Here are a couple webtoons from Ted Alspach this week about gaming. While these are funny, it does tell a tale that many gamers face - how do we play them all? One of my goals for 2006 was to basically play a new game each week - new game being defined as one I hadn't played before. Thus far, I'm sitting at something like 76 new games so far this year. I enjoyed most of them and would play most of them again if given a choice. But, I also recognized that there was no way I could keep trying games and still get more plays in on games I really really liked - which is why I set the number of new games so low. When I first really got into this hobby, I didn't play a game for the second time for something like four months. Yep, for four glorious months, I was learning something on the average of five new games each Friday night. And you know what? That was great. But I also recognized that some games were more entertaining than others. Some games were much deeper than others and needed more than a single play to "get". So, in 2006 I set my bar a bit lower. What I found out was the following:
- Some games are fun once. Then you play again and the game is the same. Or there is only one winning strategy. Or there is no winning strategy and in the end its pure luck that determines the winner.
- Some games are not fun the first time, because unless you have some understanding of the game's system, you can't really be competitive (Age of Steam, Power Grid, any Knizia auction game). These games require multiple plays before you come to love them.
- There are some games that I just don't care about playing. If a game isn't high on the BGG "radar" it doesn't mean its a bad game, but on the other hand, I don't need to try it just to say that I have. I can now happily watch others setup a new game, spend a load of time explaining rules and struggle through a playing while I play two other games that I know and love.
- There are some game types that I just don't care about playing. I don't need to play every random card game that will appeal to non-gamers. I don't need to play half the "light" games that get pulled out just to try them. I don't really care to play games that are heavy on theme and questionable on game (Arkham Horror, Fury of Dracula).
- There isn't enough time to get in replays of games that I do like. If I can't get enough time to play games I know I like, how can there possibly be time for playing new games that I know nothing about?
Anyway, back to the point about playing them all. First, as funny as the numbers that are thrown out in the above cartoons, the reality is that there are not that many games. Lets look at what I mean by paring down the numbers.
- Hell, probably 1/4 of those are new versions of Monopoly, Uno, Risk and the like. The BGG has seperate listings for each of the "versions" because people like to track their collections and it makes trading easier if you can specify the versions (on that, I disagree - the admins have merged any number of games that should definitely have their own entry based on that criteria and there are a number of "games" listed that are aggregations of parts (Heroscape sets). Having 100+ Monopoly versions is retarded no matter how you look at it). So, when looking at the number of games you'd have to try, you have to understand that a large number of that 27,000 or whatever are versions of the same game. At least in Risk, the games really are different, unlike Monopoly, where they just change the graphics of the board.
- A large number of the games listed are expansions. There are 16 entries for Age of Steam, yet there really is but one game. There are 15 officially released maps/expansions for the game. Ok, so that probably doesn't whitle the number down much, but it is a consideration.
- The BGG is international, so games from around the world are listed. A great number of those will never see the light of day in America (or at least they won't be readily available in America). Because there is no market, its not that great a game, whatever. So we can eliminate a number of games due to the unavailable issue.
- Also in the unavailable category - old games. There are a large number of old games listed in the BGG - games from the 60s, 70s, 80s that were just silly (The Bionic Man game, Gilligan's Island game (the cartoon version), etc etc). These are games you get at garage sales if they didn't mildew to death. You can get these on ebay for like $2 or at thrift stores. But in general, you can't find them and you don't care.
- Kids games. There are any number of games listed that no adult would normally play. The Dora the Explorer Game for example.
- Game styles will impact the number. For example, I am no Grognard and don't feel the need to play any wargame with loads of chits. I don't really feel the need to play a "block" wargame either (though I admit, there are a couple I'd try). Most Grognards feel the same way about Eurogames and meeples. I also don't really play collectible games (Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, anything ending in CCG). You can probably eliminate 1/3 to 1/2 of the remaining games based on what style of games you enjoy.
So, where does that leave you? I don't know, I'm not doing the math on this one, because its based on a gamer's personal tastes. For me, I'd guess that (realistically) there are about 100 games that I haven't played that I'd like to try. I added a number of games to my list from Essen reports, but I also gave up on a number of games based on other reviews and word of mouth from friends. Do I think that I'll ever play/try all the games that I desire? No. I'm sure if I tried all the games currently on my "list", I'd be able to go make a new one, or that a new batch of games will have hit the shelves. For 2007, I'm not sure what my goal is going to look like. I have a friend, Dion Garner, who has been trying to play through the top 100 games on the BGG. That's probably as good a place to start as any, but I looked through the list once, and I don't really desire to play all of them. I think I've gotten to the point, where I'm just happy playing games. I know enough of them, that if I never got to play a new game, I'd be ok. I do like learning new games, but it is not the driving force it was when I first started playing 18+ months ago.