09 January 2018

Out With The New and in With The Old

As a board game collector, I love to get new games. There is something great about opening a box for the first time, seeing all of those new components, and smelling that new cardboard smell. Preparing and organizing new components and reading new rules is all an enjoyable part of the experience for me.

But of course the real prize is actually playing the game, which is why I'm discouraged by a recent trend in my board gaming tendencies. At the beginning of last year, I challenged myself to play ten games ten times each. I failed spectacularly. I managed to play one game, Istanbul, eight times, and that was the most plays of any game on my list. I managed to play Carcassonne zero times, with most other games on the list garnering between one and four plays each. I also played a few games that weren't on my list, and often felt guilty when I did because I wasn't making any progress towards completing the challenge. Some of those were newer games that I purchased after Istanbul that I wanted to try.

Here's what is bothering me. Five of the ten games on that list from January of 2017 were Christmas presents from December of 2016, and all of them are really good games that I enjoy playing. So why did those games get four or less plays each, and why did the older games on my list get even less plays? The answers to these questions are simple. First, I have too many games and not enough of an opportunities to play them. Second, in order to justify getting the newer games, playing my newer games has taken precedence over playing older games. In this context, “newer” and “older” may only be separated by a few months or even weeks. Compounding this problem is the fact that I just received ten new games for Christmas and my birthday (which also falls in December). I still haven't played six of them.

What a problem to have, right? Too many games! Well, yes. Plus I just added another new game to my Amazon wishlist, and yesterday I got outbid on an eBay auction for yet another game. Meanwhile, great games like Suburbia and Lords of Waterdeep, not to mention Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan, are already languishing on my shelf. Even now it's hard for me to look at my game shelf and not feel like playing an older game that I love would be doing a disservice to a newer game that I love, or an even greater disservice to a game that I haven't even played yet.

Another downside to always playing new games is that I'm always teaching people how to play new games. It's not that I don't enjoy teaching new games, I absolutely do, but while playing a game that I last month a friend of mine said something that has stuck with me. We were playing a game that I had just taught him and he said: “Man, I feel bad for you; you never get to play any of these games competitively because you're always teaching us new people how to play them.” He isn't completely right, but he isn't completely wrong either. I do occasionally get to play a game that everyone has played before, but lately I have spent a lot more time teaching people how to play new games instead of enjoying a game that everyone at the table already knows.

So for now I'm going to take a step back from acquiring more games, and I'm not going to worry so much about trying all of my new games as soon as possible, or feel like I have to play all of my newer games before playing any of my older games. I'm going to try to get comfortable with the notion that playing a game that I love from two or even ten years ago isn't somehow a disservice to a newer game. When the time presents itself and with the right group of players, sure I'll spring a new game on them, but I'll also look for more opportunities to play something that everyone already knows how to play. In particular I'm looking forward to playing some older games with my wife who, incidentally, has recently grumbled about learning new games instead of playing some of her favorites.

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