This summer is a time of transition for me as I prepare to move to a new city and teach at a new school. But the students I work with are always in a state of flux as they evolve into their best selves. I am lucky because I get to watch the process for a while, at least until they graduate.
One of my favorite seniors this year, Aquilah, was a student I have known and taught for three years. It's been a privilege to watch her grow. As this school year came to an end, we had plenty of stuff to reminisce about: "Dr. D, do you remember the time I ate all of that candy back in Math I and I went soooo crazy?" (Yes, yes I do.) But what amazed me most was how many of our memories are anchored by board games.
Aquilah was not one of my game club regulars. I taught her how to play Jaipur during finals week a couple of years ago because she was done testing and had gotten bored. I figured we would play a few rounds, but then she'd move on once testing was over and she could use her phone again. Instead, she surprised me: The following year, when we had lunch at the same time, she would drop by for another round of "our game." I had never thought of Jaipur that way before, but then I realized that she was right. Of all of the games of Jaipur I have played, the majority of them have been with Aquilah.
During her last finals week of high school, Aquilah showed up even after she was finished with her classes and didn't technically have to be there. Why? So she could play Jaipur with me. So we played... and played, and played. Even better, she killed me in our final game, and I couldn't have been prouder.
Board games may be "just for fun," but they have the power to create and deepen relationships. No matter who plays it with me in the future, Jaipur will always have a special place in my heart as "our game." It will always be able to transport me to another time and place, to when I was a new teacher navigating my first job and becoming attached to my first batch of students. I hope that the games we played conjure happy memories for my students, as well.
Aquilah has since moved to another state, where she'll be starting college in the fall. But I did manage to get her new mailing address, and I'll be heading to the post office later today. What am I sending her? I'll give you three guesses. ;)
Yesterday on Twitter, Suzanne Sheldon (@425suzanne) tweeted that her search for "Forbidden Island" pulled up a lot of romance novels. That got me thinking. These proposed board game romance novels are the unfortunate result. (But hey, if Colonel Sanders can have his own romance novel, anyone can!)
1. Love Sick
Aide Perez is close to getting her Ph.D. in virology, but she doesn't leave her work in the lab--Pandemic is her favorite board game, and she can't wait to play the first season of Pandemic: Legacy. That is, until Zack Steele injects himself into her campaign with his big biceps and bigger ego. He's the CEO of a large company, and it shows. She's never seen more of an alpha player in her life! Yet Aide's mind is contaminated by thoughts of sweeping those disease cubes off of the table and having her way with Zack. What is wrong with her, and can she cure it before there's an outbreak?
Zack admires Aide for her brilliance and ambition, but sometimes, she needs to let someone else play the role of scientist. Their Pandemic: Legacy campaign would be a lot more fun if she would just relax and enjoy the game—and Zack knows just how to show a lady a good time. But if he lets Aide infect his life away from the gaming table, will he ever eradicate the feverish dreams he's been having about what she's wearing under her lab coat? Will he even want to?
2. Ticket to... Ride
By day, Colt Branson is a train mechanic. By night, he's a full-on railroad tycoon. During his game group's weekly round of Ticket to Ride, he speeds past his competition whether he's building an empire in Europe, Asia, or the Heart of Africa. At least, he was... until Winnie Cooper caused him to hit the brakes. She's witty, pretty, and a hell of a strategist. Colt is more than ready to board the love train.
Colt Branson isn't Winnie's type. After her ex-fiancē tied her heart to the tracks and ran right over it, no man is. But she sure enjoys a game of Ticket to Ride with him. He'd be an even better opponent if he'd stop making eyes at her across the game board—could it have been more obvious that he was building a line from Portland to Nashville? At the same time, Winnie does like a man who combines brawn with brains. Can Colt claim the route to her heart?
3. Through the Heart: A Diplomacy Story
Alexis Johnson didn't know what to expect when she signed up to play an online game of Diplomacy—but it certainly wasn't Ben Wu. In their first game, she made an early (and somewhat flirtations) deal with him, only to be heartlessly betrayed. With Austria. But she's learned from her mistakes. Now, Alexis is ruthless, conniving, and headed to the World Diplomacy Convention... where she'll be playing to win.
Ben thought that Alexis was a Diplomacy dilettante who would play a game or two and then quit. Charming as she was to negotiate with, he just couldn't take her seriously. Now he realizes that he couldn't have been more wrong. Not only has Alex turned into a cutthroat Diplomacy player, but she's the most alluring woman he's ever met at or away from the gaming table. Can he earn her forgiveness... and negotiate a more permanent alliance?
I had so much ambition at the beginning of 2017. I was going to play so many solo games, so many times each. But alas, we are halfway through the year and I have made very little progress on my original list.
Here are the original ten games I wanted to play for my 10x10 this year:
Runebound (3rd ed.)
Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game
Legendary: Alien Encounters
Race for the Galaxy
Valley of the Kings
Sentinels of the Multiverse
In reality, I am about halfway to a 10x10 for the year... I just haven't been playing the games I thought I would. Here are the games I have played ten or more times so far in 2017:
1. Race for the Galaxy
I actually did it! I added Race for the Galaxy to my 10x10 this year because I wanted to learn to play it. Race is one of those games that everyone says is great, but that seems to have a high cost of entry. FINALLY I can play this one (with the Gathering Storm expansion for solo play) and it brings me so much joy. Success.
2. Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game
This game has been in my backpack all year, so I pull it out to play when I have a moment. I'm still not amazing at it, but it's a satisfying card game experience when I have a reasonably-sized table and a chunk of time to kill.
This solo game is just so easy to pull out and set up. Its footprint isn't that big, either (unlike Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game). My appreciation for Onirim only increases with time. Although I typically prefer to play physical copies of board games, I have also been enjoying it on the app!
I know! It's not a solo game! But my students adore it, which means that I play it at least once per week during the school year. Something about the jewel-encrusted theme and the satisfying clink of the poker chips attracts kids to Splendor. Plus I can teach the rules in less than five minutes—ideal for students who are always hearing the call of the Snapchat.
I have definitely played this game 30+ times since January. My students like Splendor, but they LOVE Ivanhoe. It is ridiculous how long they will play this game if you let them. (This especially becomes apparent right before long holidays and during finals week when kids are at school but have already taken all of their final exams.) I'm super burnt out on Ivanhoe right now, but I suspect I will catch a second wind in time to teach it to a new group of students at my new job in August.
I did not expect to play so much Jaipur this year, but I ended up playing it a lot with one of my recently-graduated seniors. She refers to Jaipur as "our game," and she's totally right—she is my primary Jaipur playing partner, and I'm going to miss her. In fact, I just got her college address so I can sent her a copy to play with her new friends! Jaipur is quick to teach and quick to play, which makes it a fantastic gateway game for students who are interested in branching out into card games that aren't UNO.
Now that I look back over my year in gaming so far, I have played a lot more games than I thought. I just haven't been playing too many games at home on my own time, and I haven't been playing the games I planned to play. There is still time to change that, though. Summer has just begun, and I deliberately haven't packed Runebound or Mage Knight yet... We'll see where I'm at next time I check in!
My board games are my treasures, and the ones I keep in my house are treated with great care. I have some boxes with dinged-up corners and some cards that are well-shuffled, but I don't see any of that as problematic.
The games I keep in my classroom, though? MY GOD. These trusty soldiers are battle-tested, and in a couple of cases, they have earned the board game Purple Heart. My Castle Panic cards are looking pretty bad—and to my eternal rage, someone stuck gum between two of them a couple of weeks ago while I was out and had a sub. A couple of students and I did our best to clean them up, but they're still a bit sticky... and now scratched up from the gum removal. My Splendor set is still usable, but you can tell those cards have been shuffled a few hundred times and a lot of them are getting frayed at the edges. Jenga, Connect Four, and UNO are irredeemably destroyed, but that doesn't matter so much to me. I didn't buy those games for myself.
So here's my question: At what point do you replace well-loved board games? Is there a rule of thumb for this? Generally, if a game is still usable, I don't see any issue with wearing it all the way into the ground. But I think that Castle Panic and Splendor might need replacing. They are so beaten up that I would feel weird bringing them out to play with other adults. Is there a point of no return for you, after which you want to replace a game?
Also, let's get real: Games are expensive, and new ones are coming out all the time. At what point is it financially a good idea to buy games a second time?
Castle Panic and Splendor might be worth it, though. Not only do I enjoy both, but my students love them best of all my "non-traditional" board games. The reason they are so beat up is because they see extensive amounts of play. Even though I will no longer be at my school next year to play with my students, I like the thought of them being able to break out their favorites and continue the gaming tradition after I have gone. I know there are other teachers who would be happy to adopt my veteran board games and give them the love and care they need.
Have any of you made decisions like this before? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
I am going to say this outright: I LOVE to play Magic: The Gathering. One of my grad school buddies and I used to unwind by playing round after round of it, trying out different decks and admiring each other's chosen strategies. I also appreciate Magic for the role that it plays in gaming culture. Game stores might sell a lot of board games, but Friday night Magic and regular set releases almost certainly keep the money coming in.
Now that I'm about to move, though, I think the time has come to offload most of my Magic cards. The sad fact is that I can't keep up with the game financially, especially since I have other, stronger gaming interests. I also love to invest in games that I can play solo. Magic sets are now rotating more quickly than ever before, meaning that cards quickly become outdated. There are always new cards and mechanics to focus on, especially if you want to walk into a game store and play with other people. The problem with a CCG (collectible card game) is that you have to really commit to it if you want to be at the top of your game.
If I actually work up the nerve to sell my Magic cards, I am going to miss them. They don't hit the table very often anymore, but I have strong positive memories attached to MtG. There is something very special about meeting up with your friends to test out your own unique deck, the one you built yourself. (I don't love duel decks because the fun of MtG for me is concocting my own.) I can get a little bit of that feeling from LCGs (living card games) like Lord of the Rings, and if I want to duel it out with cards, I can play Ashes or Summoner Wars. But it won't be quite the same.
Although I love my MtG cards, I want to be realistic about my actual gaming habits. I haven't played Magic regularly in a long time, and I don't foresee myself starting up again. So aside from a few choice decks, I think my MtG collection will stay behind when I move this summer.
Ave atque vale, MtG.
I am no intellectual slouch, but Race for the Galaxy has stymied me for years. Ricky Royal has taught me many a game on his YouTube channel, but even his patient and detailed videos about The Gathering Storm couldn't get through to me. For some reason, I would zone out partway through any explanation of this game. There are several different symbols to keep track of, as well as multiple cards with varying bonus powers. I think my brain just couldn't handle everything at once.
My experience of this game has changed thanks to the release of a Race for the Galaxy app. Since downloading it onto my iPad and going through the tutorial, I have been able to play and enjoy the game. In fact, I like it a bit better every time I play it. The genius part of this particular tutorial is that it is divided into three phases, adding complexity as you go along. This way of explaining Race for the Galaxy really worked for me, because it divided things that had overloaded me into smaller chunks that I could finally manage.
One of the toughest things about learning new games is that when a game has a lot going on, it can be tough to hold all of the relevant information in your head at one time. Things that feel intuitive a few plays in don't always click so easily for a complete novice. A great tutorial in a board game app can help so much with that.
Race for the Galaxy's app is great in part because it handles all of the bookkeeping while your brain is still processing how to play the game. It also allows you to zoom in on cards and view a full explanation of what the symbols on them mean—an invaluable help when you are still figuring out the iconography in Race for the Galaxy. I am grateful I bought this app not only because it's fun to play it on my iPad, but because my experience with the app has finally enabled me to fully appreciate the physical game.
I've backed a few Kickstarter projects this year, almost all of which were successful. Now that the projects are funded and going into production, I am sitting around and waiting for my new games to come! I pounced on a few projects that seem obvious for a solo gamer, including Gloomhaven and Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave. Here are a few of the others I'm excited about:
City of Kings
This cooperative fantasy game looks intense. It combines a several different game mechanics, allows for character upgrades and customization, and clearly has a ton of content. Plus it explicitly bills itself as a game for 1–4 players. Hopefully I'll have a great time sinking my teeth into this one in solo mode. I love games with storylines, so this one looks like it will be super enjoyable for me.
This small card game looks like a devilishly good time—as long as you don't mind losing a lot. I am particularly excited that the game will have a campaign mode, and that there will be several different characters whose abilities will spice up the game. Even better, there is an explicit solo mode. As someone who prefers to play alone, I appreciate it when game developers treat my playing preferences as more than a throwaway marketing thing. Even better, this one should be delivered in July or August, so I don't have that much longer to wait!
Grimslingers: The Northern Territory
I missed out on Grimslingers the first time around, so I'm more than happy to get on board now. I love card games, so it felt like a natural choice. I'm also loving the theme, which is basically wild west meets sci-fi/fantasy. The art for this game looks fantastic. Plus, it is going to be a versatile addition to my collection. There are solo and co-op modes for me to enjoy on my own, plus I can duel with my boyfriend when we have a gaming date night. Awesome.
They say that good things come to those who wait. I just wish the wait weren't so long! I foresee many happy hours of gaming in my future.
I don't have an answer to this question yet, but... how do you successfully and economically move a large collection of board games? I ask because in just a couple of months, I will be moving from North Carolina to Georgia. My boyfriend and I live in a two-bedroom apartment, and while we are generally modest people who have not overdone it in terms of worldly possessions...
I probably have a collection of about 100 board games. And I love them all. If it were practical, I would pile them up and luxuriate upon them like Smaug.
My first step should probably be to take inventory. I'm not 100% sure how to do this efficiently, but it would be wise to know exactly what I am dealing with. The bulk of my collection is in my office at home, but I also have a secondary collection at school. (Some of those might not make it out of my classroom alive—rambunctious high schoolers are rough on games.)
Once I have a complete understanding of the size of my board game collection, I might want to... you know... see if I can thin the herd a little. I have never sold off any of my board games, and the thought of parting with my precious cardboard treasures fills me with sadness. But if there is stuff in my collection that I don't truly want, it would be best to see that it goes to a loving home. I already know I will want to keep most of my games—I haven't counted them up, but I definitely know what I have, if that makes sense. And the games I have actively excite me still.
Next, I think I will slowly begin to start packing games up so I can get an early sense of what I'm dealing with. A lot of my smaller games will probably pack very easily, which will give me a sense of comfort as I am "nexting." (I've decided that "nexting" is the opposite of nesting. It's preparing to move on to a new place!) Then I will be able to turn my attention to packing larger games.
As I pack, I'm going to keep a notebook and log the contents of each box. That way, I will know which games are in "Office 1" when I unpack later. I'll also know how many boxes of various things I packed and whether everything is accounted for when we get to Atlanta. I feel like this information could be useful both for the move itself and for giving me a sense of how much stuff I have managed to accumulate.
Dear readers, do you have any tips for moving collections of board games? If so, please comment. I welcome your advice!
For my part, I plan to post a few more times about my experience of moving with board games, in case it helps somebody else out down the line.
I love International Tabletop Day, mainly because it provides me with an extra excuse to do stuff I was planning to do anyway. But this year, Atomic Empire celebrated one of my favorite days of the year by hosting an UnPub Mini event. So not only did I get to play board games, but I got to be a small part of the birth of several new board games!
UnPub Mini events are interesting because the prototype games are at very different stages of development. On Saturday, some people were displaying games with highly developed box art, while others had playing cards that consisted of printer paper stuffed into plastic sleeves. One developer had a Kickstarter campaign in the works, while others were in the process of talking to traditional publishers about their ideas. It was fun to see what local game designers were up to, and it had me wondering whether I'd walk into a game store one day and see a familiar looking title on the shelf...
The game that most caught my attention this weekend was called "Town Gate." It was an engine building game with a lot of interesting decisions to be made. The game wasn't particularly thematic—it was your basic medieval-type game—but I loved the tension caused by wanting to try so many things but only having limited actions to work with. I can see the game being very competitive among friends who understand the mechanics very well, and I love games that reward repeat plays. I would definitely be interested in trying "Town Gate" again.
I haven't been gaming too much recently because life hasn't been very accommodating. Between a crazy teaching year and a very active job search, I haven't had a lot of time to myself. Taking some time to enjoy myself on International Tabletop Day meant a lot to me because I got to feel like myself again for the first time in a while.
I haven't posted in a while, but it's for a good reason. I have accepted a new teaching position, and over the summer I will be moving from Durham, NC to Atlanta, GA. That will mean new classes, new students, new friends, and a new life. Right now, the future looks bright—especially because the cursory research I have done so far suggests that there are many board gamers in Atlanta!
My radio silence doesn't mean that I haven't continued to think and read about board games. Yesterday, Quantic Foundry posted an interesting piece that sums up data they have collected about why board gamers are motivated to play. Gamers reported their primary motivations for gaming, and the options included need to win, immersion, accessibility, social fun, discovery, etc. Nick Yee, the author, broke down these motivations by gender and by age, then presented seven overall takeaways from the data. They are pretty interesting.
What struck me the most is that the biggest differences in motivation are between people with different gender identifications: male, female, or non-binary. Although motivations were varied across the board (hee!), the data indicated that women more strongly prefer the social aspects of gaming. Only 6.3% of men listed "social fun" as their primary motivation for gaming, compared with a whopping 16.1% of women. Survey respondents who self-identified as non-binary had a strong interest in social fun (10.6%), but placed an even higher premium on immersion and the experience of "getting into" a game (14.7%).
Data is informative, but it's never clear to me what it really means. Self-reported motivations can only tell us so much. Men may seem to prioritize winning, but winning is also part of a social experience, even if they choose not to label it as such. Women were more overtly social as a group, but let it be noted that roughly the same percentages of women and men listed "need to win" as their primary motivation. Primary motivations are not sole motivations—there is a lot of complexity there.
One set of data can't do everything, but I would also have been very curious to see the motivations supplied by primarily solo gamers. It's easier to understand concepts like playing to win—and especially social fun—within the context of group play. Are avid solo gamers wired a bit differently? Or are our motivations roughly the same with or without people to play with?
My name is Liz, and I play a lot of games. By day, I am a teacher. By night, I am an avid gamer.