Are You Experienced?

I am experienced...AT ROCKING.“It’s more of an experience game.”

Gamers have heard this phrase many times, which means it might be borderline meaningless. When I hear it, it conjures up a game where the process of playing it is inherently more important than the final result of who wins.  The phrase “experience game” is sometimes used euphemistically for a game that’s a lot of fun but might not meet some nebulous mechanical standard. In that sense it functions as a little of a backhanded compliment, though not necessarily. Continue reading


scooby-doo: mystery incorporated

I was too young to remember this, but my parents have told me many times that when I was my son’s age I was a big fan of Scooby-Doo. Just the other day my mom told me about how I sat and watched rerun after rerun while movers loaded up our family’s things for a move. I was only shaken from my reverie when they loaded my baby sister’s bassinet, I guess because I wanted to make sure they didn’t take EVERYTHING important out of the house. Continue reading


clemons and springsteen

I think it started at about age 16 when a friend got me into The Beatles. It was something of a revelation for me to learn about Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper, and “Hey Jude.” Part of that was because the Beatles we just that good, but another part of it was that it felt hugely relevant to me. Rather than some musty relic of the 1960s, I discovered that they were as vibrant as anything I had ever heard. It wasn’t a museum piece at all, it connected with me right there in 1999. I’m a little embarrassed now that I ask asking other friends about whether they had heard something like “I Am The Walrus.” Their responses were justifiably a baffled variation on “of course I have,” which mystified me. Surely something this good would be played all the time right? Continue reading

In Theory

you must erase it

This chalkboard is a metaphor for my writing process.

A little while ago I played Small World for what had to be the fiftieth time. I’ve enjoyed Days of Wonder’s best game since it came out almost five years ago, across a handful of expansions, all sorts of player counts, and a completely alternate version of the game. After you play any game for that long you begin to notice all of its little peculiarities. I began noticing these in Small World a while ago. For one thing, it seems strange that the victory points are totally trackable, since one of the elements that arises in the game is convincing people that they should attack someone else. That shouldn’t even be an ambiguity, because what people score each turn is open information. I also noticed that turn order becomes kind of important, especially in the late game. The people going first have to do a little bit of defense so that the later players aren’t able to just cherry-pick everything, since the last player doesn’t need to worry at all about positioning in the final turn. Continue reading

Coming Up For Air

gasping for air

I saw the signs for a while before I did anything about them. Playing games out of duty, not just to review them, just to keep up with a steady stream of releases. Releasing that I hadn’t played my favorite games for a couple of years. Trying to get up excitement for game night only to find that it was wearing thin. Looking through a list of releases and feeling only a gaping sense of exhaustion. I was beginning to run out of goodwill for one of my favorite things. I needed to come up for air. Continue reading