Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1.13: What is this Gaming Thing? Part 4 - The Cost of Gaming

Ah-ha, I lied!  You thought the topic was going to be "Where did I go wrong?"  Well, after writing that up, I felt it'd probably be better nearer the end of this series.  That's right, it's done, and you can't read it.  Neener -neener.  This also means that sometime in the future I'm actually ahead of schedule.  Just not right now. 

This is part 4 of the ongoing series, "What is this gaming thing?"  Click here for parts One, Two, and Three.

Gaming is my primary hobby.  Some people go skiing, skating, skydiving.  Some people watch sports, buy tickets to games, buy their team's jerseys.  Obviously a good portion of my "entertainment" budget goes into purchasing boardgames and related accessories, though there isn't anything as silly as boardgamer clothing (ahem).  I also have a celebrity toenail clipping collection, but the cost of that hobby is negligible (before people start wondering, that's totally made up).

So what does this hobby cost?  That, of course, is going to vary with your tastes--tthe cost of card games can be as low as $10, but the majority are probably in the $18-20 range.  The average boardgame is probably in the $35-50 range, but can be higher for some of the really big games, such as Descent or Twilight Imperium.  For reference, these two games come in boxes that are about 18 inches wide, three feet long, and six inches deep.  Gauge that with your hands.  Yeah, big.

That seems expensive, but is it really?  As far as entertainment goes, gaming is actually pretty affordable.  Let's take some loose averages and figure this out.

"Let's go see a movie."  Sorry, I have to use something I'm familiar with--I could have gone with Bowling or competitive pie-making, but I'm not familiar with the cost of those activities.  Anyway, cost of a movie, around $9 out here for a matinee.  Since Jackie and I usually game with another couple, let's look at a family of four going to a movie--that comes out to $36 for four people to attend a matinee, about 90 minutes of entertainment, and that's without popcorn or drinks.  I'll let you figure that out for yourself; don't try lying, I used to work at a theater, and watched as the concession prices raised a quarter, fifty-cents or more every year.  One trip to the movies with no snacks, 90 minutes of entertainment, about $9 a person. 

Now, gaming.  An average big box game, no, instead let's use Small World or Ticket to Ride, both excellent quality games with gorgeous components, and a slightly higher than average cost.  Both of these games support play for 2-5 players, take around 90 minutes to play, and cost $45 retail.  When Jackie and I play, we usually have another couple playing with us, so we'll divide this cost by four.  This comes out to 90 minutes of entertainment for $11.25 each.  But that's more!  But, when you're done playing a game, you can set it back up and play again.  As often as you want.  Once you've purchased the game, there is no additional cost to playing that game.  Even if you threw the game on a shelf after the first play, it can always be pulled down months later, and each time you play it you reduce the cost of each hour of play per person.

Additionally, and one of the key benefits of playing boardgames, is that it's a social activity; friendly competition, problem solving for a little self-challenge, and a forum for interacting with your friends--and if you're hanging out with the guys and have the desire to beat the feces out of each other, there are games that fit that bill also.


Well, that's it for this segment, come back in the future when the topic will be...something else.  I've also considered covering types of games; I'll probably start this off with either Dexterity games or Party games, so expect these topics to come up soon.  If anyone has any questions or suggestions, especially suggestions for further topics, by all means post a comment here.  I can read your mind, but my mother taught me that it's rude, so I don't do it often.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

1.12: Boardgame websites you should know about - Boardgamegeek.com

New or veteran gamers, if you are not familiar with this site, make a point to visit.  Boardgamegeek.com was created and is run by Scott "Aldie" Alden, and serves as a database and meeting place for gamers.  The database has tens of thousands of games in it, and better yet, if you somehow manage to think up a board or card game that isn't in the database, you can add it yourself.  Yes, the site's content is user created, including the database. 

The community on BGG (which includes a number of game designers) is generally friendly and helpful as well, and there are a number of groups within the community, assuring that most everyone can find somewhere on the site to hang out.  Contributions are also rewarded with Geekgold, BGG's digital currency.  While many sites allow new members to create their avatar on signing up, BGG instead encourages new members to reach out and contribute by requiring 30 Geekgold to "purchase" the ability to create an avatar.  Your geekgold can also be used for a number of other purposes, including further personalization of your avatar, turning off ads, and also to bid in other members' boardgame auctions.

There are a number of useful features on BGG beyond its database.  Each database entry links to reviews, play sessions, photos, rules clarifications, player aides, and much more.  While a little time consuming if you have a large collection, you are able to use the database to create "Games Owned" list, which allows you to keep track of your collection and add personal info on each entry, as well as "Games wanted," and "For trade" lists, if you are interested in trading boardgames with other BGG members.

The best part of it all, Boardgamegeek.com is free.  All the features listed above are free, you simply have to create an account.  The site does accept donations, and that is part of what pays to keep it going; there are some incentives to donate (some geekgold and the ability to permanently turn on Ad-blocker, off the top of my head), and I'm happy to say that I've been a member and "officially" donating since 2006.

As a head's up, Aldie also recently started Geek-do, which links in with a user's BGG account, and includes Roleplaying games.  Anyone interested in boardgames of any era can find useful information on BGG; I use it to keep track of my collection, as well as to keep abreast of upcoming games, and to research before I make a purchase. Anyone interested in seeing BGG in use, feel free to check out my account by clicking right here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

1.11: Let's start...at the End?

Okay, not the end, but the Endgame.  For this segment I'm not interested in how to win a game, but in what causes the game to end.

Many traditional boardgames end with one of two endgame scenarios--either get your pawn or pawns from A to B, and the first one to do so wins.  Examples of this are Pachisi, Sorry!, and Candyland.  Of course there are games that throw a few caveats into this, such as Life, where the first player to the end of the path gets a huge cash bonus, but the winning player is the one with the most cash.  The second scenario is DESTROY YOUR OPPONENTS!--that is, you win when you have eliminated all other players from the game.  Obvious examples here are, of course, Risk and Monopoly.  (Monopoly, really, I don't hate you, you're just such a useful example.)

For the Modern boardgame, though the above endgame mechanisms may be included, there are a number of different endgame possibilities.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

1.10: Crushing defeat in Black Sheep

Yeah, it happens.  A friend of me dubbed me an "Elite Gamer"--I think he was referring to my knowledge, ethic, and experience in boardgaming.  I hope he wasn't referring to any sense of gaming snobbery, and doubt he was referring my ability to win all the time, since that theory would be crushed--crushed about as bad as I was this past weekend. 

Robert, Wendy, Jackie and I had dinner and sat down for a game.  Since I'm still working my way through my unplayed games, I pulled down Black Sheep.  Black Sheep is a game by Reiner Knizia, originally published in 2008, it is a game for 2-4 players, and takes approximately 30-40 minutes to play. 

If you've played Poker, you already know how to play half the game.  There are three fields, and two plastic animals are randomly assigned to each field.  Each player will play a total of three cards (the cards depict the seven animals in the game) to each field, and you "Poker hand" is composed of the three cards you play and the two animals in the field.  The player with the highest hand when all players have played three cards to the field takes the two animals.  At the end of the game players look at the underside (not the backside) of the animals, where a number from 1-3 is present; players score positive points for all animals except the Black Sheep, who is worth negative points.  Bonus point cards are given to the individual with the most of each type of animal, and for each full set (one of each animal) a player has.

Despite the seeming simplicity of the game, there are a lot of tough decisions, and half the time you have to sacrifice a chance to win one field to delay your play on another field in the hopes of winning it.  At least that was the game Robert and I were playing--the girls seemed to have trouble not taking animals every other turn.  I was actually the last player to take any animals, and took them just as the endgame began.

Let's just say I scored very few points.  Add to this that Jackie ended up taking majorities for three of the seven animals, and Wendy for another.  Robert took a majority as well--for black sheep--the 6 point bonus card didn't make up for the 9 negative points he scored on the black sheep.  I won't talk about exact scores; we'll just say that Jackie won, and almost tripled my score.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1.9: An actual schedule for this blog?

Uhh, kind of. My goal is to get one significant post a week; either game overview, continuing part of a series, discussing a game mechanism, or something of that nature. I think I can drop these on Monday or Tuesday, so that will be the schedule for now--we'll see what my daughters have to say about that.

Mixed in among these will be other smaller things, such as quick reviews, recommendations, and play sessions. If over the weekend I get my butt kicked in a game of, uhhidunno, Black Sheep (not that this would ever happen)--I'll post about it here. I'm thinking many of these will be first-plays of a game, but I'll juggle these around and see what works.

If anyone has any comments or questions, or wants to see more of something , please feel free to make suggestions. If they're good, I'll be happy to follow up on them. If they suck, I'll feel free to ignore them, and will probably make fun of you the next time I see you.

Until then...go play some damn boardgames.

Maybe we need to work on the catch-phrase.

And, yes, I know that "uhhidunno" isn't a word.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

1.8: Settlers of Catan - Overview of play

During my last post I realized that I should probably do a full overview of The Settlers of Catan; I gave a summary of the game, but it really should be given more time. While, yes, this is an in-depth overview of the game, I'm not covering every piddly nuance--if you want that, why don't you just go play the darn thing a couple times...

The Settlers of Catan was designed by Klaus Teuber; originally published in 1995, it has since earned a number of awards, including the Spiel des Jahres (those familiar with boardgaming realize this is a big deal). The game supports 2-4 players, and takes about 60-90 minutes to play. There have been several expansions for this game produced, but we'll start out by explaining the base game, and will mention a few of the expansions at the end.