Lately it seems like every board game forum I read has a post about sore losers, learning to lose, or hyper-competitiveness in games. That topic is always going to be relevant when talking about games, but everyone seems to feel like talking about it now. Some of us are openly competitive and love to win. Others lean back and profess that they are in it purely for the enjoyment of the game, regardless of outcome.
I feel like there's a lot of moral judgment that comes along with these conversations. If you're not competing, you're soft. On the other hand, why do people care so much about "just a game"? I've even seen fellow gamers suggest that a poster's defeat-hating fiancée get counseling!
There has to be middle ground here. First, let's all admit that we when we play a game, we want to win. The entire point of a game is to try to win, either over other opponents or, in the case of a co-op, against the game itself. If you "don't care" about the outcome of a game, why are you playing one in the first place? Obviously the challenge attracts you.
At the same time, it's not cool to want to win "too much." I admit I struggle with this—I love to win, and while individual losses don't bother me, I do get annoyed if I lose too many games in a row. I especially hate it if someone trash talks me when I am on a losing streak. Usually I am content just to play well, even if I don't pull off a win. But note that I want to feel competent—not like I am floundering around and destined to fail. No one wants to feel stupid in front of an audience, in any context. Even if it's "just a game."
Losing only hurts when other people are watching. I lose solo games all the time, and I never think anything of it. Of course, there are no witnesses. (None that survive...) I log both wins and losses in an app, which still doesn't carry the same sense of shame. But fear of looking stupid? That fear affects me so much that I hate struggling with a video game level while my boyfriend is watching. I don't know why I care—lord knows he isn't with me for my mad gaming skills—but there it is.
There is probably a perfectly good explanation for this. I have been a huge nerd all my life, and my identity is very much tied to my intellectual prowess. I like to feel clever. And in board gaming, a hobby full of nerds, I am sure I'm not the only one who is wired that way. Defeat itself is tolerable, if I feel like I was able to put up a good fight. Defeat AND intellectual dishonor? I can't stand it.
We made it! My fiancé, cats, and I have all made it to Atlanta. We have our stuff from the moving truck and all of the furniture we need except for rugs and décor. Most importantly, we both start work in about a week. Everything is still uncertain and more than a little scary, but we're here! It's time for a new chapter in our lives to begin.
Moving my board games actually went pretty well. I know some people have packed them in shelves, etc., but my solution was to use medium-sized moving boxes. As I packed, I numbered each box and kept a notebook where I recorded which games were in which boxes. That way, if something got lost in the move, I'd know exactly what I needed to replace. Fortunately, though, that didn't happen! All of my games made it, and nothing was damaged in the move.
Moving has left me broke, but I invested what money I had left into making this apartment the most pleasant living space I possibly could. After all, if you can't afford to go out, you had better enjoy staying in! Part of this process has been organizing my board game collection.
For me, the most important parts of making my apartment the perfect home were 1) having a nice office space for working at home and 2) giving myself good gaming areas. I am well on the way to achieving both. My office still needs to be organized a bit (a lot of random books and supplies are covering my desk, waiting to be put away). But my fiancé let me turn our sunroom into a gaming den, and I am very excited about it. He even helped me put together my first set of Kallax shelves! Assembly started out easy enough, but the last part was brutal. To finish the shelf, you have to add the side and top boards, which means matching up a lot of little holes with a lot of wooden dowels. But we did it, and now my games have a lovely home! We also got an expandable dining table where I can finally play larger games without feeling constrained.
My next mission is to find an FLGS or two. I love solo gaming, but that doesn't mean I am not social. When I lived in Durham, I loved going to Atomic Empire to play with my work buddies. Now, I'm in a new town where I don't know anyone. It's time to make some friends!
In my experience, it takes at least a few months to develop strong relationships in a new place. But board gamers are generally nice people, and I look forward to planting the seeds of new friendships. I'm nervous about putting myself out there—it's hard to do even if you're generally outgoing—but I also take comfort in the fact that I'm part of a welcoming hobby full of friendly people. Between an exciting new job and what looks like a lively gaming scene, I think I'll have a rich and satisfying life in my new city.
The time has come! The movers were here today and my board games are on a truck bound for Georgia. And now that I'll be starting fresh in a new apartment, I want to optimize my space in a way that will enable me to play more board games on more suitable surfaces. Although I don't have all the money in the world, I do have enough for an epic IKEA run, so here's my plan:
My current kitchen table is fairly small and round. I'm going to put it in our new sunroom so that we can drink lemonade and play light card games in there. Perfection.
The Dining Area
It's time to get a real dining table. I'm thinking the IKEA Bjursta. It seats four people normally, but it comes with leaves that allow you to expand it to an eight-person table. Honey, we're eating dinner in the sunroom tonight, because I'm leaving out my Mage Knight setup!
My office doubles as a guest room, so one of the things that has to go in there is a sleeper sofa. I'll also need a shelf for my printer and the professional books I keep at home (mostly nerdy dead language stuff). Aside from that, though... I am going to make my office into a gamer-friendly zone! I want a solo play area where I can also film YouTube videos. I plan to get two pieces of new furniture for my office: 1) A gateleg table that is expandable when I'm playing games and can be placed out of the way when I have guests. 2) The holy grail of board game shelves, the Kallax 5x5!
Do you ever want to have the experience of a tabletop RPG without doing any of the work behind the scenes? If so, you should seriously consider Expedition: The Roleplaying Card Game. It's a short, light RPG for 1–6 players, and it's good fun.
Expedition runs by using very simple cards in conjunction with a free app. Each player picks a character/class and creates an action deck based on the character they chose. Character options include your standard soldier, mage, and ranger, but you can also play as the "hungry chef" or the "alcoholic diplomat." Cards in your deck fall into the standard RPG categories of ranged, melee, magic, and music. Each card tells you what die roll is required for your action to succeed, as well as the consequences of a critical success or failure. While Expedition has no art to speak of, it does have cool iconography and very clear instructions. That's really all you need. An RPG is all about imagination, anyway.
Your adventure and combat sequences are run using the app, which I found to be very well integrated with the analog components. The printed rules for Expedition are super short because all of the most important information is introduced clearly and concisely within the app. Everything you need is explained right when you need to know it, and you don't have to do a ton of setup to start playing. The app also manages Expedition's unique combat system. You have a very limited amount of time to choose the ability you want to use on a given turn, and the app manages both your timing and the enemies' actions. This keeps the adventure going at a nice clip.
While the app is very good at what it does, it is also my biggest concern for the future of Expedition. While you could theoretically use the cards to create your own simplified pen-and-paper tabletop adventures, the app is what makes this game shine. The adventures published so far are relatively short and shallow, but also highly entertaining. The writing is good enough that you can enjoy the adventure either alone or with your friends, and the current scenarios offer some fun choices for players to make.
Unfortunately, however, there isn't that much "official" material readily available in the app. I've already blown through the starter scenarios, both alone and with friends. That leaves me with material written by the community. While allowing players to create and share their own adventures is a fantastic idea, there are also bound to be problems with quality control. As of this review, are only six homebrew scenarios available for solo play, and I noticed glaring typos in two of the descriptions. (More options are available for larger player counts, but the quest pool is still pretty limited.)
The other thing to keep in mind if you acquire a retail copy of Expedition (PnP available here) is that you really should sleeve the cards. While you play, you track stats by placing clips along the sides of some cards. Within moments, my cards were getting shredded. I have only ever sleeved Lord of the Rings LCG and Mage Knight cards before, but for this game it was crucial.
Expedition is a blast to play as long as you want the experience it offers you: A light, fun RPG without deep combat strategy or character development. I can see some good story-driven campaigns emerging from this game system, especially if more people get into writing content for it. I can also imagine some fun and easy dungeon crawls to try when you want to hang with your friends as much as you want to play a game. But Expedition is still running on potential. I am very much hoping to see it grow. (Hey, maybe I'll write up a campaign myself!)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Nintendo is evil. It is even worse when Nintendo joins forces with Hasbro. Recently, their demon lovechild hit the shelves at Gamestop, and I was powerless to resist.
That's right, I bought a copy of Monopoly this week. And I am not the only one. The BGG Facebook group has been blowing up with images of and posts about Monopoly Gamer, an updated version of Monopoly that features Super Mario characters, plastic coins, and boss battles.
Needless to say, the online board gaming community is collectively losing its mind over this. Supporters are out there defending their choice to purchase Monopoly Gamer because it's "not like regular Monopoly." Haters are unable to get past the fact that "real" gamers went out and bought any version of Monopoly.
I will tell you right now that I unabashedly bought Monopoly Gamer and also the ridiculous character packs. The game is good fun, and I'm not too proud to play any game as long as I'm having a good time. A "real gamer" is someone who plays games, period.
What I do dislike about Monopoly Gamer is that it represents everything I hate about video game culture, but in board game form. The game itself was hard to find, and Gamestop totally sold out of character packs almost immediately. (My local store only has Luigi left.) There are scalpers on eBay hawking "rare" Wario and Tanooki Mario pieces at a 400% markup. Even worse, when you open the base game box, there are empty spaces for those extra characters, as if to constantly remind you that you missed out on an exclusive item.
Nintendo is the worst offender when it comes to creating scarcity in order to boost demand for their products. I'm not even going to bother going for a Super NES Classic, because I already know it would be a herculean task to acquire one. The Amiibo craze left a very sour taste in my mouth. And while I am one of the lucky few who have a Nintendo Switch, I am painfully aware that it's still tough to buy one.
Selling a board game that doesn't come with all of its pieces, then producing those missing pieces in limited amounts, is not a business model I like to see. (As any gamer knows, it's rude to sell DLC on launch day.) I don't like Kickstarter exclusives, either, because it pains me to think about owning a game I can never fully experience. Monopoly Gamer is good fun, especially for a Nintendo-loving family like mine. But true to the spirit of Monopoly, it's also a cash grab—one that I hope against hope is a one-time thing.