You’ll notice the title of this article is tabletop gaming and not board gaming. The reason for this is two-fold. First, board games often have a younger connotation associated with them. Board games are for kids they say. Wil Wheaton and many others are here to tell you otherwise. Second, there are lots of table top games that don’t involve boards of any kind.
First, let’s talk about puzzles which aren’t really tabletop games (they are generally put together on tables and there are rules). I’ve always seen “the big picture” well. One decent look at the picture and I can put most of it together. I suppose one could hone their skills by doing more and more puzzles but while puzzles are good for solitude, they’re not so great for groups. So, I’ve left puzzles mostly behind but every once and a while I’ll get a new one and spend time putting it together. Now that puzzles are out of the way, let’s move on.
My history with table top games is a long one. It probably started with Monopoly (or maybe Candyland or Life or Sorry!) but my first table top true love was Chess. This was a game made for me! The game has lots of constraints that have complex interactions plus a single opposing player. Most people would say that I “see the board” well which is probably the best way to describe it.1 I was an avid chess player throughout elementary school, the latter part of which I shifted to math competitions. I’ll still play an occasional game of chess but my skills have deteriorated significantly.
The next table top game to take hold of my life is the grand daddy of all card games, Magic: The Gathering. I think it was about 4th grade where I was really absorbed by it. A couple of my classmates were playing it and I immediately became invested in. The artwork, the strategy and the story, I found all of it incredibly compelling. In all my years of Magic, I never played at a particularly high level. It was mostly just for fun with my friends.2 I did do a round of Block Constructed and I’ve participated in several drafts. I shelved my cards for good after Apocalypse. They’re all tucked away in storage but I still play the Duel of the Planeswalkers video game series. It gives me enough gameplay to scratch the itch when it arises without the huge costs of playing at the local game store. Also, I don’t feel so bad buying a game as opposed to the virtual cards that the Magic Online application sells.
Table top games took a hiatus in my life for a while after I exited the collectible card game scene. A mix of role-playing games and computer games took over. It wasn’t until a group of my friends started playing Risk that I got back into the table top scene. Just about every Wednesday, we’d get together at one of our apartments and play a few rounds of risk.3 This weekly game routine kept for a while and eventually I received Settlers of Catan for my birthday. The heavy strategy games started to take their toll and eventually game nights disappeared when my little brother left for grad school.4
The next big game to take over our game nights was Red Dragon Inn. I was introduced to this game by a long time friend of mine. This was the first game that got lots of my friends involved and restarted our somewhat weekly game nights. Since a lot of us were playing D&D it fit in well with the group. The humor and our borrowed rule of having to read the title of a card when playing it keep the game from becoming overly competitive. Of course being a good amount of fun and very replayable help.
Recently, we’ve discovered co-operative table top games which go over far better with some of our friends. We’ve also mixed in a few competitive games that are more fun and not so much cutthroat.5 Our current rotation: Zombicide, Pandemic, Forbidden Isle, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Ticket to Ride. Each of those games merits their own post. So, I’ll wrap up by saying that now is a great time to be a table top gamer and a lot of this is due to Wil Wheaton’s Table Top.
Not unlike seeing “the big picture”.↩
Some of them would dispute the “for fun” part.↩
Properly titled World Domination Wednesdays.↩
This would be my fraternity little brother, Kevin. I have a younger brother, David, but he is far from little.↩
Also better play by a few of our uber-gamers (myself included).↩