A blog is an autobiography written as you're reading it.

Board Gaming Ebbs and Flows

I’ve been thinking lately about how much my gaming hobby has changed since I got into things. In 2013, my then girlfriend’s father (now my father-in-law) introduced me to Smash Up. Much to my new fiancee’s dismay, we spent the two week visit with the family mostly playing the game. I didn’t log plays back then, but I’m sure we clocked two dozen plays in two weeks.

I was hooked! Everything was awesome about this cool new card game. I bought a copy on Amazon, we started a game night for other young marrieds from my wife’s college, and I think I had 3, maybe 4 games on the shelf. We played a lot of Smash Up, Dixit, and Shadows over Camelot.

(More on this in in “A Life Lived Gaming”). All that to say, Smash Up is no longer my #1 game. It’s not even a game I want to play anymore. After 51 logged plays and more that are unlogged, I’m done with it. And that’s okay.

At first I didn’t want to play any stodgy Eurogames. I gagged when I was forced to try out Trajan (I still don’t like that game!) Later, I discovered the intricacies of heavy Eurogames like Lisboa, and I fell hard for them. When kids entered our life the two-hour Euro became an endangered species, and I discovered the joy of the thirty-minute or hour-long OG Euros: games by Knizia and Schacht and Kiesling/Kramer.

I famously used to hate co-op games, and now, it’s rare to find a co-op that I don’t like. I love the camraderie, and I’m much more likely to overlook a quarterbacking problem, or fix it by setting expectations and a culture around our table. Maybe it was the pandemic? Why spend time beating each other up when we could work together? Finishing off an evil villain in Bullet♥︎ is so satisfying, as is taking down the planet in Not Alone (OK, to be fair that one is one-vs-many). There’s a thrill to the team pulling one out at the last minute.

When I started gaming, I automatically dismissed any game out of hand that only played with two players. Why waste my time, when I could buy games that play 2 AND other player counts? Our typical gaming time has always come from our weekly game night, and my wife is not really up for games, so I overlooked 2 player games for years. Then my brother moved into my basement. Now we happily enjoy Radlands and Unmatched: Little Red Riding Hood vs. Beowulf on a slow weeknight, even if he does beat me much more than half the time!

What’s the point to all this? I spent most of last year trying to ‘recollect’ my collection: figure out why I had certain games, and write long reviews of the games I owned. I wanted to reach a theoretically perfect collection, but my conclusion after the year is that this needs to be a moving target. There’s no other way around it: how else do I explain donating Smash Up, a former favorite of mine, to the local Half Price Books?

There’s nothing wrong with trying out new boxes, and discovering the intricate mechanics of a new game is a big part of the thrill for me. If anything, I’m made more uncomfortable buying new games because of the consumption aspect of it, and whether it’s sustainable to keep stuffing boxes of cardboard and plastic into shipping vehicles and transporting them all the way to my doorstep. If there’s any argument compelling to me for curtailing purchases, it would be that!

Similarly, I don’t feel any guilt getting rid of games. I’m not dumping them in a landfill — I’ve learned to enjoy the pleasure of giving someone a free game when they comment about it, or have a great time playing it, or for no reason at all. These boxes are consumables, and in the same way my tastes for different games change as my life circumstances change, so does my overall collection change and shift over time. And that’s okay.

Thanks for sticking around — I’m not sure what the point of this is, other than to say that maybe I’ve been overthinking things just a little bit. Maybe there is no ideal shelf size, maybe there is no ideal amount of money to spend, maybe there is no perfectly-balanced collection. Maybe the whole point the entire time has been to spend time with family and friends, and I can’t really put a price or shelf size on that.