Friday, January 10, 2014

How Civilization Nearly Made Me Hate Board Games

[What follows is a memory...a bad memory. No actual gameplay rules have been referenced, and the writer doesn't care to.]

About 10 years ago, board games were still a "Monopoloy, Uno, and Jenga" sort of thing to me, and my younger self would find more fun with video games and television. But I was in my mid twenties, and I was already finding myself with less and less time to enjoy the electronic vices. I thirsted for some new medium to satisfy my gaming urges, something that didn't require a power outlet or controller. Something that's full of figures, tokens, and cards. And so it came to be that while at a friend's house, we started to play Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame.


I haven't played Civilization before, but I've heard about the PC game. Developing cities and armies through the ages, watching them evolve and upgrade. The concept was great, even though I've never played a game of it in my life. (To this day, I still haven't.)

Excitement coursed through my veins. This was no Monopoly, bigger than Uno, and a hell of a lot more interesting than Jenga. The box was heavy and massive! Were all board games like this? I've never seen this in a store before! This is gonna be so much fun! Let's open the box!

That's a lot of components!

That's a lot of board!

WOW!! Look at all the pieces!! We got soldiers, cannons, tanks...there's a lot here! And the board is THREE SEPARATE FOLDED PARTS?!?! How do we start?

It's at this point when I don't recall the learning process. It's all a blur, but we were able to get everything in place. We unfolded all three massive boards, connected them to one HUGE board, and set the soldiers finally in place.

Where it All Goes Wrong

Once everything was setup, we were ready to play! I had my armies, and my friend had his! Let's do battle!

(This wasn't the exact dialogue, but it's what I recalled in my mind.)

Yes, this is 10-years-younger me. I was so naive back then...

Me: "How do we battle?"

Friends Jason and Nick, unwittingly playing a game of DOOOOOM!!

Friend: "Says here to...put a divider between the players, and players select the units of their army to go into battle. Then you raise the divider to reveal the units."

"That's it? Then who wins?"

"Looks like a rock-paper-scissors thing."

(Glass shattering in my mind.)

Bitter Taste

After all that setup of the massive 3-part board, the countless plastic pieces, the blur of a rulebook...and the battles were just a rock-paper-scissors mechanic? Was this a joke?

I don't know if it was an involuntary reaction, but I think at that moment, board games hit a new low for me. Or worse, it pushed me BACK to Monopoly, Uno, and Jenga. I gazed upon the sprawling mess of a game, over its countless pieces. It looks cool, it really did! But it's a glorified rock-paper-scissors game...and that was quite depressing. It was certainly enough to push me back to video games and drown my disappointment away in visual graphics.

The Long Road to Recovery

And so I did for a few more years. I played consoles more and more, and played games as they evolved from single-player games to multiplayer games to online games. It wouldn't be until about 5-6 years A.C. (After Civilization) when I saw people play Settlers of Catan at work one day. I would spectate their game, politely denying to join in as I watched how people orchestrate their moves like a coordinated dance. I'll be frank, watching them play was intimidating; I was very afraid I would make a stupid move and get laughed at by everyone else (now I understand what my wife may feel). But it didn't take long until I would play Dominion for the first time, and then Wings of War and Formula De. Soon after that, my board game interest rekindled, and it was as if I was born anew.


First off, I'm not trying to piss off anyone who enjoys Civilization: The Boardgame. For all I know, if I play it again, I may enjoy it. That's not the point, however. It was a pinnacle moment in my life that, for a brief moment, made me wonder if all board games were as boring or lame as this? If all of them took forever to set up, several read-throughs of the manual, and more hours of frustrated gameplay. And it truly made me loathe board games, or just ignore them for a long time. Thankfully, I was exposed to more pleasant experiences, all leading up to the present.

I guess, if anything, Civillization has taught me that there ARE far worse games out there. So, I'm...glad I tried to play it? At least with friends, it softened the blow.
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