2006 - The Year My Wife and I Developed Full-Blown Geekdom
Fat Tony
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Iowa
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Okay, the title is misleading: Gretchen and I have always been kind of geeks. In fact, we've always had a little bit of game geek in us. But this was the year we really dove in and gaming became a full-time hobby for us. So, what I've tried to present here isn't so much a recap as it is a list of milestones over the year, in an attempt to tell a story. Hopefully, at least one person will find it interesting. I'll apologize up front for my long-windedness.

EDIT 3/29: Gretchen has joined BGG under the name LittleMarge. Whee!
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1. Board Game: Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:2515]
Fat Tony
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1990s

First, a bit of prologue. I was a role player all through high school and about half of college. We played fairly regularly, but I wouldn't say we were completely serious about it, in retrospect. I almost got caught up in it again a few years ago, but the fire is mostly gone, and there's no way I can make time for it anymore.
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2. Board Game: Clue [Average Rating:5.66 Overall Rank:8090]
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2000ish

When Gretchen and I started seeing each other, Clue was typical of the games we were playing, and we were semi-serious about collecting different sets. I think I bought this for Christmas one year, because she's a big Hitchcock fan. I still don't mind playing Clue once in a while.
 
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3. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1289]
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Still 2000ish

I was living with two friends at the time, and I pulled this out, which I had owned since my childhood and played a little bit in high school. The three of us did pretty much nothing but play this for several months. Gretchen did her best to try and join in, but had some difficulty with all the different things going on.
 
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4. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:16619]
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2002?

Sensing that she had potential, I introduced Gretchen to Risk, thinking it would be a good introductory pseudo-wargame. Guess what? She DESTROYED me. Later, we realized we made a large rules error and played again, this time with the Lord Of the Rings version. We played correctly, and she stomped me once again. We haven't played since, although I'm wanting to get Risk: 2210 A.D. on the table again.
 
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5. Board Game: Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:295] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
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2005

Gaming had become an on-off hobby for us, until one night when I saw this in a store. I spent about a year trying to talk myself out of buying it until I finally caved and bought a used master set from a fellow 'Geek. I've had great success introducing friends to this game, essentially creating a local Heroscape group. As for Gretchen, she assures me that she enjoys playing, and she's pretty good at it too, but I can't help but think that she's indulging me a little bit when we do play.

 
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6. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:123] [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked]
Fat Tony
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January 2006

So now we're more or less to the present. I told Gretchen I wanted this for Christmas, having decided against buying one of the A&A variants (Europe, etc.). Gretchen agreed to play it with me, and for various reasons it just didn't click. Neither of us really had fun, and we both came away in kind of a grumpy mood. I won't dwell on it, but we were laughing about it later. So 2006 got off to a bit of a rocky start.

I'll footnote this entry by saying that I have since successfully introduced this game to one friend, and have a few others interested, so the story of Memoir '44 does have a happy ending.
 
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7. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:154] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Fat Tony
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Here we go. While shopping for Memoir '44 for me, Gretchen came across this game online and asked if I had heard of it. I told her I had read about it on BGG, and that it was allegedly one of the best "gateway" games out there. So after the holidays, we bought it along with the Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders expansions.

Talk about love at first sight! Our first time playing was an absolute delight, and we continued to enjoy it over the course of the year, introducing a couple of friends to it who went on to buy their own copy (along with the expansions, naturally). In fact, our friends introduced it to their family, one of whom bought their own copy! Carcassonne is still Gretchen's favorite game.

The only caveat to this story: We've bought nearly all the expansions for the base game, and while we enjoy them all, we do occasionally find ourselves rejecting Carcassone in favor of other games because it takes too long to play! That seems contrary to the whole point of Carcassonne, so we ended up adding The Castle to our collection this Christmas. I expect we'll be playing that when we need a Carc fix but don't want to devote most of an evening to it.
 
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8. Board Game: Through the Desert [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:452]
Fat Tony
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March

In March, I was able to attend my first ever Iowa City Game Day, hosted by BGG member Chris Shaffer (TheCat), his partner Edie and daughter Annie. This was was one of the first games I played there, and I remember developing a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. I still intend to buy it - this game will not beat me!

More importantly, I've met some amazing people and learned a lot of great games I never would have otherwise, as you'll see should you choose to keep reading.
 
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9. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:254]
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April

As a fairly new gamer, and a fairly new regular user of BGG (despite being registered since 2003), I had come to regard Puerto Rico with a bizarre sort of reverence, as if it were some sort of gaming equivalent of Mount Everest. Sensing I wasn't ready for it, I became interested in its little brother, San Juan. Gretchen was a little skeptical of card games, but she bought it for me for my 30th birthday, and it was another instant hit. It's not unusual for us to play twice in a sitting, and we've never had any rules questions. The only catch is we've never played with more than two people.

I still haven't played Puerto Rico, but I'm anxious to try it, and I feel sort of silly for having previously placed it on such a pedestal.
 
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10. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:145] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Fat Tony
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June

While in Iowa City, Gretchen and I went to Critical Hit Games in Coralville along with Gretchen's friend. Her friend was a bit bewildered by the experience of being in there, but she agreed to play Ticket To Ride after I pulled it off the shelf of their gaming library. I had played once before and told Gretchen it was something we should buy, but she seemed like she didn't believe me.

Fortunately, both Gretchen and her friend greatly enjoyed the game. We ended up buying it and playing again with Gretchen's friend, this time when her husband was along. We played twice and her husband won the second game! This was exciting for us, because we never imagined these two would become anything resembling gamers. We ended up buying him a copy for his birthday.
 
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11. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:193]
Fat Tony
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I don't know how I became interested in this game, but I had heard about the free trial download from Klear, which I tried out and became quickly addicted. In June, I got a chance to play in person at another Iowa City Game Day, where I knew for sure it would become one of my favorites.

In August, I ended up buying a copy, and introduced it to members of my Heroscape group, and both loved it. This was the first sign that this group might actually go for some Euro games, which was exciting for me. Not that we intend to stop playing Heroscape - let's not go crazy here!
 
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12. Board Game: Genoa [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:588]
Fat Tony
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July

Gretchen was finally able to attend one of Chris and Edie's game days in July. After each of us had completed one game (Keythedral for me, Carcassonne for Gretchen), we were recruited by Chris for this, one of his favorite games that he gets to play pretty infrequently. This was by far the heaviest game Gretchen and I had played up to this point, and it was reflected in our scores (although Gretchen did beat me). Despite this, both of us caught on to what needed to be done and played reasonably well.

This game was a major step forward me and Gretchen, giving us the confidence to seek out more heavy games and try them out. The next day, we were still talking about the session and how we would do things differently the next time we played, which we both still want to do. I've played other heavy games since then (Princes Of Florence, Leonardo Da Vinci), and they were fun, but that Traders session was special. Thanks again to Chris for taking a chance on four newbies!
 
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13. Board Game: The Downfall of Pompeii [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:483]
Fat Tony
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Later, at the same game day as Traders, Gretchen's eye was caught by this game, which another gamer and BGG member named Thies had brought. I couldn't tell her anything, having never heard of it, so she requested it while I went off to play Ticket To Ride: Marklin. She absolutely fell in love with it, and for the next several months told anyone who would listen about it. I gave it to her as a Christmas gift, and having played once, I can see why she loved it so much.

So this game makes the list for being the first game Gretchen discovered completely on her own, with no prior knowledge or prodding from me whatsoever. I don't know if it's replaced Carcassonne as her favorite game, but it's probably in her top three. I consider this to be the moment her "geekification" was complete.
 
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14. Board Game: Fury of Dracula (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:455]
Fat Tony
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August

I had played Fury Of Dracula at a game day in May, and months later, when Gretchen and I were putting together a large game order, I decided it was worth owning. Although not necessarily a brain burner, it's a reasonably complex game that takes up a good chunk of time. Still, I figured the theme would prevail.

The game was another instant success. We've played and enjoyed a couple of two-player games, and we've also played with friends who loved it. The game is even starting to become a regular occurrence at Iowa City Game Days.

Fury Of Dracula is probably my favorite game. The endgame is always interesting, and it works with any number of players. It's even easy to teach. Next step is to show Gretchen how to play Dracula!
 
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15. Board Game: Pirate's Cove [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:1140]
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We bought this along with Fury Of Dracula and a few other games. Neither of us had played before - we just thought it looked like something we would enjoy, and we were right. It's mainly on this list because we brought it to an Iowa City game day and hooked several people on it, including two people who didn't even play. They just watched our session and ended up buying it! Usually I'm the one who ends up buying a game someone else brought, so it was kind of cool being on the other side of that equation.
 
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16. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:71]
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I spent much of the last third or so of 2006 playing games online, including T&E here at the 'Geek. I was invited by Kurt (one of my new Iowa City acquaintances) to join a game. I was flattered but intimidated, having never played before. My first game went as expected, but in my second game I came in second (while still getting soundly thumped by Kurt). In my only face-to-face play to date, we were forced to go to the tie-breaker and I came in second, losing by only one cube!

While I still have a lot to learn, I've come to truly love Tigris & Euphrates, going so far as to buy my own copy, which remains sadly unplayed.
 
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17. Board Game: Reef Encounter [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:569]
Fat Tony
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We're jumping around a bit in the timeline now. At the same August game day while we were playing Pirate's Cove, Gretchen had gotten herself into a game of Reef Encounter. I tried warning her about it, knowing it was one heck of a brain burner, but she loves fish and couldn't resist how pretty it was. When I saw her again about two hours later, she looked catatonic.

I became interested in learning the game, and I got into a couple of games on SpielByWeb with my friends Jason and DJ. It certainly is a fascinating game, and I'm up for a face-to-face game, but at this point I don't have any plans to own it.

Gretchen doesn't seem too interested in giving this one a second shot: in fact, it's become a joke in our house. After I had wrapped her copy of Downfall of Pompeii and put it under the tree, she shook it and said "I'm 90 percent sure it's a boardgame, but I don't know which one." In an overly exaggerated exasperated voice, I said "Sweetie, for the last time, I did not buy you Reef Encounter!" She laughed.
 
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18. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:231]
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I had been wanting to play this for a while, and Gretchen and I got our chance at the August game day. This ended up being another one I regularly play online, with DJ, Adam, Thies and maybe one other person (offhand, I don't remember). I love this game and ended up buying it for Christmas. In fact, Gretchen and I played last night and guess what? She beat me by 30 points. This is definitely my favorite game I've never won, ahead even of T&E. We're looking forward to teaching it to friends and playing with the auction.
 
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19. Board Game: Castle Keep [Average Rating:5.67 Overall Rank:9907]
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October

We'd seen this on the shelves at Wal-Mart and ended up buying it on a whim. It makes the list because we took it over to our friends' house one night when the parents were out of town and they had asked Gretchen to stay the night and get the kids ready for school in the morning. We had played Heroscape and Nexus Ops with the boys previously, and I taught the kids Castle Keep and lost two straight games. I blame myself for not realizing that if you're the only adult, the kids will gang up on you. (No, we're not parents yet.) In all seriousness, I'm looking forward to playing more games with kids in the future.
 
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20. Board Game: Railways of the World [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:105] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
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I had wanted to play this for a while, and was introduced to it at the October game day. I managed to play a pretty good game, taking out only two shares the whole game and not coming in last (a rarity for me when playing anything for the first time). I knew that it had the potential to become a favorite game of mine, and I told Gretchen that I would definitely want to buy it if it weren't so expensive. (By this point, Funagain was more or less the sole outlet for buying Eagle Games.)

So here comes Christmas, and there's Railroad Tycoon under the tree! Woo hoo! It instantly became one of the crown jewels of our collection, a game that we hope to be playing for years to come, and a fine way to end this list.
 
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