I began my tabletop gaming hobby, in earnest, about 10 years ago with my purchase of “Settlers of Catan.” I took it to a weekend getaway with some buddies, played it a couple times. It was something fun to do for a couple hours over a weekend.
My thirst for board games has grown exponentially since then. Now, for that same weekend with friends, I might drag along 15-20 games, ready for any situation or combination of players.
In that time, I’ve developed something of a philosophy around tabletop games, a set of go-to responses for those who wonder why I set aside hours of time each week to get together with friends or why I’ve invested a considerable amount of money in my 65-plus game library. They’re fair questions. While the hobby has grown substantially since those years, it still has a long way to go to compete with the Xbox and YouTube.
So, for this inaugural voyage of The Shuffle, here are my reasons to come to the table:
You actually interact with people. Yes, you interact with people playing “Call of Duty” or whatever, but you’re still both paying close attention to a screen. In a tabletop game, you sit facing each other (usually). You can have snacks and a beverage, put on some music and make an evening out of it.
The tangibility thing. I love cradling a controller as much as the next person. But shuffling cards, stacking chips and moving meeples around is way more satisfying. The lo-fi nature of any cardboard game allows for a pleasing sensory experience.
There’s not just a game for everyone. There’s a game for every group. I have lots of games that I, personally, love to play. But lately, I’ve begun to notice that I have a favorite game to play with certain people, or certain groups of people. My “Eclipse” group is different from my “Tammany Hall” group, with some overlap. But my “Splendor” group is way different. And then there are games I play only with my seven-year-old daughter, like “Diamonsters” or “Pokemon: The Card Game.”
In a world where it’s often hard to agree on a restaurant or a movie, it’s incredible that there is enough variety in tabletop gaming to allow for any group to coalesce around a game, no matter their ages, affinities or skill levels.
Value. Whenever I worry about plunking down another $40 for a game, I ask myself: But how much will I play this? And with how many people? If a $40 game gets played by four people for two hours, that’s $5/hour per person for that entertainment, on par with going to a movie. If that game is replayed, that value keeps increasing. And if you win, hey, bonus!
You’ll have a different experience every time. I haven’t liked every game I’ve played, or even every session of every game I like (mostly because of losing, terribly, to Michael, my frequent gaming partner and arch nemesis). But I have never regretted pulling out a board game as a way to be entertained, and I’ve never had the same experience twice. Part of that is due to the variety of games I play, but it’s also thanks to the various emotions and drama and surprises and twists that come out of nearly any decent game. Some games test the limits of our deductive capacities, while others merely pass the time. Some force us to think like generals, while others make us think about language, or budgeting, or matching colors.
Whatever your entry point, chances are there is a game for you. Actually, the chances are that there are many games for you. That’s what I’ve discovered in my 10 years of tabletop games, and I hope that’s what this blog will also help you discover.
If you have questions, comments or ideas for upcoming posts, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.