Without really intending to, I’ve attained a new level of nerdery: tabletop gamer.
Over the last few months, I’ve tried:
- Small World
- Seven Wonders
- Settlers of Catan
- Family Business
- Ticket to Ride
- Power Grid
Looking at that list, I’m a little amazed I’ve managed to learn that many games because I hate learning them. I hate that beginner’s phase where you just suck and there’s no way around it – not just in games, but in life in general. If I’m bad at something in real life, I can make excuses to avoid it, but not so at game night. I have to put on my big-girl panties and be a loser for a couple rounds, and then have everything re-explained to me when we play again weeks later.
This is especially annoying considering Kevin has magical abilities that allow him to win almost every game the first time he plays it. I’m not especially competitive, and I’ve come to terms with being middle-of-the-road when we play the games I’m familiar with, but I don’t like being the noob. At all.
This is why I still don’t like Dominion – it’s basically a new game every time we play, with new cards to try to understand – and why I’ll never go near Game of Thrones, which is far and away the most complicated game I’ve ever seen. It’s the Russian literature of tabletop gaming. Kevin likes it (because he’s good at every game), and sometimes he has the guys over to play it, and I’ll just kind of stare, baffled, at the board for a few minutes before I need to go sit down and sort shapes and colors for a while.
This has all come about thanks to us being absorbed into a group that’s been playing these kinds of games for years: Amy and MG, who came with us to PAX; Jared, who puns a lot but makes the best cast-iron skillet cookies so we let him stick around; and Alan, who pretty much is Portlandia but in a good way. The dude brews his own beer. He is a good guy to know.
At the last game night, we were trying to pick a game, and one of the options was Bang. I’ve never played Bang and even though it’s supposed to be very easy, I was, as usual, not in a mood to
be bad at something learn something.
Alan squinted at me. “You’ve played Bang.”
“No, I haven’t.”
“How have you not played Bang?”
“I don’t know, it just hasn’t happened yet.”
MG, who wants me to try all the games so he has an additional person to defeat, tried to explain it to me. “It’s like a combination of Mafia and Flux.”
“I haven’t played Flux either!”
“Well, that’s because everyone here hates it.”
We ended up playing Small World and I lost by eight points even though I had a really awesome score, Kevin.
(I might be a little competitive.)
(I would like to just mention that I’m pretty sure I hold the high score in Seven Wonders. I’m irrationally proud of that.)
(But really, I’m not that competitive.)
We hadn’t played Small World in a few weeks, and as we set up the board, I felt that familiar sinking feeling, anticipating epic defeat. Small World involves using various fantasy races to conquer the board, with the help of special powers that are randomly paired with each race. I watched as the races were laid out: Hill Trolls, Underground Halflings, Wealthy Dwarves, Berserk Wizards, and various other combinations that would make great band names but simply overwhelmed me with options.
(It’s about to get really nerdy up in here, so apologies to any FBFF readers who have been waiting for outfit posts. The times they are a’changing.)
MG has all this memorized, but I still need the little cheat sheet. Normally I spend a good five minutes reading each race description, then all the descriptions of the powers, then I go back to the race descriptions to figure out how the powers would work with that race and which pairing is going to be best and if I can afford to drop coins to steal a pairing that’s farther down the list.
That night, though, I put the sheet down and went with the first pairing that looked appealing: Heroic Tritons. It’s actually a pretty good pairing, allowing me to conquer coastal regions more easily, then giving me the option to make two occupied regions unconquerable. And I didn’t agonize over the pairings I hadn’t studied, nor did I regret my choice. I played my game and I played it pretty well, and when the time came to send my fish-people into decline, I picked my next race with only a brief glance at the cheat sheet. (Admittedly, it was Amazons, and I’m always Amazons because Amazons, but still.) I was more focused on the board and my next move, rather than my next race, or the races other people might choose.
And then I almost won, which is almost as good as actually winning. Almost.