Enemies to Gaming

This article was originally written for Board Game Crate, but never got submitted. Needless to say, this was written before COVID-19 and Lockdown which is a definite enemy number 1 nowadays – particularly with the government pretty much banning the playing of board games over Christmas.
For day 17 of #Blogmas 2020

The other day I listened to the Dice Tower’s Top 10 Enemies of Gaming on youtube. Here, three panellists presented their main barriers to playing games. Although I agreed with everything they said, I thought I’d try and compile my own list.

1. Lack of players
You’ve got all those great games, but nobody to play them with, or not enough to play that 6-player that’s been collecting dust. Finding players isn’t nearly as easy as it should. The rest of the list explores why there are so few.

2. Lack of player compatibility
Yes, you’ve managed find some game players, but they’re not into the games you are. Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons are examples of this. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but for some, it’s either you play that, or nothing.

3. Lack of games
Unless you’re lucky enough to live close to a games store, the high street offers a very narrow selection of games which leads into … –

4. Lack of new games coverage
We all grew up with the likes of Monopoly, Cluedo, Game of Life, Scrabble and Connect 4. Even if we didn’t play them, we were aware of them collecting dust on some uncle’s shelf. Today, if you speak to a non-gamer about the hobby, their immediate go-to game of reference are these old games. The Settlers Of Catan, for example, is over 25 years old and I’m still introducing it to people who’ve never heard of it.

5. Lack of storage space
Not limited to this hobby, but some of those games come in big boxes – I’m looking at you Gloomhaven. Storing 100+ games is also a problem.

6. Lack of play space
Some games require a lot of space to play and not everyone has the table or floorspace to spare, particularly if it’s a game that is played over multiple sittings.

7. Lack of time
The enemy of just about everything, tabletop gaming is very much included here.

8. Lack of money
Unless you live near a friend or gaming café with a good games collection, chances are most gamers will have to make do with a few of the more affordable titles. The silver lining here is that there are some great games in this category.

9. Video games
After Time, the greatest competition to tabletop gaming is the one where, at the push of a few buttons, a full and immersive game can be played with thousands of other players across the globe. Video games also don’t suffer from a lot of the other issues on this list.

10. Bad experiences
If someone’s first, or last experience of a game was a bad one, for whatever reason, they may be inclined to think that tabletop gaming isn’t for them and move on to other things. A bit like not enjoying a book and never reading again.

That was my list, it’s not exhaustive, but it’s what I’ve experienced or seen.

Expansions – What are they good for?

Another article that I wrote for Board Game Crate. This is for #blogmas2020

If you’ve ever been to a games expo or one of the better games stores, you may have encountered countless expansions of one of your favourite games. As you peruse this dazzling display you see that each one promises extra bits, more cards, alternative boards and Cthulhu.

Although many of these expansions won’t exactly break the bank, the sheer number of expansions accompanying some games can hit the bank account pretty hard.

Expansions are content add-ons (DLC, if you like) for a game that either couldn’t be released with the original game due to costs or time or are subsequent ideas that have been made available later. The base game will work fine without them, but if you are thinking about getting an expansion, consider the following:

If you already love the game as it is and enjoy the particular nuisances of it, then expanding it may well change that, and not necessarily to your liking. Try it first.

If you’ve played a game so much that it no longer has any surprises for you, then an expansion can reinvigorate your interest in it by giving you new goals to aim for or extra things to do. Dixit can benefit with more cards to talk about, King of Tokyo/New York gets monster variety with the Power Cards, Catan can be reimagined with new gameplay, and everyone needs more Cthulhu (apparently).

Don’t feel like you have to get every single expansion to a game to make it work. Pick the expansions that work for you. You don’t like Cthulhu – then don’t get that expansion. Some expansions may also be doubled up (Smash Up) for increased variety.

If other players in your gaming group also have the game, it might be worth syncing your expansion lists so that you don’t double-up unnecessarily. When they come to you, you can play your expansion, and vice versa, thereby increasing your gaming experience further.

If player limits are a problem, some change the game to support a greater number of players (Small World, Cosmic Encounter, Catan).

If you encounter an expansion of a game you particularly enjoy, it might be worth picking it up on the off-chance, you may be surprised and you may regret turning it down. I am constantly lamenting not picking up the long out of print expansion StarCraft: Brood War when I had the chance.

Once you’ve got an expansion you may wish to keep it in its own box allowing you to play the original (vanilla) untainted game – particularly if introducing to new players. Or you can fully integrate it all into the base game box (if it fits) and play the complete experience. Cards from expansions are usually marked so they can be identified and separated out again if need be.

At the end, no one is forcing you to buy an expansion but their relatively low price tags can make them idea gift ideas or even the answer to that difficult question: So what do you want for your birthday?

Am I a Gaming Snob?

This is for day 9 of #Blogmas 2020.

This article of mine was originally published in the Board Game Crate booklet that came in their boxes. Now that they are unfortunately no longer trading, here it is again for everybody to enjoy.

Whenever I enter a toy store with my children I always head off over to the aisle that proudly heralds the presence of board games. Every time I have high hopes, and every time I’m faced with a wall of boxes sporting brightly-coloured moulded cheap plastic and labels stating, ‘Whipped cream not included’ or ‘Download the app!”
Now, I remember growing up with games with a lot of moulded plastic, such as Downfall and Guess Who (admittedly nothing I had to shove my face through) and have fond memories of many of them. However, it’s been nearly 25 years since the Settlers of Catan shook up the gaming world. Since then board games have come on leaps and bounds with deck builders, warfare miniatures, card drafters, bluffers, strategy and so on. Not only that, but most gaming styles have offerings that fall into the ‘budget’ price bracket and are easy to play as a family. A Game Of Thrones: Hand of the King, Tsuro, Star Realms and Rumble in the House are just a few examples.
Unfortunately, mainstream toy stores don’t usually stock such things, but will stock yet another Monopoly iteration – latest one I spotted was Fortnite – or Don’t Step In It! which, I suppose, is the natural successor to Doggie Doo…
So have I become a gaming snob or do normal people only consider it a game if it features a randomly flushing plastic toilet?

Games Night 22nd December 2019

This is for #Blogmas 2019
Six players to start off with:
Georgina
Malcolm
Marion
Sabrina
Sharon
Stephen
As half our number were new to the gaming scene, we thought we’d break them in gently with:

by Libellud
Thankfully, there were familiar with Balderdash, so this wasn’t too much of a stretch for them. Indeed. for most of the game Sharon led by a comfortable margin, but unfortunately stumbled near the end and Sabrina was the one to successfully cross the finishing line first.

Next up, another good starter game:

by Mayfair Games
This was particularly exciting because I got to use my 5-6 player expansion for the first time ever.

We explained the rules and commence playing.

Sharon (red) got hemmed in so struck out for those points via development cards. Stephen (blue) made a good strong start and was the favourite to win. Malcolm (white) dominated the west side of the board. Marion (brown) got hemmed in the south east corner, but had more wiggle room than Sharon. Georgina (green) got squashed in the middle but managed to upgrade to all her cities and Sabrina (orange) got squeezed in the east side but did have the largest army.

At the end, Malcolm upgraded to his second city, revealed a point card and declared victory with the longest road. However, when counting up everyone else’s scores, it was revealed that Georgina had already attained the 10 points when she upgraded to her fourth city. Her isolated settlement in the north east had been forgotten about and had that all important final point.
Well done Georgina!