Thursday, May 14, 2015

So many games to play and so little time to play them

Has anyone invented a term for gamers that play different kinds of games? Multi-gamer? Polygamer? Omni-gamer? The reason I ask is that I am one, whatever we are called.

Since my “return to gaming” in 2006, I have noticed a lot of gamers from the other side of that coin, gamers that could be referred to as uni-gamers. They play only one game or game type; only board games, only RPG’s, only miniatures or only card games. Most of them have tried, or would try other types but for whatever reason choose to stick to one genre. That’s cool; Gaming is gaming is gaming; they all foster social interaction and stimulate the mid, and that’s all good.

I am often asked what my favorite kind of game to play is. My answer is usually something relating to the fun quotient or interest level, or something equally inane because there is no one kind of great game, for me at least. If pressed, I would say I most enjoy board gaming. Now don’t get me wrong, I love all three for different reasons, and I understand the irony considering where my reputation was made.

Miniature gaming is intense and visual, and I love it. It represents a substantial investment in both time and treasure; buying the figs is a serious commitment in money; prepping them for painting and the actual painting and mounting takes time, lots of it. (The alternative is paying someone else to paint them for you—more cold cash.) Good minis rules can have all the grit* any gamer could want. Alternately, some classic minis rules lack very much grit at all; the classic Chainmail is a prime example of this type of “smooth rules”. Serious commitment to minis often involves a sandtable which is, in itself, a serious commitment in the mere space it occupies. I had a dandy for many years and moved it from Wisconsin to Ohio. (One of TSR’s little secrets was that the head of the Periodical Division-me, and one of our most famous fantasy artists-Dave “Tramp” Trampier, were huge “tankers” (fans of armor gaming) and could be found on my sandtable many a weekend fighting WWII on the Eastern Front. When the cover was on we were racing HO-scale slot-less race cars, or playing Shogun. I enjoyed ancients, Dark Ages, medieval, Renaissance and Napoleonics.

I am not a fan of CCG’s.

I do admit to a fondness for Nuclear War, which we often played as a warm-up while waiting for the last guy to arrive (1st nuke always went on Chuck). I did a re-development on Naval War for AH when they acquired the title. All of the optional rules that I added to their edition were “house rules” that my buddies (who are all listed as playtesters) and I came up with over many, many playings.
When it comes to RPG’s, I mostly prefer playing from “behind the screen”. When I first got a copy of the game after having played in two adventures (one very short-lived and gory) at GenCon in 1974, I took it to my game club at Southern Illinois Univ. -Carbondale. (The club, The SIUSGS, is still alive and kicking, and using the same logo I designed in ’74.) I had the only set of rules and the only “funny dice”. Guess who the DM was and you win a +1 on your next roll. Everybody wanted to play; games with 10-12 PC’s were common; I ran a few with as many as 15 or 16. DM’ing was what I learned to do as I learned the nuances of the game, and ultimately led me to TSR and all that that entailed.

The edition wars amuse me more than anything. Personally, my style would be considered Old School. I believe that rulings, not rules, are what make for a fine night of RPG’ing. I believe that there should always, always, always be an element of uncertainty, something unknown and the possibility of successful, stupid derring-do occurring. I mostly only play D&D. I have dabbled in a couple others at cons, usually involving a game for charity or the like.

I love boardgames; always have (since first stumbling across AH’s D-Day in 6th grade) and always will. I feel a sort of condescending pity for people that don’t play boardgames; they are missing out on the (arguably) most social aspect of our hobby.

My first boardgame in the post- Candy Land/Chutes & Ladders era was a predecessor to Monopoly called Finance; it was the first boardgame in which I schemed and strategized. I was hooked.
Boardgames traditionally do best during time of economic stress. Today, though, that paradigm has shifted and boardgames are more popular than ever. NBC News remarked on it several weeks ago. I think that this is significant because families are spending more time together playing games.

The choice and selection of board games available today is staggering. Just as much as any RPG, a good boardgame can reveal the inner rascals in all the players. Boardgames run from the simulation types such as Squad Leader to much more abstract games of the type called “Euro-games”. One thing has not changed, though; there are still a lot of dogs out there, more now than at any time simply due to the flood of boardgames in the last 8-10 years that have come onto the market.

I have a ton of favorites; I favor the games playable by as many as six (or more) people because of the social nature of boardgaming. A short list, in no particular order, of the games I have played the most in the past year: War of Kings, Feudality, Serinissima, Fire & Axe, Last Night on Earth, Fight in the Skies (aka Dawn Patrol), Tiny Epic Kingdoms, Great Space Race and Ticket to Ride in any iteration except the US.

There is another game that I wrote a lengthy piece on for Gygax Mag (which some befuddled “editor” butchered so badly we had to re-print the article in its entirety on the website) called Samurai Battles. It is a magnificent hybrid, but sadly only playable by two. It combines minis (very detailed 22mm plastics) with boardgames and has two separate sets of rules. One is a very gritty set of rules for minis; the other is yet another iteration of Richard Borg’s wonderful Command & Conquer system. The game was published by a model-maker in Russia called Zveda, known for their fine models. Sadly, the Russian gentleman that wrote the gritty minis rules died suddenly a few months ago. The game is so good and sold so well that they immediately came out with companion with more troop-types and more scenarios.

I love to play all three types. Conventions are wonderful for this; I learn new boardgames watching them being played first, then get into one. There are just so damned many! Has anyone started an old gamer’s home yet?

NEXT: House Rules-The Foundation of Gaming as we know it today.

*Grit, in this instance, or the term gritty, refers to the level of details that the rules take into account; the more minutiae, the grittier the rules. In this gaming usage, grit is not restricted to describing minis rules; simulation board games can be quite gritty and there are more grades of grittiness in RPG’s than there are grades of sandpaper at the hardware store.

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