My name is Ben and I’m basically obsessed with board games. There is something special about sitting around a table with friends and family, everyone in pursuit of a common goal while locked in a battle of wits. Win or lose, I always find these experiences to be good times. Now might be a good time to share how I got into the hobby, you know, in order for you to completely understand my enthusiasm…okay, obsession…for board gaming.
My story is probably no different than the other dozens you’re heard before. But this is my article and so I’m going to tell it anyways, free speech and all. I, like most American children, grew up playing games with my parents and siblings. I have fond memories of connecting 4, risking it all for world domination, and monopolizing various real estate markets. While I always enjoyed these games, I don’t know if I would say I was particularly fond of any of them. But in all honesty, could anyone really call themselves fond of ‘bored’ games? After all, aren’t they just something you play on a Sunday afternoon when there is absolutely nothing on TV and it is raining outside? Now that I’m older though, I can look back and admit it wasn’t always torture. I’d even go as far as to say sometimes it was actually a nice way to spend time as a family.
Fast forward 10 years. I’m a newly wed with far too much time on my hands and a couple extra gift cards burning a hole in my pocket. My wife and I decided we’d use one of the gift cards to get each other a gift. I got her a CD and she got me a “101 Things to Make with Ramen” cookbook. As flattered as I was, she agreed to let me return the cookbook and choose something else that interested me more. I had remembered seeing a game on the shelf that had caught my eye, one called Forbidden Island. It looked cool and was only a couple bucks more than the cookbook, so I got it. Little did I know I’d just purchased a rabbit hole in a box.
After reading the rules I was excited to give the game a try, I had never played a game where you worked with the other players to win together. And, man, that first game was a blast! We swapped cards, prioritized locations, and utilized our special abilities to the fullest. As I look back, I’m pretty sure we got crushed by the game and all lost, but it was still so much fun. I just couldn’t get enough of the game. I took it to all family gatherings begging cousins to try it with me. I was looking up old friends on Facebook and inviting them over to “catch up.” I did anything I could to be able to teach the game to someone new, because nothing was better than seeing their excitement as they saw the potential held with in a box full of cardboard and plastic. I’d never really been a social person, but I now had a reason to be. And for the most part, board games made it much easier.
Not long after this, when visiting my grandmother, I found two of my older cousins playing an interesting looking card game at the kitchen table. The name was a mouthful but it looked crazy fun. After a brief explanation, Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game definitely sounded like something I could get into. I did a little research and found a similar game about building a deck of cards, but one set in a fantasy world, one called Thunderstone Advance. With my wife’s approval I bought it at a local game store. I was beside myself after opening the box. There were so many cards, each with unique uses and effects. Just the premise of the game had my mind blown. I once again had to find people I could to play this with. As the naive gamer I was, I may have tried teaching the game to a few too may people who didn’t appreciate it like I did. (You know, D&D theme and all). I kept telling myself that it was just a theme issue and nothing more preventing them from enjoying the game and decided I would try again with a new and original setting, one anyone could enjoy (little did I know how wrong I was).
Everyone loves a good mystery, right? I thought so. And, man, Fantasy Flight really knows how to make a captivating trailer. One Amazon purchase later and I had my first Cthulhu game on it’s way to my house. No, I didn’t know who Cthulhu was. All I knew was the game supported up to 8 players, was cooperative, and had a chilling, paranormal theme. It was going to be a hit. I was dead wrong, Eldritch Horror was definitely not a hit. It had really complex rules, was way too long and no one I played with seemed afraid of hooded men trying to summon some giant version of Davie Jones.
At this point I was really starting to get discouraged, but I wasn’t about to give up yet. I just needed to regroup and do a little more research before the next purchase. It was then that I stumbled upon a web series called Tabletop. Each episode the host would teach a board game to a group of voice actors or celebrities and then play it on camera. The first segment I ever saw included 5 of them taking part in a dystopian rebellion called The Resistance. The game seemed so simple. You were assigned to a team and then all you had to do was either lie or figure out who who was lying. Yet it looked like they were having the time of their lives. I immediately hopped on Amazon to do a little more research. After spending nearly $50 on each of my last two failed investments it was nice to find this game was available for only $14 or so.
I remember taking the game to a couple gatherings with friends. I had the hardest time trying to convince them to play. It would be an understatement to say that they were less than uninterested. But after some persistence and a slight blow to my reputation, I finally got them to give the game a try. Before I knew it two of the other couples had gone out and purchased the game to be able to play with their own families and friends. In a matter of months my copy had already hit the table enough times that the faces of some of the tiles literally began to peel off. The game had lived up to all my expectations and then some.
That was it. That was at this moment that I was hooked! To have put time and effort into finding a game that not only I enjoyed teaching and playing, but a game that others enjoyed playing with me was incredible. There had to be more games out there. More experiences to share around a table with my favorite people. Soon my collection went from 5 games to 20 games, then to 50, then to 100, and it has only continued to grow since. Just this past year alone I have played more than 175 different games.
Now almost all of my spare time is either spent researching new games or playing them. While I enjoy a good video game or book as much as the next guy, there is just something special about board games. Nothing can replace the thrill of ripping the shrink wrap off a new game, punching the cardboard tokens out, and studying the crisp new rulebook. Sorry, I lied. Nothing can replace the experience of putting that new game on the table and sharing it with those you most enjoy spending time with.
Be sure to check back here each Thursday for either a video highlighting one of my favorite games or an article about…you guessed it, board games!