I've always loved games. My early years had the boardgame staples. Adolescence was all about RPGs and computer games. I've given up both of those, though.
My pre-hobby foundations were chess, poker, and Diplomacy (with a few brief and enjoyable encounters with Blokus). I never was better than mediocre at at any of those three foundational games, but they each offered things that continue to enthrall me about the modern boardgames I play now.
Chess has such a rich decision tree that an evenly matched game can be a thing of artistry. I never moved beyond beginner strategic and tactical concepts - no opening book memorization, no endgame practice - but I've learned about tempo, space, open files, passed pawns, etc. I appreciate playing against players with similar background.
Poker was attractive because it hinges on probability and situational reads. Bluffing and risk management continue to be a features of games that I love. The trash talk is another element that drew me in. Games continue to be social events for me, no matter how cerebral the game.
Diplomacy took the social aspect to new heights. I played face to face a number of times and played PBEM for several years. Negotiation - explicit or implied by moves - also is an element that I enjoy in my games. Alas, Dip doesn't get on the table much anymore. Too long now that I've got kids and can't disappear as easily as I used to for a full day.
When my daughter was born - or more precisely, nine months later when she went to sleep easily at a reasonable hour - that I discovered modern tabletop games. On a whim, I swung by the shop where I used to buy my RPG paraphenalia, the Compleat Strategist, and lo and behold, there were all these boardgames lining the shelves. I picked up Carc for no reason. My wife and I played it. A lot. Then I went back and got San Juan. Then Hansa. Ticket to Ride. Settlers. Pandemic, St. Petersburg, Louis XIV...
As my excitement grew, her's waned. I started going to fortnightly meetups in NYC. I got my workmates into it. Then we moved to Portland...
And that is where I grew into the gamer I am today. Two months after I arrived in Portland, I got Chicago Express for Christmas. That led me to Winsome games. For a couple of years, emergent alliances, turn order manipulation, game-end timing - these were the things that got me.
Recently, I've been getting into wargames. Mostly blocks. I love the bluffing. But also, I like they way the more complex ones deal with combined arms. Bowen Simmons and Craig Besinque are my favorite designers in that area.
My tastes have since expanded again. I'd say they break down into the following broad categories:
Train games - Shares, networks, emergent alliances, etc.
Wargames - Asymetrical, bluffing, logistical, immersive
Age of Steam - For me just different from 'train games' as I think of them. With all the maps, it is just a whole genre to itself
Trick-taking games - The thinking kind. Like Mü
, Trick of the Rails
, The Bottle Imp
, and Ninety-Nine
. They do something so different to my brain than most tabletop games.
Mid-Weight, Old School Euros - I don't dig on the recent worker placement, efficiency engine, euro point salad, multiple paths to victory crazes. I like me some Tigris & Euphrates
, Fifth Avenue
Multi-Player Abstracts - Colovini exemplifies this with The Bridges of Shangri-La
and Magna Grecia
. Other greats include Terra Nova
, König von Siam
Moves As Information - Hidden information that is revealed or inferred through moves. Clans
is the perfect example. Trick-takers are in this category too. The Resistance: Avalon
are also good examples. Where it is not just logical processes that generate information, but inferences.
Kids Games - I like to play with my kids. What they like, I like.
My Hot 10 are games that are in my collection and call to me day and night to be played. Some are unplayed, some will never be played enough.