Cardboard Children: The Cull Part One

Hello youse.

Well, the cull is underway. Actually, I’m going to capitalise this… Yes, The Cull is underway. I have too many board games, not enough time to play them all, and not enough room to store them all. So some of them have to go. And I thought it might be interesting to document that process here over the months ahead. As this is primarily a column about board game recommendations, perhaps it would be a worthwhile thing to explore why certain games will be leaving my collection. What has happened to these games over time? Is it me or them? Why are they facing The Cull?

Dominion

The first to go is Dominion. I’ve always liked Dominion, but I’ve never loved it. I’ve always respected it as a design. It was the game that popularised deckbuilding as a board game mechanic, and it spawned many games that built on those foundations. Many of those games I love, but Dominion just sits there, unplayed. It’s a game so popular that it has seen many expansions, with a brand new one just announced within the last week or two. It’s unarguably an important game, a major milestone in game design. And right now, right now as I write this, if you were to ask me if I fancied a game I would sit right down and play it with you. And I’d enjoy it. But The Cull is merciless.

Dominion is simply a game I no longer need. If I want to enjoy the kind of play that Dominion offers, I remain far more likely to play something like TRAINS which has an extra layer of strategy on top of all the deckbuilding and combo-creation. Hanging onto Dominion would only make sense if I treated my board games as a “collection”, featuring all the historically relevant board games I’d played. But I don’t want to keep board games in that way. I keep them to play them, and that’s why The Cull exists, and why Dominion is gone.

What about you? Would you keep significant games in your collection just so you have them?

Agricola

Oh, I love Agricola. Who would have guessed that I could love a game about making a wee farm so much? You’ve all played this by now, I bet. You’ve all made a wee farm and been punished for not having all the animals and veggies, and been hammered for not growing enough food to feed your wee family. Oh god, it’s such a good game. I’m always baffled when people say the game is bland, because the richness of how the story comes through is an absolute delight for me. The story is a simple one, of course – you are a farmer – but it absolutely punches through all the mechanics and makes itself heard. The game is stressful in places, yes, but have you ever met a farmer? They are all, without exception, off their nuts. It might be the most exhausting and stressful job on the planet. So why expect that Agricola should be stress-free? The stress is right, but it’s coupled with a really calming sensation that comes along as you build your farm. Building and growing is fun. Agricola is part of the reason why I want to grow my own vegetables in my garden (The other part of the reason is Rune Factory on PlayStation 3).

So why am I getting rid of it? Mainly, it’s because of Caverna.

I love Caverna even more than I love Agricola. It doesn’t tell as strong a story, because the story is a bit far-fetched. You’re dwarves in a cave or something, and you’re making a kinda cave farm in a cave, and you can go on adventures and stuff. In a cave. But my goodness, it is much more fun than Agricola. There’s a huge amount of freedom too – it feels less restrictive, and you can breathe a little more as you expand and experiment with different setups. It definitely feels like an improvement of the Agricola design, and so something has got to give. Why keep both? They are so very similar, these games. They are elbowing each other in that design space elevator, and when that elevator goes ding, one of them has to get off.

I’ll miss Agricola. A part of me wants to keep it, but it’ll be far better off in the care of another loving owner, because I want to have fun in caves from now on. And now I imagine that people will tell me, in the comments, why Agricola is actually the better game. Gah. Maybe it is. But it isn’t.

Or is it?

No, it’s not.

It’s sad, isn’t it? This cull, I mean. Maybe I’ll regret this one.

Battles Of Westeros

Before Fantasy Flight brought back Battlelore, they released Battles of Westeros – a game drawing heavily on the Battlelore system, but set in the Game of Thrones universe. So you had the Lannisters and Starks and stuff, fighting on a beautiful hex-grid battlefield, and no-one was shagging or being topless for a change.

I really loved this game, because Richard Borg’s game system (as seen in Command & Colors, Memoir 44, Abaddon, Battlelore, and so on) is just one of the best wargaming rulesets out there. And I loved the little spin this one had, where generals needed to be in the thick of the action to properly execute commands.

So why is it gone? Well, Fantasy Flight did bring Battlelore back. And it was brilliant. I reviewed it and said so.

I suppose I don’t need Battles of Westeros, because Battlelore is far more inside my area of interest. Fantasy creatures and stuff. Crazy spells. Skeletons. And it’s another refinement of the game system. Maybe Battles of Westeros is a bit clunky beside it.

Nah, there’s another reason. A true one.

I played this game with my lovely ex-girlfriend. We played it a lot, and she won again and again. She was the best at it, as she was the best at every game we played together over the years. As she was the best of the both of us at most stuff. And I want her to have it, because it’s rightfully hers.

Sometimes, when we cull, we are driven by necessity.

And sometimes by emotion.

From this site

23 Comments

  1. Aerothorn says:

    Battles of Westeros really is a campaign game, unlike Battlelore; it’s complex enough that just swinging it out for one play with a friend won’t really cut it. I have a friend who is humoring me by playing a couple rounds every time she visits. Someday we’ll finish the base set. I do love it.

    Rab, where are the culled games going?

    • Robert The Rebuilder says:

      He did say that Battles of Westerns is going to his ex-girlfriend.

  2. godunow says:

    You should definately visit “Public commitment: not buying new games in 2016” on boardgamegeek:

    link to boardgamegeek.com

  3. Wisq says:

    Thankfully, in my new condo, storage isn’t an issue — I kept my entire book and board game collections and still have only filled up half the ridiculous amount of built-in shelving.

    The net result is that I’m still holding onto games I’ve never fully played and almost certainly never will. Mage Knight? Great mechanics, but hard to teach if you don’t have a patient audience. Battlestar Galactica? Lovely theme, but games take forever and the experience varies wildly depending on who gets outed when. Descent, first edition? Nobody plays that any more — I had a board game store owner visit, and she said, “That’s how big the first edition was??”

    But yeah, seeing what other people cull is useful — if only to know what to scratch off my wishlist. Good games that got good reviews back in the day, but that have either been surpassed and basically made obsolete, or maybe that don’t stand the test of time as well as others.

    And god forbid if I ever move again …

  4. Matt_W says:

    Just so you can be proved right, Agricola is the better game. Caverna is like playing the family version of Agricola over and over again (which I do because I have a 5 year old who can’t read the cards yet.) The cards are what gives Agricola its character and lively setting. Without them Caverna (even with more options for room building and exploration) feels lonely and repetitive.

    • tigerfort says:

      I’m going to half-agree with bout Matt_W and Rab. Rab’s right that Caverna is the better game; it improves on Agricola in almost every way. But that almost is a kicker, because Matt_W is right that the cards are part of what makes Agricola, and Caverna loses replayability by dropping them.

      I love Caverna, but I wish it had something like Agricola’s occupation and minor upgrade cards, because after the first half-dozen games, there’s too much of a feeling that every replay is the same.

    • malkav11 says:

      Yeah, the cards are what make Agricola the tremendous game that it is. Without them, it’s a passable enough worker placement affair, but it’s not something I’d play over and over again. With them, it’s magical. Caverna’s closest element are tiles that are all accessible to everyone in every game, which is simply not a compelling replacement. So whenever someone tries to tell me Caverna’s better, it simply does not compute. But I can’t actually weigh in for certain because Caverna is $80, nobody I know owns it, and I’m not dropping $80 on something that’s Agricola-but-probably-worse-even-though-supposedly-it’s-better.

  5. ephesus64 says:

    If anyone is around many non game playing people, I’d say keep Dominion. It’d be my very last cull because of my memories and successes with that game. It was the first of any deeper games I ever played and I was won over by its popularity. No other game has been as universally successful with non gamers by a long shot. From groups of ten year olds with pretty bad ADHD to stubborn retired folks, it’s been a hit with the literally hundreds of people I’ve introduced to it. There’s a world of games beyond Monopoly and Uno that most of the world doesn’t know exists, and in my experience, this is the most successful gateway. If what matters is other’s enjoyment, buy Dominion and keep it.

    • rokahef says:

      Fully agreed!
      But I would also put Settlers alongside, if not slightly above, Dominion as the ideal gateway drug to more interesting boardgames.

      P.S. Monopoly is a poverty-simulator, and should therefore burn in hell for all time. DIE MONOPOLY DIE!

    • Dare_Wreck says:

      That’s very true – Dominion works great to bring people into more complex boardgaming.

    • Ragnar says:

      I could never get into Dominion. I like deck-building, but Dominion always seemed boring. I think the theme put me off.

      I’d much rather go with Thunderstone or Ascension. They feel like more than just deck building.

  6. crowleyhammer says:

    Im doing the same, got rid of Summoner Wars, Mage wars and Horsus Heresy, also a few war games.

    Need to get rid of my ASL collection and maybe my complete collection of Descent 2nd ed. I also have 6(six) copies of space hulk various editions 2 copies of space crusade and Advanced space crusade. And all my netrunner stuff as well.

  7. Spacewalk says:

    I could get rid of the Lord Of the Rings card game because I only got five games out of that before I stopped playing and I don’t have any of the expansions. I could get rid of Thunderstone too since I only did one game of that. It’s always tempting to rid myself of Dungeonquest but every time I pick up the box I smile and play it a few times before gently placing it back on the shelf. It’s a hilarious game, why am I even considering giving it away. Arkham Horror is another borderline case. It’s nice to own but really, after setting it up I just look at it for a few minutes before packing everything into the box and putting it away.

    I could definitely get rid of Descent because it takes up too much space and I’ve not played it once, couldn’t get anyone interested in it enough to play.

    • rokahef says:

      I’ve been sitting on Mage Knight and the 6-player Game of Thrones board game for over two years now and have never had the chance to play them, because I can’t find anyone interested in playing advanced/complex games.

      I’m a saaaad panda. =(

    • Bweahns says:

      Never get rid of Dungeonquest. I didn’t like it much as a kid when I had Talisman to play, but my friends and I love it these days. As you say, it is hilarious and the main amusement from the game is rooting for opponents to be crushed and fall down bottomless pits. The game is almost all luck based but miraculously is still extremely fun to play and games normally wrap up in 30-45mins. Friends who aren’t that into board games can easily get involved as well.

  8. Kefren says:

    Life is expansion and contraction, and a re-occurring realisation that it should be filled with things you love, not things which don’t earn their keep. You get more aware of it as you get older. I used to read every book I started, but now I stop once it loses me. Life’s too short. But when we shed things it’s only right to find them a good home. Never throw things out. Someone would want them, or repair them, or upcycle/recycle them. Try and spend some time finding who would appreciate the thing. Add love to other people’s lives. The extra effort required also helps you to avoid acquiring so much next time. That’s a good fate for Westeros, Rab.

  9. Gothnak says:

    And tomorrow is the Boardgamegeek bi monthly UK Maths Trade, the perfect opportunity to buy/sell/trade boardgames, i’d suggest going there and trade for games you want, those games should be pretty easy to shift.

  10. CdrJameson says:

    You could put Dominion in a smaller box. It’s only a few cards and tokens.

    Pathfinder Adventures is possibly the most egregious offender in this respect. Why, yes! Four packs of cards do need a box the size of a tea chest. Oh and nu-Netrunner, but at least I can fit all my ur-Netrunner cards in there too.

    • malkav11 says:

      Eight packs of cards (base box, six adventure path releases, character addon deck), assuming by Pathfinder Adventures you mean the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game And it’s critically important that those cards be sorted by type and easily accessible during gameplay, as well as having room for packs you haven’t opened yet, cards that have gone back out of the card pool, and up to six active character decks preserved between sessions. Which is why the PACG box design is one of my favorites in all of tabletop gaming – it knows what you need and provides it, by default. None of that mucking around with aftermarket/foamcore inserts, etc. FFG’s inserts, by contrast, need to be dragged out on the street and shot.

  11. Great Cthulhu says:

    I have to say: if these are the weak games in your collection, then you’re already doing a great job managing it!

    I’m pretty sure I have 2 dozen games I’m never going to play again. Maybe even double that. Should really get my own cull started.

  12. Dare_Wreck says:

    Rab, you *like* Dominion?? Geez, from all the snide comments you make about it here and there in past articles, I figured you hated it.

    That being said, while I love the game and its varied expansions, there’s a part of me that’s thinking about parting with it, too, only because it’s so much easier to set up a game with my spouse via the online version, however. Having a little run running around makes it very difficult to play the physical version nowadays.

  13. ben_reck says:

    I like this. Sometimes it’s more interesting to read about why you have stopped playing a game than why you have started to.

    And, yeah, you’ll regret tossing Agricola.