Going With What You Know

When you first get into hobby gaming, there is a predictable arc that your enthusiasm will follow…

1. Discovery: You discover your first non-mainstream game. (For me, this was The Settlers of Catan)

2. Exploration: You enthusiastically embrace the hobby lifestyle, and start buying up a ton of games based purely on what you read on boardgamegeek.com.

3. Revelation: You realize you have way more games than you can play with any sort of regulartiy.

4. Dissatisfaction: You discover that, for all the games you own, you only really love half of them, and that only if you’re lucky.

5. Burnout: You get tired of playing the same basic game remade several times over.

6. Rediscovery: You find that you enjoy playing your old games instead of newer flashier ones.

At least, that’s how it went for me. I guess I shouldn’t have made that sound so universal…

In all seriousness, the initial rush of hobby gaming is positively intoxicating. EVERYTHING is new to you, and the world of gaming is one of limitless discovery. It’s only after buying the fourth version of Ticket to Ride that you realize that maybe some game designers repeat themselves a little. Not only that, but you realize that other designers crib a lot from other popular designs. You see, it turns out that board gaming is a lot like video gaming. For every true classic, there are about 20 perfectly competent but immediately forgettable games.

It’s about that point that new games stop interesting you very much. The initial reaction to this is to kind of despair on the hobby as a whole. If you’re a real alarmist, you start bemoaning the lack of creativity as the death knell of hobby gaming. If you have any perspective at all though, you take a step back and realize that you already own a bunch of games that are still perfectly playable. In fact, many of them were bought in the pre-rush days, when you were carefully considering game purchases by playing them first, and not just buying something because you read a glowing review of the game on the Geek.

I find myself in that last part of the equation these days. By default, I’m the type who prefers the familiar to the new. I have to convince myself to try a new game instead of playing Battlestar Galactica again. In fact when I game at a local church group, I have made the rule that I must learn a new game every time I go. Now, part of that is practicality. Most gamers would rather learn a new game than play one that the crazy man has played 20-30 times. The other side of that is that it’s good to learn new games. It helps you discover things that you might enjoy, or that you didn’t know realize you liked.

The thing is, there is a huge tendency in the gaming community to move from hot game to hot game, never settling on a game long enough to give it more than 5 plays. That’s a problem for a couple of reasons. First of all, a lot of great games take more than 5 plays to understand properly. If I had given up on Cosmic Encounter after 5 plays, I never would have gotten to the same level of enjoyment that it currently provides to me, some 30 games in. The second problem is that it encourages you to spend more money, which is silly in a hobby that already is expensive, even when spending conservatively.

Don’t get me wrong, I still buy new games, even some that are unplayed before I buy them. My most recent “new to me” purchase was Summoner Wars, which thankfully was a great purchase. Even then though, I vetted the game thoroughly. I love light tactical combat games, and it’s low cost of entry made it a lower risk than say, buying a $100 copy of Space Hulk only to realize you don’t like it at all (as many gamers did when Space Hulk was released last fall). But ultimately, I already own every game that I posted to my Top 12. And you know what? If I never got another game, I’d have a pretty awesome collection. (Well, with just a couple expansions more…)

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