Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Biggest Block in Board Games, and the One Step to Overcome It

There's a barrier to board games. I'm not talking about the lack of time, or the lack of people to play them with. I'm not talking about how becoming new parents and having to raise kids, or that you have a demanding job that takes up all free moments. It's much simpler than that, and it's staring you in the face.

It's the box.

Look at it holds the game you so want to play inside, locked away like a mischievous deviant, wrongfully accused and spending its days away from sunlight. All stowed neatly in its own cardboard cell, shelved along with the others in an Ikea lockdown. When these games were bought, they weren't meant to be treated like this. They were promised more outings, more time to express themselves.

Prison analogy aside, it saddens me whenever I look at my stack of games and imagine the good times we would have if we just gathered people to play. And believe me, it hasn't been easy to do so. Unless the planets were aligned, there was rarely a chance to get everyone in one place at one particular time to play one board game for 3 hours. So I'm left alone, to stew in my own juices, forever wondering if I'll ever help people stabilize an archipelago, compete against others to develop a company, or try to kill each others' families.

But who's to say that board games should be left on the shelf to collect dust? Just because there are no people to play with? Pfft. Board games should be thought of as living things, and living things need attention. Without it, they are quickly forgotten, and when you DO remember you have them, it becomes an awkward "what's your name again" moment when you fumble over the directions and forget simple rule mechanics the next time you decide to unshelve that game.

So, what options are there left? It's really simple, and it's just one step.

Step 1: Empty the Box

You heard me. Open that box completely, and remove EVERYTHING in it. If the components are sturdier, I encourage you to flip the box upside down and dump its contents, followed by the comical "two pats to the bottom to make sure it's empty" technique.

Empty that Dungeon Roll box!

Out of that box, Suburbia!

Ah...damn it, Quarriors...

Now look at it.

It's a mess, right? Dice, cards, cardboard chits all over the place...except you're wrong. It's a BEAUTIFUL mess.

I Should Clean Up

You should...but while you're at it, why not read the instruction manual? All the pieces are already out of the box, so you might as well set it up as if you're going to play the game, right?

Just look at the pictures in the manual. Cards go there, tokens here, meeples there...It's not so hard, is it?

Looks pretty enough to play, huh?

How about getting a faux game started to get familiar with the rules? It's not hard to simulate a second or third player and get a game going. And you don't even have to get the rules right the first time. Make mistakes! No one's around to judge, because you're on your own time, instead of during awkward pauses with gaming groups in the first hour. And if you ever are confused, there are a plethora of resources online to browse at your leisure.

Don't have time to finish the game? No big deal. Clean up, put it away, and do it again the next time you have a moment free. The point of this exercise is to get you more and more familiar with the game, increasing your comfort level for when you're ready to introduce it to your friends.

Thinking Outside the Box

It may seem sad, but it's not just taking out your games to play once in a while; it's a reminder to yourself why you bought the board game in the first place. Sometimes you may find out that the game just doesn't rock your world anymore, resulting in a game you can relieve from your shelves. It's not ideal, of course, but it beats the alternative of having a wall of games you never bring down to play.

What you will have left, hopefully, is a collection of board games that has had a taste of life; that have had their chance in the limelight to fulfill the fun they were meant to spread, even if it was just for you. Because you never know when that knowledge will become handy in convincing others to have one night where people gathered around the table - your table - to play something you know you know how to play.

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