Becoming Geek - A story in games
David Wickes
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I've sucked the marrow out of BGG, I really have. I've taken so much goodness from this website for the last three months, from all you kind people, that I think it's high time I gave something back to it, to you all. So I'm going to try and write a geeklist in jubilo of this site, its games and all the good, good folk who expend time and effort making it what it is. But I think it would be rude to do that without properly introducing myself - so here I am! Hi, my name's Dave. I play board games. Here's how it happened.

I'm leaving the list open if anyone would like to recommend a game (or not). I'm sorry if it goes on a bit - I got a bit enthusiastic and stuck in the flow. First list - first anything really - so be gentle, dear geeks. Anyway...
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1. Board Game: Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:473]
David Wickes
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1992. Beatties, a hobby shop in the city of Peterborough, UK. I would head over there with my brother while my parents shopped. We were pulled in by the cornucopia of strange things in there - model planes, trains, tanks and cars, a shelf full of RPGs (I bought Call of Cthulhu), and above that shelf, a few shelves of funny-looking board games.

It was probably the cover of Squad Leader that drew me in - I still think it's amazing. Like a lot of young boys I was interested in war, especially the Second World War - I often feel like I was brought up with it (and I've never really grown out of it). I was obsessed with Squad Leader for a good year, playing it exclusively solitaire as I was never able to convince anyone else to slog their way through the rules. I remember really loving it - but as soon as the PC was able to run my wars for me (with games like Dune II) my interest evaporated. I became a PC gamer.

I pulled this down from the loft soon after discovering BGG. It wasn't the same. How I read those rules so patiently when I was 12 I will never know - the miracle of growing minds! I find it slow and fiddly now - the stacks of counters drive me to distraction. But I'll always keep it out of nostalgia - and that awesome cover art.
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2. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:156] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
David Wickes
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1999. I was home from university during the summer, hanging around my local computer games shop. The owner had got a few M:TG starter sets he was selling - he had no idea what they were and neither did I. Took it home, played a game solitaire - very exciting. Dragged my brother into it - he was pretty indifferent. Took the cards back to university with me and showed them to a friend. "Oh," he said with a grin, "that." Within a week he'd brought up his massive collection of cards from when he used to play at school. Within two we'd dragged in a couple more friends. Within a month all the girls we knew learned to hate those damn cards and the games that lasted five, six hours - maybe more. The game took over a little.

A little too much really. I now call Magic 'geek crack' when it comes up in a conversation - for good reason. I was seriously addicted - ran up massive credit card bills, overdrafts, etc. Not a good thing in the least (well I guess it meant that I couldn't afford beer...). I realised what it was doing to me and managed to go cold turkey.

I played it again recently with another friend who had discovered it. It instantly got its hooks back into me. I could feel the old madness coming over me and I had to tell him that I couldn't play this any more. Amazing game - it really is - but it's also a witches brew of competitiveness and acquisitiveness with real money that's just too much for me to handle.

(And, erm, if anyone would, y'know, like to buy a large collection of Magic cards from around the Urza/Mercadian cycles please geekmail me...)
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3. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
David Wickes
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2007. A friend invites me over to see her new flat. I see this funny looking blue box in the corner. "Oh, Carcassonne," she says, "Bob showed me that a few months ago, it's really amazing. It's like a board game where you make the board. We have to play it later."

Board game? What, really? Who wants to play a lousy old board ga- oh. Oh wait. Wait right there. This is amazing. This is really pretty amazing right here. Wow. Yeah, ok, wow. Let's it play again. And again? One more? Go on...

I don't think I have to tell anyone here about the pros and cons of Carcassonne. Like a disease it has spread though my social groups - with me acting as a vector. One couple call it 'crack-ass-one' - so little do they know of real game addiction. It's much more wholesome than that, it's 'nice'. I've played it competitively and nonchalantly, with friends and family, just the basic set and with a few trimmings. It's always nice, sometimes fantastic. I'm no longer in love with it - the first flush of romance has passed - but there remains a lingering affection there which lets me enjoy it. And nothing beats the look on someone's face when you see them thinking: "Board game? Who wants to play a lousy old board ga- oh. Oh wait. Wait right there..."

Just don't spill red wine on it.
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4. Board Game: Garibaldi: The Escape [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:3263]
David Wickes
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2008. My mother's birthday. It's not been long since our first games of Carcassonne and I'm looking to buy her something nice. Something that she'd really like. But, at the same time, I'm also looking to buy her a board game because - well, hey - I want to buy a board game (this being a few months ago when I had to look for an excuse to buy a board game and not vice versa). I flick through the Carcassonne booklet to see if there is anything she would like. "Princes of Florence!" - Ma and Pa went to Florence in the Spring (first time they'd been on a 'plane) and came back raving about it. "Sounds like a good idea - but maybe I should find out more about it? Hmmm, let's go on Google and see what we get..."

And it's at this point that I find BGG and my head explodes.

Piecing it back together, I come away with the following information:

1) That there are a lot of board games out there.
2) That I must play them. All of them!
3) That "Princes of Florence" is probably going to be a bit heavy for Mama.
4) There is a game called Garibaldi...

For Mama history is divided into heroes and villains - she's very partisan. and Garibaldi is definitely one of her heroes. I read the game info, it seemed simple enough - I bought it. On her birthday she gets flowers, a board game about Garibaldi and some Garibaldi biscuits. Worth it simply to watch her laugh at the very idea of "Garibaldi: The Board Game" - I think she was wondering if he got any of the royalties...

The game's OK - we've played it a few times. Mum always wants to be Garibaldi and gets quite agitated when she's trying to escape the 'evil' Austrians.

The next day I sign up to BGG. We'll try "Princes of Florence" on Mama next year.
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5. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:178]
David Wickes
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The GMT Games thing - this is all Paul Tevis' fault. He's the podcaster of the excellent "Have Games, Will Travel" (http://www.havegameswilltravel.net/) which concerns itself with both board games and RPGs. He dedicated a whole episode of his series to an open day at GMT and the games he played there. Although he didn't play Battle Line he did draw my attention to the company, which I then duly researched on BGG.

Everyone seems to have something good to say about Reiner Knizia - perhaps because he's made so many games! So seeing this crossover title between a 'euro' (a new word to me) and a wargame company made me want to give it a try. I put in a large-ish order with them for my birthday and Christmas presents and popped this in as a bit of a cherry on top.

I've played it a few times since I opened (to great surprise) on my birthday. Not enough to be anywhere near definitive in my opinion about it. Writing this is making me want to nip off and give it a quick go now...
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6. Board Game: Friedrich [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:469]
David Wickes
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The depth of information on BGG is extraordinary - really superb. Everyone's contribution is almost always informative or funny. But some users have really influenced me into looking more closely at games - and consequently driving me towards having a punt. So step forward 'Cleitus the Black' and take a bow for your excellent reviews of Friedrich (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/267963) and Commands and Colors: Ancients (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/329333). These two reviews 'sealed the deal' over whether I would buy those games or not.

I wasn't disappointed. Although it's hard for me to get Friedrich to hit the table (to be honest I haven't tried that hard), I'm pretty sure its going to work out - somewhere, somehow. Let's just say that I don't think I'll be playing Risk again with my friends any time soon.


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7. Board Game: The Great Battles of Alexander: Deluxe Edition [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:1289]
David Wickes
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As I said somewhere near the top - I play computer games (or at least I did), lots of them. Always have. But the exposure to GMT, BGG and all the wargamers that hide out on here sent my mind off in new directions. "Why not play your wars and battles on a piece of paper?" I thought, "It'll save electricity..."

I picked up an unpunched copy of Alexander on eBay and went through the rules. And went through the rules. And went through the rules again. It was no Squad Leader but it did make the grey matter throb a little more than Carcassonne. Finally I decided that the only way to make this click was for it to be played out a few times. So, early one morning I woke up and went downstairs carrying Alex under my arm. I settled down in front of a fire and, ever so gently, punched out the little Alexander counter. "Hmmmm," I thought, "those corners look a little untidy to me. Might have to do something about that...".

It took me a total of four days to punch and clip the counters - a month before I didn't even know what counter clipping was.Then I try and get the folded paper map to lie flat. No joy - but I know what to do. I head off to the local DIY shop...

So now I clip counters and have two sheets of clear acrylic to keep my maps flat. Thanks BGG - I think you're turning me into a wargamer...
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8. Board Game: Napoleon's Triumph [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:382]
David Wickes
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I'm a weak, weak man and a sucker for a good piece of graphic design - see my entry on Squad Leader above. So when I saw a picture of Napoleon's Triumph being played I knew it was bad news. I mean, who was going to play it with me? Where was I going to put it? Did I really need it?

I probably would have managed to hold off if I didn't read on BGG that the previous game, Napoleon at Marengo, was out of stock and not going to be reprinted. This drove me to get hold of Napoleon's Triumph while I still could. Took a bit of effort to track a copy down in the UK but it was worth it. At least I think it was - I'll tell you as soon as I can get the darn thing played.

So there you go BGG - I think you've turned me into a game collector too. I think that pretty well as much wipes out any saving I'm making on the electricity bill...


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9. Board Game: 1960: The Making of the President [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:157]
David Wickes
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But lets not dwell on games that I haven't yet played - let's look at the joys of games I have! Christmas time - and what should I buy my parents? Well, my mum really does like The West Wing, and it is a US election year, perhaps she'd like this...

Before wrapping it up I got a black marker and scribbled out the title (over the cellophane wrapping), renaming the game 'Caucussonne'. Wry chuckles that Christmas morn.

Getting mum to play it was another matter. She seems to have an aversion to learning new rules - and it's not quite the lightest game in the world. But the theme carried the old girl through in the end. We've played about four games of it so far - honours are even, most games coming down to the wire. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

So where once our family game would be to try and remember all 50 states of the USA, we now try and remember all 50 states and their respective number of Electoral College votes. Taken it to a whole new level...
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10. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:98]
David Wickes
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This is the present that I opened on that Christmas morning, and I was sticking labels on to small wooden blocks until that Christmas afternoon (a roaring fire, a glass of mulled wine, a seasonal film on the television - why, 'twas almost as good as clipping counters!).

It was untouched for about a week after organising the forces into their appropriate bags. Then I dragged my father to a board that I'd set up (under a piece of clear acrylic, of course), figuring that he might just be the one to play this game.

He was. It was fantastic, and has been fantastic for the last three weeks. We've been playing regularly, averaging at least one game a day at the moment. "What will we do when we run out of scenarios?" he asked me a few days ago. I just cackled a little bit and showed him http://www.ccancients.net/ , along with all the expansions. "Oh, I think we'll be OK for the next few years..."
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11. Board Game: Carthage: The First Punic War [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:2782]
David Wickes
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GMT were selling this quite cheaply at the time I ordered Commands & Colors: Ancients, so I threw it in the basket. I wanted to have a look at something challenging. I wasn't disappointed. I still haven't finished either of the manuals - but I'm getting there. The information is slowly percolating through.

More exciting though is what this game, Alexander and C&C:A have done to my reading of books that aren't game manuals. At the moment I'm chewing my way through Brian Caven's The Punic Wars and N. G. L. Hammond's A History of Greece, while flicking through an old copy of Aeneas Tacticus, Asclepiodotus and Onasander's writings on ancient tactics in a Loeb Classical Library edition (I never knew there were two ways to make a phallanx about-face...). Heck, even reopening the box to Squad Leader had me reading Absolute War by Chris Bellamy.

There's something about these wargames - these consims - that make me want to rise up to the level of research their designers put in. They almost demand that you increase your understanding of the battles they simulate, although I can't quite say why. Suffice to say - this wargaming lark seems to be terrifically literate.
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12. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:34]
David Wickes
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And a final note on - Martin Wallace and Warfrog Games. Perhaps its because he's British and I'm just being terribly nationalistic, but I'm drawn more and more to his games at the moment. I've picked up a few of them - Brass included - and I'm quite taken by them. I like the artist, I like the games design, and I like the look and feel of the components. I'm pretty sure I'll be trying to get a look at a lot more of his games over the next year.

I mention this game, at the end of this (far from exhaustive) list, as more of a demonstration of just how much of a journey BGG has taken me on. I'm pretty sure I might have accidentally run into many of the games above (perhaps not Friedrich or Napoleon's Triumph) just through trawling some hobby shops online. But Brass - I mean, seriously? Who'd want to play a game about the early industrial revolution in Lancashire? Lancashire, of all places! I'd have not heard of, let alone bought, this game had it not been for BGG...

...and so I wouldn't have spent one night playing it solitaire from 0000 to 0400 just to get the rules down straight. Gee thanks BGG - what little time I don't spend messing around with board games I spend staring at you. And now I've got a headache from writing this GeekList - yeah, thanks a lot...
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