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20 steps to becoming a weird game fan

Oliver Kiley
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Short little blog post inspired by this thread: 20 steps to becoming a GMT fan

Board Game: HeroQuest

(1) Grow up playing traditional board games (monopoly, clue, other main stream stuff)

(2) See advertisement for HeroQuest (and also New Dungeon and DarkWorld) on TV. Beg parents for it. Proceed to subject all family members and friends to these amazing games. Totally transfixed. Thinks role playing games are awesome. (circa 1989 - I am 8 years old)

(3) Buys "Space Marine" 2nd edition big box from a garage sale. Has no idea what it is but is strangely curious. It has these tiny tiny little figures. It's EPIC! (circa 1991)

(4) Uncle gives Oliver Rouge Trader book (Warhammer 40K 1st edition). Neither uncle or Oliver really knowing what this thing is. I learn about the god-emperor and grimdarkness. c. 1991

(5) I am now drawn to the local hobby shop (already familiar to my father who built gas powered remote control airplanes). Discovers an entire wall of metal figures. Mind blown. So this is Warhammer 40k. Oh - so this has something to do with Space Marines. Wait a minute. The fantasy ones look just like the chaos warriors from HeroQuest. What the heck is going on here!? Starts buying too much WH40k (second edition) stuff with parent's money. Circa 1993.

(6) I also stumble upon BattleTech technical read outs and AD&D rulebooks and other stuff. Accumulates a small pile of each, but doesn't really know what to do with them. They bide their time. For now. Start playing various PC video games in here - mostly text adventure games.

(7) Sometime in middle school. Friends start playing Magic the Gathering. Friends say I should play. I play. Oh what have I done. The Dark had just released, so this was 1994. Also start playing more FPS video games. Quake is a thing, and it was good too. 1996.

(8) Meet more friends. Have play dates (well, this was middle or high school, I guess it was called "hanging out"). Friend says: "Oliver, what is THIS?" as they gesture to warhammer stuff. "We should play this!" So after many years of collecting and buying a trove of stuff - we're finally playing. And it was glorious. Eldar and Orks, Chaos Deamons and Space Marines. We made terrain and painted miniatures. We waged battles and argued over rules. It was a fun time. 1994-1998 or so.

(9) It's 1999. Time for college! Still playing lots of video games - slowing down on Warhammer. Interest in Magic dries up. Discover beer. Discover beer and pretzels games. I buy Munchkin (circa 2001). This is amazing! I dig into the Steve Jackson back catalog and discover Illuminate (Deluxe edition, 2001 printing). Mind more blown. This is the greatest game ever, I'm pretty sure (P.S. - I still really like this game).

Board Game: Illuminati


(10) Meet my wife. She and various family friends of her's played board games. Lots of Gamewright, faimly games, a few german-style ones here and there. Somewhere around here I play Settlers of Catan. It's alright. I also play a big team game of Axis & Allies - I like that more. I buy more games, mostly ameritrashy stuff: Drakon (Second Edition), Chrononauts, Fluxx.

(11) Go back to grad school in 2005. Program is intense. No time for games. Also living in a tiny 400 SF apartment for 4 years. Barely room for my computer, and not even playing many PC games. I do start dabbling with game design. My first game which kinda sorta worked was a supped up mythological themed version of Plague & Pestilence (which I picked up somewhere along the journey). Still want to remake this design concept.

(12) Buy a house and - my gosh - I have space! (don't kid myself, it's still a small house). Somewhere around here (2009 or so?)I discover BGG (which in join in 2010). So many games! What happened! This is amazing! Decide to make some purchases to see what I've been missing. I don't recall the exact titles, but I'm pretty sure early games included: Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age, Citadels, Small World, Carpe Astra

Board Game: Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers


(13) Get further and further into the hobby gaming world. Have started designing Hegemonic during this early time. Start writing Big Game Theory in 2011. Start having kids (first born in 2011). Life is getting more complex, but games are a nice reprieve.

(14) From here, the collection ebs and flows. I have come to realize that I don't really enjoy typical heavy or midweight eurogames (i.e. those with heavy engine building and highly controlled environments). Those that have more intersection and/or higher levels of uncertainty can push through however (i.e. Race for the Galaxy and Tigris & Euphrates). Like dudes on a map and high conflict games (Cyclades). I don't like tableau-builders as much (not a fan of 7 Wonders for example).

(15) I started drifting more towards "weird" games over the past couple of years, mostly driven by discussions among my geekbuddies. My collection, circa 2018 or so so, was feeling fairly robust and complete (fankly a little too big) in terms of more ameritrash and german-style games. I knew I didn't like heavier Euro's, but I was still interested in finding meatier games that maintained a higher dose of interaction.

(16) One game that started me off on the weirder directions was A Study in Emerald. It's a story generator wrapped around a strategy game. It's a mess of deck-building and area control, with multiple victory triggers and hidden roles thrown in for good measure. Where can I find more of this? Root comes along and takes a hold of the family. It's asymmetric and strange, like a COIN game but less heavy.

Board Game: A Study in Emerald


(17) All this talk of Root and COIN games was pushing me to research more historical games. And I was also looking to play more 2-player games with a long-time friend (one of those warhammer buddies from back in the day!). We discussed and decided a block wargame would be fun. He said he's awesome at Stratego and I said I'm terrible at it. So we settled on Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan. Mind blown. Played a bunch and it was good. So we picked up Twilight Struggle, also awesome. And then The Expanse Board Game, since it's like a multiplayer card-driven wargame too. Then I stumbled upon Pax Renaissance, and proceeded be utterly confused until after a few plays it clicked, and suddenly I was just awestruck by the design. It's like Illuminati but turned up to 11.

(18) Most recently, all this talk of geopolitical simulation games has prompted investigation into train games and economic simulation. I don't have the group (or time) to devote to the like of 18xx games right now, but what about the more streamlined shared economy / cube rail games?

(19) Oh look - the game store has the next printing of Irish Gauge in stock. Well, someone just had their 39th birthday, so I don't mind if I do. I've played it three times over the last two weeks. It's a simple game mechanically, but quite rich strategically. I'm sold.

Board Game: Irish Gauge


(20) And, where am I now? Well, I have no shame in saying that I'm almost back where I started. I just taught my oldest kid and my nephews how to play Warhammer 40k over the labor day weekend. I got out my old miniatures and books. Still have a box of terrain. Heck, some of my paints, that are over 20 years old, were perfectly good still! We did some painting, we chucked some dice, and we had a marvelous time.

30 years later, the next generation is succumbing to the games.

My work here is done.

Board Game: Warhammer 40,000 (Third Edition)
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