Ask a gamer to name their favorite game.
They might hesitate. They might ask what genre. They might ask whether you want them to pick an old or new game. They might say:
Well, Ham Hock Hurdle is my favorite game with two players. Block Build Settle is my favorite game with three players. Your Friend Stole My Gold and Sold It on 9th Street is my favorite game with five or more players…
Wow. And I’ve fallen asleep. Well not me, exactly. I’m a game enthusiast. I love conversations like that. But you’ve probably fallen asleep.
But here’s the thing. Your gamer nerd friend does have a favorite game. And it might not be the best game.
I board game like a pro. In the Streets.
What’s my gamer cred favorite game? Twilight Struggle. How many times have I played it? 3.
What game doesn’t even make my top 5? Lost Cities: The Board Game. How many times have I played it? 8,352. (note: that is not an accurate number of game plays, but merely approximates how many times I feel like I’ve played it.)
So when I call my column “one game to rule them all” I know I’m going to get pelted with frozen meeples by the gamer community. But I don’t care.
Why? It seems like being pelted with frozen meeples would hurt!
My hobby has become an actual hobby. You know, one I actually enjoy participating in.
Here is a list the games I enjoy playing the most. They aren’t the best games ever of all time. But they are the ones that hit the table with fervor.
You know why I like playing games? Because I have fun playing them. So what is my one game to rule them all?
Let me tell you a story.
The Political Mastermind was out of town for a 3-day conference.
I had a Saturday to fill with gaming, and a friend who was up for the challenge. I’ll be referring to this friend as Gimli. One day a few weeks back Gimli and I were playing Mice and Mystics, when he took a gander at a clear storage box of cards and inquired as to its contents. I told him that it was Lord of the Rings the card game.
Fast forward to last Saturday. This was the day to dedicate to playing this game. I’ve bought a fair number of expansions for the game, enough to build a few solid thematic decks, and pursue a number of different quests.
Here’s the thing about Lord of the Rings LCG: It is a beast to learn. I won’t say it is finicky, but it takes quite a bit to get the turn sequence down. There are a lot of things to remember, and a lot of cards to absorb. And once one quest is done, there is endless tinkering with your deck of cards. There are lots of decisions, such as “Should I include two copies of ‘second breakfast’ or only one? Should I interject a few eagles into my hobbit deck?”
The question you may be asking yourself is: Can I play a different game while you nerds are analyzing your decks of Lord of the Rings cards?
The correct answer is no.
All this to say that I’ve never taught anyone to play this game. The Political Mastermind isn’t even remotely interested. I’m pretty sure she won’t even make it through reading this column. With fear and trepidation I taught Gimli how to play.
And then we played again, tinkering with decks and attacking a different quest.
We lost, so we tried it again.
We lost again. But at this point I realized that as much fun as I have playing the solo version of the game, the two player game is much more fun. (And I realized this while not winnning a single game that day – hence the title of my column: “Losing at Board Games”)
Now, a bit of nerdery:
I was running an all-Hobbit deck. Gimli was running an all-dwarf deck. We ran an effective strategy of having him encounter enemies head-on and having my Hobbits skulk about in the background doing questy things.
It is now two days later, and I’m wondering whether it is reasonable to spend an hour tonight retooling my deck. (It is totally reasonable).
This is a hobby. It is fun. And I will play again.
I just poured myself a glass of Breakfast Stout, and instead of finishing this article I’m pondering the wisdom of mixing some elves in with my Hobbit deck. I imagine this is how game designers feel when they are designing a game. They are creating a world, and trying to interject a bit of fun into people’s lives.
I raise a glass to game designers, and am off to ponder the cost/value ratio of the allies in my Hobbit deck.