People lament it all the time, this fascination we have with technology. The dumbing down of America, I’ve heard it called. I can’t throw stones myself, because my smart phone is indispensable and I’m constantly surfing the Internet. I also have a hobby that many might consider a waste of time, dooming me to eternal geekdom. To that I say thank you for the geek label, and that board games are anything but a waste of time.
Everyone played games like Monopoly as a child, and many progressed to Risk. While those kinds of games are fun pastimes, they’re not what I’m describing here (although Scrabble, without the falsified “official” dictionary, certainly fits the bill). I’m referencing the massive amounts of advanced board games that people are bringing to the table, games that sharpen as well as entertain the mind.
Take Terraforming Mars. It appears simple enough on the surface: when the oxygen and temperature are both maxed, and the oceans are all placed, the game ends, with the victor the individual with the most victory points. TM lists all the types of actions, many leading to those valuable victory points, in the guise of terraforming rating. Yet to win TM takes the mastery of engine building, finding the right combination of cards, standard actions, and other avenues to build up the best point-scoring approach. Should I fund this award, or will an opponent overtake me to snag the points from it? If I sell out to get this milestone, what do I do if someone beats me to it? Additionally, though I love getting the perfect cards to fuel my engine, I find it even more fun and challenging to build a winning engine out of components that don’t, on first blush, fit together. This allows me to exercise my mind while having a hell of a good time.
Then there are games that I suck at, that bend my brain, but that I love anyway. Goa is this kind of game. I’ve played upwards of thirty times and won maybe four or five. I certainly didn’t win within my first ten plays. I should hate it, except it’s such a great game that the challenge of getting better keeps me coming back for more. How much should I bid for which tiles? Will I take the money action and eschew other valuable choices to prepare for the next auction round? With a strict amount of actions in the game, you must figure out where to focus your efforts. Sure, maybe I’m getting better, but I’ll never master it. And I’d play Goa every day of the year, if I had the time and opportunity.
There ARE an increasing amount of board and card games that integrate technology, like One Night Werewolf. Heck, I use Chwazi to determine start player for many games. None of the games I have in mind use technology, but I won’t disqualify them because they mostly use it not to change the game, but to simplify things like accounting and DMing secret knowledge for the players. I don’t get into games like this, but don’t condemn board gamers who do.
Finally, really cool people play board games. Well, they’re MY kind of cool, and that’s all that counts! What else can you do that’s loads of fun, that you get to do with cool people, AND sharpen your mind? Well, you may come up with some ideas, but I’m sticking with board games.
To check out the games I mentioned, and many hundreds of thousands more, go to www.boardgamegeek.com.