-half, unless I really, really enjoy them and they will see play often.WHO DO I PLAY WITH?
I have played in two different game clubs so to speak. Alternate Boardgames in Milford, CT (I don't think they are still around), and the Wednesday gatherings at Cool Stuff Inc. back when they were smaller and at Winter Park, FL (near Orlando).
My regular group now is just my girlfriend and her best friend with her husband tagging along too. I have played some games with my dad, nephew and other siblings, but they were not always eager to play.
I'm proud to have introduced many people to the board game world, and if they haven't become full-fledged enthusiasts, at the very least they have realized there's more out there than Monopoly, Risk and Apples to Apples. Lauren (my girlfriend) now even requests games to play (more likely Ticket to Ride, Innovation, Lords of Waterdeep or Kingsburg) and I'm happy to comply.MY GAMING MANTRA
I do believe there's a board game for everyone out there, just like there are good games that simply don't work for certain people, me included.
I'm in a constant search for new and/or improved gaming experiences, and every once in a while, I'm surprised to find a game that I have shunned for a long time, to be a very enjoyable experience (Ticket to Ride, Castles of Burgundy).
My gaming style is to do my best to win, even if I have to be cutthroat. I always expect the other players to do the same. I absolutely hate when someone plays sub-par because they are bored, they are angry or they just want to punish one particular player. Knizia said it best, the goal is to win but what matters is the goal not the winning. If somebody refuses to adhere to these rules, I'll reprimand them and most likely will not play with them again.