Lowell Kempf(Gnomekin)United States
I have never cared for the idea of an essential list of works in order to be considered a fan of something. You don’t have to have ever watched Star Trek to be a science fiction fan. You can own no Beatles albums and still love rock and roll (although if you have managed to never hear a Beatles song, that has to be one heavy boulder you’re living underneath) You don’t have to read Lovecraft or Stephen King to enjoy horror writing. And you don’t have to have played Settlers of Catan or Dungeons and Dragons or Risk or Dominion in order to call yourself a gamer.
Come on, folks, if you need street cred, join the Hell’s Angels.
While I can be as arrogant and judgmental as the next guy and I can definitely find myself sliding into snobbery without trying, I honestly believe that gaming is a social activity that should be as inclusive as possible. No one is doing themselves any favors by trying be exclusive and push people out of the hobby. In the words of the IT Crowd, “The first rule about Street Countdown is to tell everyone about it. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun and we need to get the word out”
That being said, there are some games that I really regret having yet to play because I think they would make me a better gamer. Not necessarily someone who wins more often but there are games that would help me understand the history and nature of gaming. Sadly, time is cruel and unforgiving and I don’t see myself in much danger of playing many of these games in the near future.
Near the top of that list is Bridge. Bridge is a game that is a hobby unto itself. I know people that say that Bridge is the only reason to own a deck of cards and that there are no other card games. It is certainly one of the archetypes and icons of trick taking games. If some Bridge players are to be believed, learning how to bid well in Bridge is learning a second language.
However, to truly understand Bridge seems to be something that takes enough time that you have to make Bridge part of your life style. It is something for the convert, not for the casual player. To be honest, if I wanted to focus on one game to spend hours and hours on, I’d go back to Go. (I miss you, Go )
Another game that I think it is a personal tragedy that I have never played is Diplomacy. Diplomacy is a genre-defining game. (Since trick taking game long precede Bridge, it is more of a genre-refining game) It’s a game that has influenced the development of both war games and Euro-family games. And, if you believe some of the stories, it is one of the few activities outside of boxing where fisticuffs is part of the decision making process
At least Diplomacy is a game that my circle of gaming buddies are a lot more likely to play. We have our share of grognards who have fond memories of it. And the rule system certainly seems simple enough that it shouldn’t be part of the problem of getting it on the table.
Unfortunately, the longer playing time and the number of players has kept Diplomacy at bay in my life. If we take the effort to block out that much playing time and get that many players at the table at the same time, we’re going to play Advanced Civilization instead.
It probably goes without saying that another game that I wish I could play but never have is Rithmomachy.
Okay, yeah, I’m totally joking. Looking at the rules for Rithmomachy makes my brain hurt. Still, a medieval abstract that is based around number theory that spent several centuries more in vogue than chess as the go-to game to prove how brainy you are is pretty fascinating, particularly when you consider that its luster has faded so much that almost no one has even heard of the game, let alone played it.
While I could go on listing games that I feel like I should play (Die Maker, where for art though, Die Maker?), there is a trend to the games on my list. Almost all of these games are longer, involved games that don’t lend themselves to the casual gamer or to casual play. The actual games that make me feel like I’m missing a piece of the bigger picture of the hobby, as opposed to games I just haven’t had a chance to play yet, almost fall under the concept of a life style game, a game that many people are able to play with the exclusion of all other games.
I could probably get in a single game of Advanced Squad Leader without too much arm twisting. However, to get in an entire campaign where I would get to see the various facets of the rules and how it handles specific cases of weapons, terrain and other conditions, that would be a time commitment I am not prepared to make.
While I’d like to think of myself as a bit of an authority when it comes to games, I have to admit this. If I really, really wanted to play Bridge or ASL, I would find a way to make the time for it. If it was something that was that important to me, I’d change my life style to do it. And, obviously I haven’t.
Gaming may be a part of my life but I have to admit that life style games are not a part of my life.