In spite of the fact that I’m moving in just over a week, quitting my job of eight years, and prepping to begin graduate school, I looked at my life and decided that there simply weren’t enough changes to adjust to. To that end, I am now shedding 25 years of history and using contact lenses instead of glasses. The logic here was that I’m on my current job’s vision plan until the end of the month, and I’ve spent a lot of years not taking advantage of it. Well no more of that! Now I can join the ranks of people who stick their fingers in their eye on a daily basis.
Even at my best I don’t like change very much. Be that as it may, I’ve got a big one around the corner. I’m preparing to move from Kansas City to Dallas, my first out-of-state move in eight years. A lot can happen in eight years. In that time I’ve met my wife and had two kids. I’ve transitioned from a graduate student to an office worker and dad, and now back to a grad student again. And not least of all, I discovered board gaming and got lucky to make an extensive group of friends who enjoy it along with me.
I’m not sure I actually like Love Letter, but I also don’t know if I’d ever turn down a game of it. What would be the point of refusing to play? It’s such a trifle that I find it hard to believe that anyone would hate it enough to want nothing to do with it. In fact the most impressive thing about Love Letter is probably that it makes a case for itself at all, over easier activities like having a sip of coffee or sitting quietly. It’s just good enough to justify its existence and it makes the wise choice to wrap it up at about the two minute mark, then grab the cards, shuffle them up, and go again.
I received my copy of Mare Nostrum in a trade almost five years ago, and I have played many times. Just this weekend I played it after an extended hiatus. We were playing with the Mythology expansion, where the players have the option to call upon the favor of a god to give them a one-shot boost for the round. I made the foolish decision to spend the resources to use a god that actually was a lot less useful than I had expected. Mare Nostrum is not a very forgiving game when it comes to wasting resources, and I assumed I had blown this one. But then an odd thing happened. The god I had selected, Baal, had the ability to destroy a city of an opposing player. I realized I was holding on to a live grenade that I could lob at someone, and that I could get my way to a limited extent by using the threat of the destruction of a city. I’ve played many times, and for whatever reason this had never occurred to me. I probably would have still been better off saving my cards and doing something else, but for a brief glorious moment I had the joy of watching an old game reveal yet another new facet to me.
I think that every music fan goes through a Weird Al phase. Mine began in middle school, around the time of Bad Hair Day and peaking with the release of Running With Scissors. Oh man, Running With Scissors. That was the summer of the first Star Wars prequel, and also the summer that I took a trip back to the USA without my parents. I was excited to see Episode I, but I was almost as excited to get Weird Al’s newest opus. I listened to it so many times that I think I had memorized “Albuquerque” by the time I made it home. It was also around this time that I discovered UHF, which became a permanent fixture at every sleep over and youth group event.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article talking about the lack of historical context within the board gaming hobby, especially when compared to other mediums. There is a pervasive ambivalence about old games in the hobby today, which is increasingly focused on the newest Kickstarter campaign and the churn of the right-now. At the time I thought that there was hope for those of us who really enjoy older games, because I believed we were living in the age of reprints. Back then old classics like Wiz-War, Merchant of Venus, and Survive! were getting top shelf reprints from major publishers. But now that a couple of years have passed, I fear we are more disconnected with our roots than ever before. This time however, it’s not because of the ambivalence that I complained about. It’s because the games that brought many of us into the hobby are quickly vanishing, to be replaced by games with vast expansion lines and fancy miniatures.