Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Board Gaming: Focus on the Tactical

I'm going to throw out a hypothesis that a good board game requires you to make decisions that you are going to regret later.

If you don't regret the decision later, then either everything can play out from the beginning with you knowing all the events that will happen, or there are some choices that are so optimal or so sub-optimal that you can continue to just follow the same path time and time again to succeed.

This is why I am still enjoying Race for the Galaxy because with the economic decisions it places on the players, you have to make meaningful choices from the very first hand. Okay, admittedly sometimes you can futz around for the first few rounds trying to figure out how to win, but really once everyone playing gets to a familiar level with the cards available if you aren't moving on your strategy by the second or third round you've lost.

I'm trying to figure out what it is that hits the sweet spot because I don't want to be limited to just one or two games every week. Okay, I've got several games on my shelf and can rotate through them with ease. But I'm always hungry for the next game, or a different feel. For example, I was introduced to Power Grid this past weekend and it reminded me how much I enjoyed auctioning mechanics, I like that sort of social back and forth with another player at the table to change the nature of the game.

The only trick is finding a game that scratches that itch without too much of the extraneous stuff that interferes with the enjoyment of the game.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why I'm Not Casual About My Gaming

I realized this week after chatting with my friends that I'm a casual consumer in almost every form of entertainment I consume but table top role-playing games. Whether it is in video games, board games (though less so there), or media (be it film or book), my standards are far lower than they are for RPGs.

I think it is because of the time investment in them, for me, is so much higher - I've been DMing for the last several years, so generally I've been the one responsible for a lot of the before the game preparation.

But that seems cold. I'd say it is closer to the fact that I get to escape into a fantasy world where I escape, but honestly, I find a book generally tends towards more escapism for me.

Board games give me the social aspect, and the tactical need to plan ahead and develop strategies, as well as the thrill of conquering when the plans come together.

It could just be that table top gaming is the only thing I've found that scratches all of these areas, it is the only place where I get to be creative, escape, socialize, and be tactical/make plans. The benefit that gaming is that while it is rarely as useful/efficient as any of these other activities that I do is that it is the "duck" (i.e., neither fish nor fowl) of my hobbies - reading/movies provide me escape more efficiently, board games engage my tactical nature immediately. Heh.

And even while writing this I see that the collaborative/creative nature is left off of all of these activities. I've never been much of a writer, a brief flirtation with a short story writing class in college soured me on the idea of writing fiction in any of its forms - especially as I never had delusions of creating 'literature' as a higher form of discussion. But I digress.

I guess this is all on my mind particularly because in about four or five months my life is going to change radically, and my time to spend on things that don't get me precisely what I want is going to be reduced. I already, several years ago, made a few life choices that required me to ditch anything that wasn't feeding me enough, such as the SCA and a few other hobbies, and I see myself needing to do the same again in a bit.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Introductory Post

After writing for years on a personal blog, I'm breaking out my gaming writing onto its own separate commentary. Why? I don't know, because it seems like the thing to do - Warpstone Pile seems to get what Rush needs out of it for tracking his painting progress, and discussions of techniques; Mike has started one for his west coast adventures in finding miniature gaming at Black Ark Apathy.

So, what am I going to write about? Gaming. Mostly role playing games (RPGs) and board games. What I'm doing with them, what I'm thinking about them. I'm going to try to write twice a week, but no promises. We'll see how well the motivation and material lasts. 

What I Play
Role Playing Games: I've mostly been running games constantly since 2003 - 1-2 year long campaigns, some with better success than others. Adventure! ran for about 2 years. Then I ran Exalted through both first and second editions for what seemed like a long time, but was a bit less than 2 years. A short flirtation with Reign, where my players tried so hard to live with the system, but it just didn't work out. Then back to White Wolf for Changeling: The Lost.

Currently, I'm playing in 4th edition D&D game run by my college friend (and brother in law). It has just gotten off the ground and I'm having a lot of fun with playing again, even in a system that isn't my first choice - but definitely a system I think I'll probably enjoy playing around with.

Board Games: Race for the Galaxy is my most recent obsession; and I enjoy Ticket to Ride (Europe mostly); Colosseum; Puerto Rico on occasion; Dominion; and many others. I've discovered that I generally like bidding/auctioning mechanics and games with minimal "screw your neighbor" rules - as I play with the same people, it minimizes the number of grudges that form over the years. 

Miniatures: Right now only 40k, and I want to do others, but the modeling aspect is killing me. I'm hoping this blog will provide me added incentive to finish assembling and painting the figures.

Video Games: I fell out of video games for a long time, and only recently having gotten back into them. Mostly I'm not good enough to finish them so I play till I get bored and then use GameFly to send it back in and try a new one. It works mostly well, except when I get distracted. The recent Steam sales have been bad for my gaming habit, and I have a lot of older games that I missed out on to play through.

I'm a 30-something gamer, who's been gaming since I was 16 when someone saw me reading an Icewind Dale book and asked "So do you game?" And since then gaming has been part of my life. In college, I joined the Science Fiction/Fantasy Guild of James Madison University, and met a bunch of people there that I still game with to this day. As well as grill with, party with, and chat with.In other news, my wife is due in April, which is looming large in my mind - perhaps the point of this endeavor is to at least keep me thinking about gaming even if I'm not doing it as frequently.