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Cardboard Children: Some Games

Gentle Boardgame News

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Hello youse,

The Robot Special I’ve written can wait until next week. It is full of recommendations of great games, and I can’t do that right now. Today I want to talk about something I can’t shake. I cannot shake the feeling that we have too many toys. Read on.

TOO MANY TOYS

We have too many toys. I think it’s been the Steam Summer Sale that has made me think about all of this. I’ve bought maybe thirty games, and I don’t have enough lifetimes to play all of them. I’m just used to having nice things, and buying them when I want them. I do the same with board games. I do the same with action figures. I do the same with everything. I have too much shit, and not enough time. I have too many toys.

When I was young I didn’t have too many toys. I just had some toys. And, in truth, some was plenty. Some is all anybody ever needs. Too many is useless, unworkable, whereas some is exactly the right number.

I have a writer friend who once got rid of all his stuff. He had loads of Star Wars shit, and collectable stuff, and toys and crap. All that stuff we have. And one day he just got rid of it all. Why? Because, as he said, “It’s just more stuff to go in the skip when you die.” It was Donald McLeary who said it. One of the funniest and most brutally honest men I know.

Every day, on Twitter, I see people talking about pre-ordering stuff. Or maybe they’re backing some new stuff on Kickstarter. Or maybe they picked something up on the way home from work. And it’s more shit. More crap that they already have a lot of. And then I like the look of it, and I buy it too. That’s how we all operate these days. We have too much stuff. Even those of us who don’t have much money have too much stuff these days. We get into debt to buy stuff we don’t need and barely even like. A few years back I was totally skint, struggling to pay bills, and I still bought Halo 2 on launch day, just to share in the experience of having a thing when it first comes out. And it was shit. And another final demand letter went in the post.

What the hell is wrong with us?

When it comes to board games, I have too many. At almost 35 years old, I have about 240 board games. Two hundred and forty. Each of those board games take, on average, about three hours to play. That’s seven hundred and twenty hours. It would take me thirty days of my life to play all of those games once, if I had some sort of magical android setting them up for me in a giant room with twenty tables. Thirty days of my life to scratch the surface of all of those games. There comes a point when you have to step back and ask yourself if you are some sort of decadent monster, or a total fucking idiot.

When I was a boy, I had some board games. Some. Maybe seven. One of them was HeroQuest, and I played that thing to death. I played it so much that I had to create new dungeons and new cards myself to keep it fresh. At no point did I ever think to myself “Man! I really need some other dungeon crawling game that’s almost identical to this one except from a few new little mechanics.” At no point did I think “I wish someone would crowd-fund a second edition of this game with nicer artwork. I would totally back that!” I was happy with what I had. I didn’t need anything else. I saw worlds inside that box.

What happened to me? What happened to us?

This week I was in one of my local board game shops and I saw something called Dungeon Command. My first instinct was to buy it. Seriously – to just buy it. In some part of my brain, the words DUNGEON and COMMAND had activated the OPEN WALLET impulse. I mean, surely this would be something I’d like, right? Dungeons? Awesome. Commands? Perfect. I actually stood there and thought to myself “This game sounds like something I would buy.” I’ve never felt so much like a statistic on a marketing man’s demographics sheet.

I resisted. This week I just said no. How many different ways does a guy need to explore a cardboard dungeon?

I think, in columns like these, there is a danger of just constantly presenting new releases as “must haves”. The truth is that you don’t really need to have anything. I’m not saying that I will stop recommending cool stuff. I won’t, and I probably can’t. Whatever is wired wrong in my head with all that shit is probably wired wrong for life. But I feel that I can probably do something to stop all of you making the same mistakes as me. If I don’t do something, where will we be in three years time? I will have recommended another 150 games to you, without going any deeper into the greatness or the lasting qualities of any of them.

Having given this a lot of thought, I’ve decided I want to do a thing. As a long term project here on Rock Paper Shotgun, I want to create a definitive list of those games I believe are the “some” that you need. I’m not sure how best to structure it, but I want to find a list of ten games that I feel are “enough”. Once I establish that list, I will put it somewhere that I can link to at the end of every column, and I will keep it updated. It won’t be my ten favourite games, or even the ten best games, but it’ll be a varied list of things with different flavours that I feel are the best of their type.

And it won’t just be a list either. As I keep it updated, I will also broaden out each game’s entry – with latest news on variants and expansions, and info on how you can make a great game even cooler. I’ll work at it and make it a beautiful thing that celebrates the joy of digging deeply into a few things, instead of taking a shallow skim over many. It would also be great to have a separate comments section or forum thread for each game, so that we can share thoughts on it. This would make it even more agonising should something fall off the list, and we can all fight about it.

I’ll ask Jim how best to approach this. It would be better if the thing was hosted on-site here somehow. Maybe even just a forum thread would be the best way to do it. Yeah, the forum could work, couldn’t it?

What do you think?

And I really mean “what do you think?” What kind of itches do you need scratched with that list of Some Games? What kind of things should be on it? What particular games do you think deserve to be on it? And please try to adopt that 10-year-old kid mindset when you think about this. Which games would always be a keeper for the 10-year-old you? Which games would you enjoy adapting and improving and playing again and again?

Please comment. I’ll read them all.

Help me find Some Games. I’ve had enough of Many Games. Many is great, but Some is better.

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Robert Florence

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