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Tony Grist

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Board Games [Sep. 20th, 2007|11:00 am]
Tony Grist
My son Mike (manfalling) is celebrating his aquisition of a vintage, secondhand boxed set of Shogun- which is a late twentieth century board game where you get to wage war all over medieval Japan. He and Joe loved it when they were kids. I got pulled in once or twice and found it slow. I guess the real joy is imagining yourself as an ancient Japanese warlord and if that doesn't float your boat there's nothing to hold your interest while your opponents agonise over their moves.

My favourite game from that era was Talisman- which is basically Dungeons and Dragons without the Dungeon Master. Or to put it another way, Dungeons and Dragons for lazy people.

I played Dungeons and Dragons too- but that's another story.

Further back- when I was a kid myself-  the games we played en famille (on winter evenings) were Scrabble and Cluedo. The thing about those two- which locks them in place as classics- is that there's skill involved. I was quite a whizz at Cluedo- good at befoozling the opposition and making deductions from other players' moves.  Games where it's all down to the fall of the dice soon become boring.

Ailz and I bought ourselves a Scrabble set last Christmas and gave it a bashing over the festive season. Perhaps we'll fetch it out again this winter.

There was/is a horrible game called The Game of Life, which is Snakes and Ladders reimagined (though imagination has nothing to do with it) as a turn upon the  middle-class treadmill. Go to university, get a corporate job, have kids, upgrade your house, get wheeled into the crem (only without the bit about the crem). More like the Game Of Not Having A Life, really. How cruel (and borderline sinister) to have kids play at being middle-management when they could be being shoguns or super-sleuths or orc-fighting adventurers. 

Do people (I mean young people- not oldies reliving their youth) still play board games- or has all the action moved into cyberspace?

[User Picture]From: dakegra
2007-09-20 11:23 am (UTC)
well, you can play Scrabble on Facebook...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-20 03:01 pm (UTC)
Ah yes....
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[User Picture]From: jubal51394
2007-09-20 12:39 pm (UTC)

Around here...

Young and old alike, far and wide, are playing this together:

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-20 03:12 pm (UTC)

Re: Around here...

I've read the article and I'm not sure I'm any the wiser. I'm put off by the sheer complexity of the enterprise.

Also I fear addiction.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2007-09-20 01:11 pm (UTC)
My sisters and their families play board games--it's one of the things I really like about visiting them, since it's tough to play by yourself!

There is a group of people in Austin who meet to play board games, but I haven't gone, for one reason or another.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-20 03:22 pm (UTC)
We had a board-game playing culture in my family when I was a kid, but no-one seems to have kept it up.
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[User Picture]From: qos
2007-09-20 01:41 pm (UTC)
We don't play boardgames much at my house, but then boardgames are much less enjoyable with only two people.

My experiences with Talisman and The Game of Life were exactly the opposite of yours. My ex-husband loved Talisman, but it bored me to tears, but while I was growing up, I played The Game of Life, sometimes by myself. But then, I used it as a jumping off point for stories about those little pink and blue pegs. Of course, at that time there were no fantasy board games or D&D.

But now that I'm thinking about this. . . when my daughter, mother and I played The Game of Life last year, I found myself appalled at the oppressively hetero-centric, middle classness of it all, and I refused to get married. I don't remember even considering that when I played as a youngster.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-20 03:25 pm (UTC)
I suppose the attraction of Game of Life for a child is that it allows you to imagine life as a grown-up. It's just such a huge shame that the life path you're offered is so mainstream and boring.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2007-09-20 01:47 pm (UTC)
My younger daughter (age 24) plays board games every weekend with a group of friends. That said, the games are much more sophisticated these days than the classics like Scrabble and Monopoly and they often reflect a certain online influence.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-20 03:26 pm (UTC)
I'm not really aware of the new games on the market. Maybe I should explore.
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[User Picture]From: glassgirl7
2007-09-20 02:46 pm (UTC)
We had a board game binge last Christmas and for a couple months following. It started as a gift-giving plan during the intense grief period in my family. We discovered Lost Cities and stayed up WAY too late with it, playing through a lengthy bout of winter colds, among other things. We also got Ingenious, which we have played but haven't played with as much total focus and addiction as Lost Cities. We've played Sneeze and Poison and Hey, That's My Fish with our god daughter and my nephew...and we bought Reef Encounters, but haven't learned the elaborate rules/game play yet. But its beautiful, and probably this year we'll dive in.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-20 03:27 pm (UTC)
Lost Cities sounds interesting. I need to have a look at what's out there.

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[User Picture]From: methexis
2007-09-20 03:19 pm (UTC)
You really ought to try Settlers of Catan. It really is as good as people say it is. It takes at least three players, but if you're two there's a card game version that's pretty darn good. Power grid is also excellent, and all of these "grown-up" board games are actually quite easy to figure out.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-20 03:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'll take a look.
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From: sculptruth
2007-09-20 04:22 pm (UTC)
Our little group plays boardgames regularly. We really like Carcassone and Puerto Rico; we have a whole new list to go through as well.

Most of us are in our early thirties; that may not count as "young people" even though we're not necessarily old. We are however, the video game generation to be sure-- most of us still have Nintendo DS Lites and play a lot of video games too. It seems a lot of the nerds I know, myself included, have a great love of board games as well as technology.
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From: sculptruth
2007-09-20 04:23 pm (UTC)
Forgive the wooden delivery-- coffee is still brewing >.
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[User Picture]From: le_oef
2007-09-20 05:54 pm (UTC)
i'm 31 and board games are things people my age try to play and talk about playing but only once in a blue moon end up playing.

i used to play dungeons and dragons when i was a young teen and those were some of the best times i ever had.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-20 07:49 pm (UTC)
I did a bit of Dungeonmastering back in the day- and that was great fun but also very hard work.
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[User Picture]From: pickwick
2007-09-20 11:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah, my friends play board games quite a lot, but I'm about the same age as Joe. We play Carcassone and Settlers of Catan and things like that (also card games like Munchkin), but I've also got real Scrabble, Monopoly (the lord of the rings version), a Doctor Who game, and a set of Trivial Pursuit, that we drove around all-night supermarkets trying to find for an hour or so a few years ago, because we'd had a sudden craving!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-21 12:17 pm (UTC)
That's quite a heavy board-gaming habit you have there! :)

I'm surprised. I was assuming on-line gaming would have driven board games to near extinction. Instead it seems like there's golden age in progress.
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[User Picture]From: four_thorns
2007-09-21 08:12 am (UTC)
in tucson we had board games nights sometimes. but then, "we" is a bunch of poetry students, and therefore probably nerdier than your average young person. i am, however, banned from playing scrabble.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-21 12:19 pm (UTC)
Well, from what I've gathered from the response to this post, "us nerds" are driving a golden age of board-gaming. I'm surprised- but perhaps I shouldn't have been.
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[User Picture]From: kaysho
2007-09-21 11:06 pm (UTC)
The Game of Life did teach one valuable lesson: that going to university was an excellent value. Only a few more spaces early on to enjoy substantially increased paydays later. :)

Otherwise it was fairly boring, though ... much too linear.
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From: manfalling
2007-09-23 04:16 pm (UTC)
I had a group round tonight to play Shogun- it was pretty sweet. I was gonna lose, but so be it.

The attraction for me is not about wishing to be the warlord, it's just the strategy of it all. Like RISK. Shogun is very like RISK. The board sets itself up randomly, you decide which area is your best bet for domination, and then you reinforce it, all the time hoping/signalling that the other guys won't go for your area, won't place close to you, or will fall into your trap.

Then every round, every fight you choose to make or not make, they're all decisions that affect the outcome. And like with chess- part of the fun is spending time trying to figure out what moves you want to make, to where, with what long term-goals in mind, while trying to figure out what your opponent is up to.

Other games I play, and have been playing I suppose for several years now, are some of the ones already mentioned here: Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, plus Puerto Rico, Alhambra, some Munchkin, Poker of late, and various other ones we passed through as fads.

Shogun is the daddy of them all really.

Game of Life I liked, for a very similar reason to like Monopoly, and World of Warcraft, and Shogun. I don't suppose you could say Monopoly is especially exciting, at least not more so than Game of Life. But they both tap into our basic acquisitive desire. To acquire stuff. In Game of Life, it's money, kids in the car (I loved filling it up with those little pink and blue pegs/kids), and success. In Monopoly it's money and land. In Warcraft it's levels, XP, and gear. In Shogun it's cash, land, and power.

Talsiman was great for that too- you just keep on powering up your heroes on and on. Gamesmen who wanted to go for the Crown of Command early didn't seem to really get the fun part of Talisman. It's not winning, it's powering up!

Same kind of reason I loved Civilization the PC game. You just keep on applying tax/research/luxury multipliers, doubling and tripling your production and science and tech. I was never into warring with it much, since warring was a pain in the ass and slower than getting all the Wonders and racing ahead of the competition.

World of Warcraft, the epicly popular online realm, is all about just grinding through battle after battle, just to get the next awesome piece of gear. I'm ready to drop out, as the amount of effort you put in for the next gear-step is pretty disproportionate.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-09-26 04:32 pm (UTC)
I haven't done any "serious" gaming since you guys were kids. I must say I was always pretty much set on winning. Sod powering up, just let me get at that crown of command!

I've watched people play computer games of the World of Warcraft variety. I like the fantasy element and the idea of wandering through an enormous virtual landscape, but the actual mechanics of play- all those slow, slow battles- strike me as repetitive and dull.
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