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Lifestyle Games
p55carroll
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If you've been around BGG awhile, you've heard the term. A "lifestyle" game (sometimes a "way of life" game) is one that, it were a car or a person, might be called "high maintenance." It's so involved, so time-consuming, that you're going to face a long and perhaps steep learning curve; and then you'll have to play regularly from then on to get a decent return on your investment.

Even retired BGGeeks don't have time for more than one lifestyle game, maybe two. Even one can crowd out most other gaming. So, those who value variety often steer clear of anything that threatens to become a lifestyle game.

This list is a place to post your lifestyle game(s)--past, present, or future. I'll start with those I've at least brushed up against, and you can add any that you've experienced or dreamed about.

Some questions you might want to address as you comment on the games:
What makes this particular game appealing?
If you abandoned or avoided it, what was the deal breaker?
If you're into it, how does it impact your other gaming?
Is it worth the effort, and would you recommend it to others?
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1. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:219] [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked]
p55carroll
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I couldn't resist this for long when it came out in 1985. I'd finally gotten fed up with Squad Leader's convoluted expansions a year or so before, and I'd pretty much stopped playing that game. I longed for a return to simplicity and was playing less complex wargames instead.

But I'd invested five years in SL already, and here was a golden opportunity to get a satisfying return. I let ASL sit on the shelf for a couple months, I think, then finally broke down and bought it (along with the first module, Beyond Valor).

The rulebook is a masterpiece, and it really did pull the ever-expanding SL system together into a coherent system. So I buckled down and starting teaching myself ASL, practicing the new scenarios. Over time, I bought every new module that was released.

What I noticed, though, was that I'd sometimes carry the rulebook with me to strange places--like the waiting room at a doctor's office where my wife was in for an appointment. There was always more to reread or learn.

Then, if I let ASL sit for a few months--while taking a break from gaming or dabbling at some other game--I'd face a learning curve all over again when I got back to it. Oh, I'd remember the basic structure of the game and many of the rules; but I'd still have to reread the complicated Defensive Fire Phase rules and other sections. And once I was into a scenario, I'd surely have to stop several times and look up rules.

I got pretty good at it. In fact, I got to the point where I wrote up some house rules. I didn't like the IIFT, but I liked its effect; so I made up a rule that solved the problem in a different way. I objected to the lack of command-control rules, so I created some. Believe it or not, I was purposely adding rules to ASL!

One day in 1994 or so, however, I suddenly realized that, with or without my house rules, ASL could never possibly be what I had half-consciously hoped it would be: a true-to-life, reliable simulation of tactical WW2 warfare. I didn't need it to be that; it was fun, whatever it was. But somehow it just didn't seem worth all the effort anymore.

If I'd been part of an ASL group at that time, I'd probably have stuck with it just for the camaraderie. But I'd been playing solo all those years. I had no one to please but myself; and once I found myself displeased, nothing stopped me from quitting and moving on. So I did.

I sold all my SL and ASL stuff in 1999, and I've never looked back. When I first discovered it in 1980, SL was the most exciting game I'd ever played. But looking back at it now, I'm happy to be rid of the whole SL/ASL system. Not the lifestyle game for me.

I should've known. WW2 has never been that strong an interest anyhow. I just got into SL because it was so much fun; and then the system grew over the years until it finally overwhelmed me and put me off.
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2. Board Game: Backgammon [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1125]
p55carroll
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I've always loved traditional board games and considered them among the very best in the world. But as noted elsewhere in this list, I have an especially hard time sticking with deterministic games (those without randomizers). So, backgammon seems like a natural choice for me.

Indeed, I've probably played more backgammon than anything else in my life. And I never get tired of it, nor do I ever expect to. I play it most every day, if only on my smartphone. And I'm always up for a game. I also have a couple books on it and have studied others.

One thing that puts me off every time I get serious about backgammon, though, is that others treat it as a gambling game. One of the big world-class tournaments is even held in Monte Carlo. And I have kind of a negative view of gambling games. I don't play games for money, and I don't like the vibes in casinos and such places.

I'm sure I'll be a casual backgammon player all my life. But I'm not motivated to study the odds and do rollouts and improve to the point of being a tournament-level player. (I did play in an online tournament once, though--and came in first or second, as I recall.)

It's strange: I can pretty confidently call backgammon my number-one game; and I'm the kind of gamer who always wants to improve his game as much as possible; yet something keeps me from striving to improve my backgammon game to where I'm very good at it.
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3. Board Game: Carrier [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:2629]
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The lifestyle game that inspired this list. I've never seen it, but I keep seeing ads for it and reading short reviews or comments on it. Sounds like it's the ultimate naval wargame--but requires a lifetime of dedication. Solitary dedication at that, since it's a solitaire game.

I wonder if something about naval warfare especially appeals to solo wargamers. Not only does this game suggest it, but there's also Tokyo Express. And Silent War. And, although it's not entirely naval, Where There Is Discord: War in the South Atlantic.

I find myself strangely drawn to these games, but I've yet to give in.
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4. Board Game: Checkers [Average Rating:4.86 Overall Rank:16412]
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Maybe I got into it just for the shock factor--because so many people misconstrue this as a simple kids' game. Or maybe it was because it was the first strategy game I ever learned, from my dad when I was a kid. Anyhow, at various times I've set out to make checkers my lifestyle game. I have books on it, and I've done a fair bit of research.

I'm still a novice, though. Every time I get into it, I improve a bit. But as with other games I've listed here, I've just never been able to stick with checkers for the long haul.

It's a real brain-straining game. It evidently calls upon a part of my brain that I don't use much, because it almost hurts to play a serious game of checkers. It's very satisfying, though, when I finally see a combination and get how it works.

It could be that I'm too much of a dabbler to ever have a real lifestyle game. But if I did, this one would be a contender.
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5. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:424] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
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At least several times over the years, I've resolved to finally become a decent chess player. I'd buy and study books. Starting in 1990 or so, I practiced with chess software.

I still have a stack of chess books, and every time I get a new computer or upgrade an old one, I install a chess package on it.

But somehow, I can never stick with it. It's a tough game and an unforgiving one. Whenever I'm into it, I improve; but it gets to the point where I can see that further improvement calls for left-brain exercises that I really don't want to do.

At that point, my enthusiasm drops off, and I go looking for some other game to dedicate myself to.
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6. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:129]
p55carroll
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I first saw this game played in 1973. But it wasn't until 1990 or so that I taught it to myself via a software package and some books. When I did, I fell in love with it. I joined the American Go Association, played every day on the computer, and couldn't get enough of it. Sometimes I'd play online with others or teach the game face-to-face to a friend.

Maybe it's as close to perfection as a board game can get, but in the long run it left me wanting a couple things. Or maybe it just went against my Western grain a bit. I don't know. For one thing, I wanted to pick up my pieces and move them. For another thing, the absence of any randomizer imposed a lot of pressure and made the game feel a little "samey"--the way chess and checkers also did after a while.

I still admire the heck out of go, but I hardly ever play anymore. And I don't think I'd want it to be my lifestyle game.
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7. Board Game: Grand Imperialism [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:7525]
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cool This is more indicative of "Explore" some WORLD aspect, and then EXPLOIT that! It is more in depth than such as RISK and their kinds. You have to establish your "Colonies" while protecting those against 'incursions' from another, or perhaps even an inherent "Natives Uprising"!
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p55carroll
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I bought Stonewall Jackson's Way when it first came out, but played it only once, as I recall. Years later, when I saw how the series had taken off, I thought it'd be cool to get into it.

Just recently I picked up a copy of Stonewall in the Valley, thinking that it might just turn out to be the game for me. If so, I'd just have to buy every game in the series.

Well, the American Civil War has always been a strong interest of mine, much more so than WW2. And these games do have gorgeous maps. And I hear the game system is pretty brilliant too.

But although I'm interested in the ACW, somehow I don't feel I want to play games on the subject. I can't explain that very well, even to myself, but maybe it has something to do with games sort of making a caricature of their subjects. I'm interested in the real ACW, not the hypothetical or make-believe ACW.

If I got into these games, I might change my tune. Unfortunately, there's a practical-level deal breaker: the maps are too big. I'd have to buy a bigger table to hold the maps. And I don't want to, because I generally dislike big maps anyway.

So, I've pushed this whole series to the back burner.
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9. Board Game: Gunslinger [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:1628]
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Huh? C'mon--this is no lifestyle game. It's fast-playing and fun.

Well, it was on its way to becoming a lifestyle game for me in the early 1990s. But I wasn't going to content myself with the published game or even its optional rules. No--I wanted to pimp up this gem by building a 3-D mapboard and collecting and painting miniatures. Furthermore, I planned to expand the system so it could simulate skirmish-level, man-to-man fights in any period of history or genre of fiction.

I began by buying up every skirmish-level game and set of miniatures rules I could lay my hands on. I planned to "playtest" them and cull the best features of each one, then synthesize them and combine them with the Gunslinger game to create the "everything" game of my dreams.

I wanted too much too fast, though. And every time I "playtested" one of the other games, it became a full-time distraction. When I turned back to Gunslinger and thought about my plans for it, it became clear that I had dreamed up a project bigger than I could handle.

After indulging in that big dream, though, I couldn't bear to settle for plain old Gunslinger, though. So, it gathered dust until it finally got tossed into a big stack of games I was selling.
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10. Board Game: The Ironclads [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:3460]
p55carroll
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I got a free copy of Wooden Ships & Iron Men back in 1976 or so, and I loved it. Not a subject that ever interested me, but the game play was very exciting, very satisfying.

I'd always been a Civil War buff, but Ironclads escaped my notice for years. Finally, a year or two ago, I bought a copy.

Then I got carried away with it. I bought the expansion, plus Shot & Shell (an unofficial expansion). I started reading books on ACW naval warfare. I joined a discussion group on it. I thought this might turn out to be the one and only lifestyle game for me--one that I'd happily play all my life, to the exclusion of most other games.

After playing a few solo scenarios, though, my initial enthusiasm tapered off. I still have the games, and I still think they're great, and I'll probably play them again. But they've drifted away from the forefront of my gaming life.
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11. Board Game: Kings & Things [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1928]
Alfred Wallace
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Champaign
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"What?" you say. I can't explain it either, but I can't resist mentioning the group I came across whose members played Kings and Things, and nothing but Kings and Things, often several times a week. The person who introduced me to the group owned no other game and did not care to.

I kind of envied them...
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12. Board Game: The Longest Day [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:2846]
p55carroll
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I hesitated on this one for the longest time, mainly due to the $85 price tag, but also due to the size. I finally bit, though, rationalizing that it was probably the best operational-level game around and I'd at least be able to play the smaller scenarios.

I got as far as setting up the full campaign game--once. It was on the bedroom floor of an apartment I was living in then. I left it set up for a couple weeks, just gazing at it now and then. When I noticed it was collecting too much dust, I put it all away.

I played the Cherbourg scenario solo a couple times. That was it. This monster really had no place in my gaming life. If I gave it a place, it'd crowd out too much else--and I was still trying to get into ASL then. So, TLD got sold.
 
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13. Board Game: Mage Knight [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:3902]
Scott Everts
United States
Foothill Ranch
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This was my first lifestyle game. I saw it at Gencon in 2000 and fell in love with it. I had an obsession to collect every figure and every promo. Did have fun with it but the space it took up, money, and time organizing/storing took its toll. Eventually WizKids decided to reboot the system with Mage Knight 2.0 which basically destroyed the value of the old figures and pissed off many of the fans. I sold my collection for a fraction of what it cost. I kept Mage Knight Dungeons but sold that a few years ago too. Killed my desire for blind purchase games, that's for sure!

My current lifestyle game is Shadows of Brimstone. And I'm painting that one so its even more time consuming. I guess I never learn.
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14. Board Game: Magic Realm [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:993]
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This is the one I've got high hopes for right now. It's set up on my table, and I've pored over the rules enough, and I'm all ready to enter the Magic Realm at long last.

I originally bought this game when it was new. But I was a wargamer, not a role-playing gamer, so this title seemed odd to me. I hadn't read any fantasy-fiction to amount to, and nothing about MR really grabbed me. I skimmed through it and let it sit.

At the time, I was almost worshipful of Avalon Hill, so I figured it had to be a top-notch game. I bought another copy for a friend who liked games of this sort. But my copy sat longer, and I finally ended up selling it.

Now, just recently, I bought a replacement copy. And this time I'm going for it.

The fact that it can be enjoyed solitaire is a big attraction. That's how I usually end up playing. Another appeal is the complexity; I miss being into a game with a rulebook I can sink my mental teeth into.

Another plus is that it's not a wargame. I still like wargames, but it's good to have a change of pace from that. Also, I'm always complaining about the lack of realism in wargames--how they come up short as simulations. In a fantasy-fiction game, that's not so much of an issue.

I've never had a real lifestyle game--not since giving up ASL years ago. MR isn't one yet, but it could become one. Time will tell.
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15. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:149] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
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Magic: The Gathering is the perfect example of a lifestyle game.

1)The rules, if counting the errata and special cases are enormous. For example the 1996 Pocket Player's Guide was 242 pages.

2)There are (were?) magazines dedicated to it. The Dualist, Scrye, and Inquest, while having some coverage of other CCGs were really all about MtG.

3) Books written about it, both nonfiction and fiction. Several series of novels and dozens of strategy guides.

4) There are people who only play MtG. There are also people who make their living playing it.

5) Investment. The amount of money people spend on it is really scary. Which is why I left the game.
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16. Board Game: Rise and Decline of the Third Reich [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1496]
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Some would deny that this one could be a lifestyle game. They'd argue for World in Flames or something else instead. But I bought 3R when it was new, and it was one of the most complex games around at that time. I could see I'd have to devote quite a bit of time and effort to it.

I never did, though. This one didn't lend itself to solo play very well, and by the time I got it my wargaming buddy was beginning to drift out of the hobby.

Years later, in 1981 or so, I bought the revised edition and tried again. But my motivation dissipated, so I let it go again.
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17. Board Game: Star Fleet Battles [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:1754]
David Bohnenberger
United States
Swarthmore
Pennsylvania
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Played nothing but this for several years. After getting ALL the expansions, the different races became indistinguishable and the game became less interesting. Also, I found EPGS and my gaming interests expanded greatly thereafter.
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18. Board Game: Statis Pro Football [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:4446]
Avri
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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There was a stretch of High School, perhaps 1989-1992, that this game pushed every other off of my table. No more Chess or Backgammon, no more Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly, not even Blood Bowl or my huge array of RPGs got a look in.

Between classes at school I would find an opponent and pick up where our last session had left off. At home I wuold play out whole seasons solo. It got so that I would be walking around the apartment muttering, "First down . . ." to myself and trying to remember the AI defensinve chart . . .

The only other game that got played *at all* during this period was another football game, th much lighter and quicker Clutch Football which I played in an after school league in 1990-1. (I should really dig up the handwritten session report I wrote up of my Clutch Bowl I victory, assuming I can still find it.)

But Clutch was just a brief respite from the all encompassing SPF, a chance to finish a game under an hour rather than just a quarter, a chance to attract some new players to the real party.

I still love SPF. It has a pride of place on my game shelves, each team rubber banded, the box stuffed full of squads from 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1998, 2000. I would gladly crack it open if I could find both 3 hours to play a single game and an opponent willing to play against me.

After High School, I moved back to RPGs, and after graduation, with time once more a premium, I moved to Abstract Strategy games and the Euro model of lots of gameplay in 30-60 minutes.

I miss Statis Pro Football.
"First Down . . ."

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19. Board Game: Warhammer 40,000 [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1989]
Bill Gates
United States
Essex
Maryland
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This.

I use WH40k because it's more popular, but this also goes just as well for Warhammer. These are lifestyle games: it's so easy to get involved with these games to the exclusion of everything else. It's not just the actual playing of the game; heck, that might be where the real enthusiast spends the least amount of time.

There's collecting the armies: building the models, painting the models, modifying the models. For many, building and painting the models is the entire hobby: creating themed regiments, constructing diaramas, focusing on the many Golden Demon competitions.

(And when you finally get around to, you know, playing a game, there's the fun of designing various army lists.)

And there's the terrain: building and painting terrain. You look at things differently when you play Warhammer and other miniatures games. You keep an eye out for the odd item that will look good on the battlefield. That piece of styrofoam packing material? Those aquarium plants and rocks and scenery? Those O-gauge railroad buildings and trees and moss? That children's toy castle and walls?

I started playing Warhammer Fantasy in 2001. I just intended to have a High Elf army, and stay out of Warhammer 40K. Now I have High Elf, Orc and Goblins, Dwarf and Skaven armies, as well as Tyranids and Blood Angels. I have a table covered with cardboard buildings; Mage Knight castle walls, towers and keeps; GW-produced terrain; and third-party-produced walls, hills, and fences and trees. I have a giant hunk of rock I picked up God-knows-where, and -- I kid you not -- chunks of the Berlin Wall.

And I can't even paint. So I usually wind up playing Heroscape, Confrontation, or D&D miniatures.
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