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Subject: The Nightmare at Christmas rss

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I’ve read a number of session reports on BGG where a slightly nervous gamer broaches the subject of board games with his non-gaming friends or colleagues and for his boldness receives a series of quizzical, even hostile, looks (“Board games! Do we look like children?”). But said gamer refuses to be quailed by these ignorant taunts and instead picks out an appropriate gateway game – obviously having previously carefully analysed his collection, matched up candidate games to his new audience and authored a geek list entitled, “Games to play with colleagues who would rather stare aimlessly into space.” The great day arrives. The game is set up. Hostility turns to curiosity and then blossoms into excitement before finally crystalising into pure gaming joy for all and…this is not one of those stories. But it is true.

It was Christmas Day. Gathered around the breakfast table were mother, father, sister, wife and self. Carols played on the radio, presents lay under the tree and I was about to make a fateful suggestion…

“How about this afternoon we play a new game?”

Mother drops a fork. Father chokes on some toast and sister looks at me as though I have suggested butchering a reindeer (and this is some look to get from a vegetarian). Wife offers a weak supportive smile but stays silent (she’s not committing herself until she sees the way things are going to go). But I will not be quailed. I answer the questions with a firm authoritative tone.

“What kind of game?”
“A good one.”
“Will it take too long?”
“Not too long.”
“Will I like it?”
“I hope so.”
“Does it have lots of rules?”
“Only a few.”
“Is it like Monopoly?”
“I don’t think so but I’ve never played it before. We’ll see.”
“I thought we wouldn’t have to play board games again until someone provided me with grandchildren. And I don’t see any.”

Nevertheless my family decide, somewhat reluctantly, to give it a go. And so a few hours later we sit down together, well four of us do – my mother bastes the turkey one more time first – then we sit down together and I produce…

Now I’m aware that at this point I am about to lose your sympathy. So before I go any further let me advance the case for the defence. It was less than a month since I’d discovered the geek. My initial reaction on encountering it was like The Famous Five finding bottles of ginger beer after a particularly arduous cycle ride. But having swiftly ascertained just how big and detailed a site this was and how many new games there were on it, my secondary reaction was one of pique. I love board games and I hadn’t known about any of the ones that were here and if I’m honest I felt a bit disappointed with all of you for not telling me about them. Yes, I know you’ve all got your excuses. Your own busy lives, never having met me, blah, blah blah. But in the end after all the whining and evasion what it comes down to is that twenty thousand of you had been playing board games behind my back. I’d been sadly sitting here thinking that the video games industry had destroyed board games for good while you’d all been shipping your goods and building your long roads and uploading odd photographs of meeples. Let’s face it you’d let me down. You can apologise later but let’s be clear, this mess was all your fault. Because I knew nothing. I still thought Aldie was a supermarket.

And so in a fever of discovery I had bought, pretty much at random, For Sale, No Thanks and the game I was about to introduce my distrustful family to…(let me make it clear I am aware that the way things have to be posted here on the geek means my attempts at creating tension here are utterly futile. You already know what game is coming. But you’re reading somebody who has played on in Monopoly when his only opponent has got five hotels and all my properties are mortgaged, who has fought doggedly for two days against an opponent in Risk who had Australia locked in from turn one – futility is my middle name – so anyway…) the game I was about to introduce my family to was…

MODERN ART

Yep! That’s right! No light filler! No gateway game! I was out there at the gaming table with hostile faces staring at me and what did I have to defend myself:

A clever but somewhat dry Reiner Knizia auction game.

Things started not too badly. Everybody enjoyed picking a major city screen. Admittedly my mother thought this was the object of the game and therefore concluded that with everyone having a screen the result was a five way tie. She had to be restrained from immediately heading to the kitchen to top and tail French beans. I explained her error and picked up the rules. After that it was downhill…

I started reading. It was only a couple of pages. How bad could it be?

Standard auctions went ok. Once round auctions got by but when I reached the explanation of the various rules for a double auction my sister laid her head upon the table and announced,

“I think I’ve died and gone to hell.”

My mother took advantage of the time it took me to convince my sister to raise her head and try again to rush out to the kitchen and put on the sprouts.

Realising I was swiftly losing my audience I announced the first auction. And to my surprise some people started bidding. Admittedly, very small bids. But bids just the same. Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody drifted through from the next doors stereo.

The first round was tentative and paintings were going cheap. Partly because my sister was refusing to bid on anything and my mother was worried about the accuracy of her meat thermometer. Not a lot happened. Nobody made very much money. But that’s all right, I told myself. They’ll get into it in a minute.

The second round was slightly more interesting. My father swiftly cornered the market in Yokos. Whilst ignoring all other paintings, my mother determinedly bid on everything she auctioned herself convinced that if anybody else bought it from her she was somehow losing. I tried to explain that this was not the aim of the game and indeed that it might even be to her disadvantage but it was no use. She was more concerned about whether she’d parboiled the potatoes long enough before putting them into roast. Meanwhile my sister had still bid on nothing.

“Have a go!” I urged. “It’s a speculation and accumulation game not a hoard and count the interest game. There isn’t even any interest.”

“You made me play this and now you tell me how I’ve got to play it!” she snapped back. “If I want to keep my money I will.”

It was at this point I realised that even if I produced an original Van Gogh my sister was never going to bid on a painting.

Somehow, the game progressed – my father buying most of the paintings in Round 2, closely followed by my wife with my mother merrily outbidding herself on her own offered paintings. My sister meanwhile had grasped one rule very firmly. The fifth painting by an artist ended the round. Entirely at odds with her own interest, she wasted no time in putting on display in her gallery a fifth Yoko. My father with a cornered market in said paintings led by miles.

I’ve blanked out the rest but from odd traumatic night time flash backs I can tell you that my father reached the conclusion after making money in round 2 that buying any painting for any amount of money was bound to yield him a profit and so bid on everything for ridiculous sums until he was impoverished once more. My mother continued her strategy of ignoring paintings proffered by others and bidding solely (and aggressively) on the paintings she placed on the table herself. My sister ended every round as soon as she could and had exactly the same amount of money at the end of the game as she had at the start. My wife won. Nobody enjoyed it. The insults and criticisms rained down on me.

And the dinner was burnt.

And so we have at least three people who will never play a board game again. And who is to blame for this? You! Board Game Geek. You should all be ashamed of yourselves – if you’d told me about Ticket to Ride none of this would have happened.




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Ron Pfeiffer
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OUCH! Either you need:
a new mother, father and sister...... Chance = 0%
a different game...chance= 0% especially after what happened yuk
a different Holiday ......chance= 0% cry

I'd say that you should have simply suggested singing those XMAS carols that were waffing in the background, had a little punch, ate the turkey and slept on the couch. snore
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Keith Li
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Interesting story. Honestly, I don't think Ticket to Ride would make a difference. In fact, it could be worse. By the time you finished explaining the basic rules, they would probably have lost interest already. cry

No everyone can be a gamer. If they are just not interested, there is really nothing you can do. There is really no need to blame yourself, the geeks, or Modern Art. blush

Having said that, it may be a good idea to point out the maximum potential value of each art piece to first time players.
 
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Christopher Rao
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Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
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Thanks for a very funny story. One quibbling point: If your sister never bought anything, then even if she ended every round as soon as she could how could she have made no money at all?

Cheers,
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I thought the player to the left (or right can't remember) of the player who bought the last painting started the next auction - so by bringing in the fifth painting on her turn (which never actually gets auctioned) she ended the game.

Don't tell me I taught it wrong on top of everything else. Can it be that it was all my fault after all?

 
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Christopher Rao
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Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
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2ndinBeautyContest wrote:
I thought the player to the left (or right can't remember) of the player who bought the last painting started the next auction - so by bringing in the fifth painting on her turn (which never actually gets auctioned) she ended the game.

Don't tell me I taught it wrong on top of everything else. Can it be that it was all my fault after all?

No, you're right that the player to the left of the player who put the 5th painting up for auction starts the next round. I just meant that she must have sold at least a couple of paintings during the whole 4-round game.

Again, thanks for a very funny story.

Cheers!
 
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Travis Easton
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I feel so sorry for you. Some of these guys are right, it sounds to me like they just aren't the gamer type. You have to hope that you can find some people out there that are.

And you really do have to choose your audience wisely, my mother would have been the same way during Modern Art as yours was. Now more party-styled games, or some regular card games, she'd be more than happy to play.

My main thing is -- when people balk at games without even knowing what they are, that's when you know you're fighting a losing battle.

 
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Betty Egan
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This is a very funny and well written session report. I wish it had ended better for you.
I thought God invented Christmas so people could play boardgames.

Quote:
I still thought Aldie was a supermarket.

For those of you who don't know, Aldi is a supermarket in Europe (very basic and cheap too).

Quote:
“I thought we wouldn’t have to play board games again until someone provided me with grandchildren. And I don’t see any.”

Classically funny!!laughlaugh
 
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Greg Todd
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Very funny report. I'm guess I'm lucky to have a game-playing family.

I wouldn't give up on them. It'll be even harder after this experience, but if you find the right game, they might enjoy it.
I'd suggest Coloretto; that's the one game that I've taught to complete non-gamers that's always been popular.

Modern Art was just a bit ambitious! And as someone else said, make sure you've played through a game and you know how it works before explaining it.

PS You have Slade at Xmas too! (and Aldi) Sounds just like here.(actually I've been to Barcelona and it's nothing like Nottingham )
 
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Jonathan Kift
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Yet another great session report! I hope your luck with family gaming improves.
 
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Thank you for all the comments - glad it brought a smile to a few faces. Thinking about it again, you're right Christopher, I think my sister must have made some money at some point but she didn't actually try to which is what I should have conveyed. I will try and do better next year by chosing a better game - Coloretto sounds an excellent suggestion (thanks Greg) if you don't think Ticket to Ride will work, Keith. And I have written out a hundred times :

Do not read the rules out verbatim to your family.

after David's strict admonishment.

All the best

Dom
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I only got into BGG in the past year. I'm off the hook, right? I'd have told you, buddy! I promise! meeple
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