I’m going to write a series (unknown in length) of apologisms or musings for the board/wargaming hobby. These are more intended as a means to generate some discussion and thinking rather than anything instructional, so feel free to reply, respond, and give your own reasons or counter points to anything you read here.
When people ask me what my hobbies are I’m very quick to answer that I enjoy reading books amongst other things, but I’m always a little hesitant to mention that one of my biggest hobbies is the board gaming world. I spend time almost every day painting miniatures for board games/RPGs, and I sit down and play war/board games at least twice a week. The rest of the times I spend writing for this website and procesing video content for our YouTube channel.
So why on earth do I feel a pang of embarassment at being a gamer? Partly, I feel like I’ll be judged, and that board games and miniatures are viewed by other adults as only toys for kids, but that’s so far from the truth it’s not even funny. Yet I cannot help but feel that there’s a stigma surrounding the hobby. Why are activities such as going to the cinema, or reading, or outdoor activities any more valid a way to spend your time than playing board games? The short answer is that they’re not. But from a perceptual standpoint I cringe everytime I confess my love for board games and I cannot be the only one, surely.
The social aspect of board gaming alone should be enough to validate boardgaming as a hobby on the same level as any other, in my mind. I actually don’t like going to the cinema with people all that much. You sit there, in the dark, watching a great movie and then discuss it afterwards, which is fine, but I could have done that seperately from the other person and it would have made no difference in the interaction between us. On the other hand I could have spent those 2 hours with that person duking it out on the table top, engaging in discussion, giving banter back and forth and in doing so learning more about that peson and developing a better friendship.
I hear and read about so many people complaining that Millenials and the like don’t engage in social situations enough. They tap away on iPhones and social media sites with their heads down, but don’t interview as well because formal social interactions aren’t the norm. I have my own beef with those arguments, but I do find myself more drawn towards the social aspects of any hobbies. Whenever I play video games, I enjoy the multiplayer aspects because there’s real people to communicate with (in the limited extent that you do). When I’m heavily into reading I frequent literature boards on the internet in order to discuss my interpretations and impressions from books. The board gaming world, however, naturally provides me with that social stimulation I so crave in all my other hobbies and past times.
That’s part of the reason I dislike heavy Euro-style worker placement games, becuse invariably they end up feeling like multiplayer solitare games, which isn’t why I had everyone round to play games. I invite people round in order to enjoy their company. I like to play games because it gives us a fun, interactive thing to do together. That’s nothing on solitaire gaming, because I do that a lot, just, only when there’s no one else around. But ask anyone I’ve ever played games with, and I generally prefer games that have some form of direct interaction. That could be either, diplomacy and bluffing, or combat based games, racing games, or even auction style games. But give me something that’s more than just a straight deck builder like Dominion. That’s a game, that whilst it has some merit I feel like now doesn’t stimulate me in the same way; I sit there and dictate to the others what I’m doing and then do it. Essentially solitaire, the attack cards just make it a harder solitare experience basically.
On the other hand a game like Sherrif of Nottingham, or Coup, or anything of that ilk which lets me bribe, bluff and decieve people is right up my alley. You quickly learn a deeper level about those around the table, and such games can get very meta very quickly. Outfoxing another person, or getting out foxed is a more rewarding experience for me on almost every level. If I can sit around the table and play a game without speaking to someone, it had better be super fast, because that’s just not fun. The only excepetion to this rule is Hanabi. This is a polarizing game in my group, I love it, and so does Matt, but Tim and Grant do not care for it. This game literally constrains you to no talking except a few key phrases. But as such it provides an incredibly challenging puzzle, of which clues to give when and to whom. I would phrase my clues differently to Matt than I would to Grant, because of the different ways that they think, and I love that in a game.
Basically, if you every come to my house to game, make sure you’re prepared to be open. You’re more than just an opponent, and more than just another player at the table. I invite people to ‘games’ to make friends, and have a great time. That’s why conventions are so great, in my eyes. You meet so many cool, intersting, and diverse people. I couldn’t care less if we sit down and play a short micro game, or an epic like TI3, but there had better be proper player interaction.
So what do you think, do you like games with social elements in them, or are you satisfied with worker placement being the only interaction ina game? How do you feel about things like Avalon, or Secret Hitler? I’m big into games with table talk, as long as the theme is good and everyone else is into it. It doesn’t take much for a person to deflate a social deduction game, but that’s more about who you choose to play with than anything.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and watch out for other discussions on why I game, including education, and intellectual stimulation, amongst other things.