Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2.8: Know your Gamer - Gamer OCD

A little late on this post, as work is keeping me rather busy--at least they're feeding me well.  

Got some gaming in this week, playing Puerto Rico, Ingenious, and Agricola with D and Danny.  I managed to walk away with a victory in all three, largely because it was D and Danny's first games of Ingenious and Puerto Rico; still, I only won each game by a very few points.   Agricola was great fun but awful; we all seemed to be doing poorly the entire game, and it was only because of a large number of bonus points I gained at the end (and a large amount of baby-making) that won me the game.  In my opinion Danny did the best, especially considering he only had two family members (and thus only two actions) the entire game. 

I'm still doing a little work in the loft, aka my game room, so hopefully I'll have pictures of that in the near future.

This is our hobby, so it makes sense to take care of one's games; there is also a collecting aspect to the hobby, so one may want to display their games; games are also for playing, so making that easier and more enjoyable is reconcilable.  However, we gamers may sometimes take it a bit too far. 

I don't know where or how this has developed into an aspect of the gaming hobby; perhaps people drawn to gaming are naturally inclined toward categorization and order, just as they must don black t-shirts.  Perhaps it is a behavioral remnant of our long-ago gaming ancestors, who had to have the shiniest pebbles organized in the best woven basket.  Whatever the reason, many a gamer exhibits some form of Gamer OCD.

I'm not even going to pretend that I'm not a part of this, so I'll start with the reason for this week's topic--tuckboxes.  A tuckbox is simply a box with an edge that you tuck in to hold the box shut, such as the box that holds a standard deck of cards.  I've mentioned that we've been playing Agricola recently; this game comes with over 200 cards in multiple decks, but not all the cards are used in a given game.  There is no method to store the cards inside the box, so one has the choice of ever-so-delicately navigating the box around, or finding a way to keep the decks separated despite jostling.

Rubber bands, of course!  Well, rubber bands do work for a while, but there are two problems with rubber bands--first, rubber bands eventually degrade, and cease to work; second, over time rubber bands can damage the cards, either by staining/melting to the cards, or by damaging the edges of the cards.  Tuckboxes are a simple, permanent solution. has a great and variously talented community, and some of these members have taken it upon themselves to design appropriately sized and visually appropriate tuckboxes, all one has to do is print, cut out, and tape these boxes and, like magic, the decks of cards are henceforth and forever separated.  Being able to print these out is especially useful in that the boxes are designed for the card size and deck size, as not all cards are standard Poker card size, nor are they all 52 card decks--Agricola's E-deck, for instance, is over a hundred cards.

I'm also known to bag my game components, that is, I went to WalMart and purchased a number of small zip-loc type baggies, and after I've played a game for the first time, we separate and bag all the little bits into a systematically logical number of these baggies.  This sounds like a bit of work, but in reality it only adds a few minutes to the end of the game, but greatly speeds up the set-up.  When I open my game boxes, I'm able to toss Jackie the red player-pieces, toss Robert the green player-pieces, have someone set up food, clay, wood and stone tokens while I shuffle cards (a shiny nickle to whoever guesses that game first), and we're ready to play.  This is a vast difference from having to pick ten green tokens from the 150+ wooden bits, plus the cardboard tiles and cards that would always be mixed among each other. D and Danny recently purchased Puerto Rico, a game which comes with several hundred different cardboard chits that go a number of places on and off the board--it could take 15 minutes or more just to sort through all this, but instead we took less than five minutes to separate and bag the bits after we played last weekend.

I'm only going to mention this briefly, since it's a point of contention on the BGG forums.  Game storage seems simple and straightforward enough, but there are two camps waging a constant war--okay, it's not so bad, but people have very strong opinions on the orientation games should have on one's shelves.  Spining (spine-ing--see the horror to the right) involves standing a game on it's side, like you would a book on a bookshelf; stacking is exactly what you think it is--placing a series of games atop each other.

I'm not going to state my opinion on this, but the wrong people believe that games should be spined, as they look better on the shelves this way, and it's easier to store them, see them, and get access to them when they are spined.  The disadvantage of storing games this way is that components can be jumbled around when a game is spined, and more importantly, the boards can warp or bow over time.  The ever-brilliant, much better looking people that stack their games ideally do so by stacking similar sized boxes atop each other--this often keeps sets of games or games by similar publishers together, but prevents any board damage.  The disadvantage, however, is that there are many different box-sizes, making same-size stacking difficult; mismatched stacking can lead to either the box top or bottom (or both) bowing in, and can also split the box corners if too much weight is on one box.  Of course, given the choice between a damaged box and a damaged board, the game can still be played with a damaged box (well, that might not work with Niagara, but that's an infrequent case). 

Perhaps the biggest thing I'm a stickler about is food; I really try to limit what is eaten around boardgames.  This goes for everyone's boardgames, not just my own, though I do make a point of limiting what foods are available when we have guests over for game nights.  I want my games to be played, but I also want to be able to play these same games years from now.

Greasy foods damage the paper components of games, leaving permanent stains (oh, I'm not playing this, he has that counter-card with the moon-shaped grease stain), and in severe cases destroying the integrity of the components.  Drinks could be a major issue, but I do enjoy quaffing a carbonated beverage while I play, so this is a "risk" that is acceptable.  Besides greasy foods, foods that leave particles everywhere are frowned upon while playing (think Cheetos), and this is because of mold.  Anyone who is a boardgamer should take mold into consideration, and having smelled a moldy boardgame and seen the damage mold can do, this is the primary reason I monitor what is eaten during gaming.  Mold requires three components to grow--a cool temperature, humidity, and a food source.  I live in Southern California, so temperature and humidity are mostly taken care of for ten months of the year, but keeping foodstuffs out of the games is another way to prevent mold spores from finding a foothold.

Now that I've made my confessions, do I think Gamer OCD can go too far?  Probably.  Something that seemed a little over the top was someone who mentioned he wanted to find a way to shellac or otherwise laminate the game box so it wouldn't show wear.  Someone should have pointed out that there is a "spray on glass" product coming on the market soon, but...

Okay, I'm doing a bad job of proving my point.  My point was going to be, "Yes, Gamer OCD can go too far," but damn if I can't think of an example right now.  Doubtless I'll edit this entry when no one's looking, and make an extremely clever example which will change gaming culture, leading it into the next decade.


Enjoy your week, everyone.  Hard to believe it's almost the end of February, a sixth of the year gone like that.

Pictures borrowed from

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