Hi all! Thanks Gláucio for being a great GoW #198 and for the nomination! This should be fun. Here goes...
I guess the thing normal to do is start off with a mini background self-intro:
Once upon a time, when the only milk I drank was from a powder mix, and when the only way for our black & white TV to get semi-decent reception was use a pair of pliers to hold the broken channel changer knob about 20% toward the next higher channel, I started playing games. (The milk and tv thing lasted waaaay too long, btw.)
The short version of my youth, as far as gaming goes: My grandparents played a lot of cards. Mostly what now would be considered lame games. And ALL based on a Rook
deck. A few trickled down and were play our family, but I can't even remember the names of any except one that we called 7-Up, but I don't think it's the I found listed on BGG. We played Trouble
from a pretty young age. I still think that that game, as simple as it is, is actually better than many games put out these days as kids games. I won't name names, but many have little to no meaningful decisions, in the name of making it kid friendly. (Oops, getting off track...)
Beyond Trouble, we played The Game of Life
(yes, I actually remember enjoying that, although my dad made us ignore the revenge space, because he thought that was a bad lesson to be teaching kids), Careers
, Mille Bornes
(I'm not at all sure we played by the correct rules), and with five kids, even Twister
was played a fair bit and enjoyed quite a bit. Oh yeah, and Pit
. Lots of Pit. Although it was fairly broken in that everyone yelled their offers so much you couldn't really hear anything, and the bear card got so thrashed that you could easily recognize it form the back, so you had to pair it with other cards, and even still people would try to tell by looking. I haven't played Pit in many years, and plan to keep it that way. But the two games that really got me going were: Risk
At first I was a bit young, and would watch my two older brothers, and friends. It seemed so incredibly grown up. And then I gradually joined in. And Monopoly
. And yes, we played by the often butchered rules. But still enjoyed it. I think based on the butchered rules, it tends to go on even longer than it needs to. For both Monopoly and Risk, I think we started many more games than we finished.
And that was about it for many years. Video games came along, and we got a pong machine (yes, just pong), and then a few years later an Atari. That hit all the right notes for me at that time. Then Intellivision. Best console ever. To this day I love the game overlays on the controllers.
In junior high school years, I dabbled in RPGs. Mostly Top Secret, which I DM'd a fair bit of (not very well, I think). Great fun. I bought a ton of D&D material, but it kind of overwhelmed me, trying to figure it all out by myself, and it didn't really go anywhere. Top Secret was fun for a year or so (first three modules--they came out way too slowly), and it burned out. Also in junior high school I played a bit of chess with other
like-minded individuals. I was competitive in our small circle, but that's not saying much. But it was the arcades that sucked all my spare time and money during junior high school. From like '80-'83 was the pinnacle of video games in my opinion, and we had an awesome arcade (2 for 1 tokens if you buy $5!) with all the great games, and within bike riding distance. My love for video games led to my software career, but that's getting a bit off-topic...
No real gaming during high school, other than on PC. After Intellivision died (speech emulator rocked!), I never really got into ColecoVision or later Nintendo. Just felt like there was a disconnect. Especially compared to stuff on the PC (Ultima III!). But actually, I found a BBS download of a multiplayer (on one PC) Monopoly game that was actually pretty decent. Decent enough that some of my other
like-minded friends and I played it a fair bit. We would play a full game (with correct rules now) in under an hour. This was, perhaps, also the moment I realized board games on computer can also be fun and worthwhile, especially when you factor in the value of time. More on that later.
But late in high school, I did make a critical discovery: Diplomacy
. The weird thing is that for the life of me I can't remember how I got it. I might have bought it myself. That would explain my persistence in slogging through the nearly impenetrable rules. Not because the rules are actually that complex, but because the rules (at least in the old version I had) were written like they were a legal document or something, with copious examples, most of them showing corner cases with lots of explanations. Hard to see the forest through the trees. But I got through it, played it, and loved it. I ended up finding a computer version of this as well, which was actually great for one specific feature: you could play with as many human players as you want, and have the computer fill in the rest. Awesome. Played this a bit in college as well--freshman year at least.
Then came the big lull. I kind of lost both the appetite (mostly time) and the willing participants for Diplomacy, and I played nothing, either new or old, for like 7 years. Unless you count the occasional Backgammon game.
But the big bang happened in 1995. My wife & I were invited to some friends for dinner, and after dinner, they asked us if we wanted to play a game with them. We said sure. When it took at least 5 minutes just to get the game prepared to play, I thought it was the most preposterous monstrosity of game I had ever seen. And when ten minutes into the rules explanation they were still explaining, I thought this was the most complicated game imaginable, and I had no grasp of what was going on. It wasn't nearly as complicated as Diplomacy, in fact, but at least Diplomacy was a pretty straight forward simulation, so thematically was much easier to wrap my head around. Of course, it was also a game I spent a day playing one game, not a game I whipped out on dinner guests between dinner and dessert. But we played the new game, and halfway through we actually got what was going on, and loved it. We were both hooked. After playing once, we played immediately again. The game, of course, was Catan
. Within the week, we scoured hobby shops to find our own copy.
Settlers became the de facto free time activity with friends and relatives. We had some friends nearby (Joel & Lani Dehlin) that we taught the game to, and they also were immediately hooked. We spent a LOT of time together, and played countless games of Settlers. At their house, at our house, or on vacation together. Same for family get-togethers.
I was so excited when one day I discovered that there was an expansion, Catan: Seafarers
. This was my first game purchase disappointment (well, not counting a couple games from the 80's I bought that were so complicated I never made it through the rules, like The Fellowship of the Ring
). Seafarers did absolutely nothing for me. I liked the idea of it, and I was jazzed about it, but found that it just wasn't as interesting with people all scattered apart. So we stuck with the base game. Until "The Day". The day being when Catan: Cities & Knights
came out. Having played Settlers well over an hundred times, this was exactly what we needed to ratchet up the complexity. By this point the Dehlins had abandoned us for greener pastures (basically because they didn't like us anymore), but I still played a ton with my relatives. BTW, I will ONLY played C&K with the variant where AFTER you're resolved whether Catan has won or lost, you SUBTRACT the number of each player's cities form the number of their knights, and use that number to figure out either who gets the VP, or loses a city. You build a city, it's your job to protect it. It seems so obvious that it blows my mind that the rules didn't come this way. Again, we played this a ton, although the time and complexity reduced the audience a bit, for example my parents were slightly less willing participants (but with proper cajoling would join).
It had been about 5 years of nothing but Settlers. One day, I think in 2001, after playing like our 4th game in a row of Cities & Knights with my wife & brother, I said that's it. Enough's enough. There MUST be some other at least semi-decent game out there. The quest began. I fired up the modem, headed over to Lycos or Alta Vista or something, and searched for Settlers of Catan. Ultimately I ended up at the grand-daddy of online boardgame shops in the US: Funagain Games (free plug). I was completely shocked and amazed to see that they had HUNDREDS of games (no, not thousands like they do today). How in the world was I supposed to pick? Well, I just went to their all-time best-seller list. We were in Maryland (Funagain is in Oregon), but we wanted the games asap, since we were only together for a week or so, so I paid a fortune to have them shipped express. I can't believe my memory is fading, but in think in that order was El Grande
, and Citadels
. The latter two I thought were just ok (although both of which grew on me more over time), but El Grande was the cat's pajamas! Absolutely blew me away. Oddly, I was the only person in my family who was so taken by it. My wife and brothers were happy to stick with Settlers. But for me it was an awakening to the idea that Settlers did not exist in isolation.
After having returned home, I started spending more time on Funagain, poking around. I decided I should place another order, but without the need for rush delivery. Before BGG, people were pretty good about leaving comments of games on funagain (apparently some still do). People's comments were very influential in swaying my purchase decisions. After looking at so many, I really had a hard time narrowing it down. Ultimately I caved and just placed a big order. It was about $300.
Now, I'm sure in my mind, the idea of telling my wife about the order crossed my mind. Perhaps I was just waiting for the right time, or trying to figure out the best way to broach the subject. But I didn't get around to it, until... one day at work I get a call from my wife, "Uh, Curt, what's the huge box of games that arrived today about?" Uh, um, yeah, about that. Attempts at smooth talking were less than 100% successful. It was not a very pleasant evening. After much discussion, she insisted that I had to get rid of half the games. No ifs ands or buts. (Yes, we know who's in charge here.) So the painful process began. Luckily I could use the loophole of "a game's a game". Princes of Florence... in. Fluxx... out. Etc. Still, there were some painful cuts. And what was I to do with the games that had to go? I couldn't send them back without paying even more shipping (and maybe restocking fees), which seemed ridiculous. So I put my tail between my legs and sent email to friends and coworkers asking them buy some brand new games from me, in the "Save Curt's Marriage Drive". It was more or less successful, as I did get rid of a bunch of games, and my wife didn't leave me. Truth be told, there were a few games I got rid of that I didn't miss too much (e.g. the aforementioned Fluxx).
Also at this time, I realized that family alone wasn't necessary the right group for many of these games, and I started a once-a-week game night with friends from work. I realized that the huge order all at once strategy wasn't working to well on the domestic front, so I went to the slow and steady approach, which worked much better. I started building a huge wishlist, again all from funagain. One fun chance encounter was meeting Jeremy Young, the founder of the defunct Uberplay Games. Through a mutual (non-gamer) friend I ended up going to his house to play games. Seeing his big bookshelf of games was truly inspiring. Especially the out-of-print games (many of which I now recognized), such as Ra (out of print at the time). The really cool thing was that after discovering that I shared his taste in games, at least form what I could tell, he said he'd give me feedback on my wishlist. I sent him the list of like 100 games, and he simply told me which ones to get. That was awesome. I ended up buying pretty much everyone on his list, including many of which were import-only at the time. There were many that I was really glad I got, such as Through the Desert
, Stephenson's Rocket
(underrated), Dream Factory
, etc. Most of these are now available domestically, but when they weren't, they seemed like treasures.
Ok, that's pretty much it from my gaming history. Since then pretty much 90% of my gaming has been with that game group which I started, and is still going strong, despite me having moved away temporarily. I don't really do cons (family/kids makes that difficult) but I did go to Gathering Friends a couple times (hopefully again next year) which was fun.
Oh, I was going to mention boardgames on computer again. The one thing I wish the BGG community could experience is the awesomeness of boardgames on the Microsoft Surface. I was a lead developer for applications on that back when it was an incubation project (2003-2005). Back then we thought of it as a consumer device (don't ask me who besides Bill Gates is going to pay $10k for one, but that was beside the point). One of the things I did have the team create various board and games. We implemented a few of the top 100 games (and some more traditional games). It still had the experience of sitting around a table face-to-face, but fiddliness in every game was reduced to 0. Setup and scoring and cleanup was reduced to 0. It was a beautiful thing. Every time I would play a boardgame I would think how much better it would be on the Surface (wasn't called that back then though). Those apps are long gone, as the platform has developed and the apps not maintained. I still really hope that one day we'll get something similar.
I currently live in Beijing, China with my wife, son and daughter. Been here two years, with the current plan to be here one more. It's an adventure. I don't have a regular gaming group here, which is actually pretty painful. It's a trade-off. We have good, um, Chinese food. I do play a fair bit with my son, who, without any prodding from me, is even more excited about games than I am. Something to monitor for sure. Anyway, the game we've probably played the most together is Prophecy. I also get the occasional game session in, but it's rare, again given wife and kids, especially with said wife is not a big fan of games. At least of getting together with people for the express purpose of playing games. Slightly too geeky for her. But today, example, my wife & kids are back in USA (which I will be joining them at the end of this week in fact), so in bachelor mode, I had a couple of people over today, and had a great gaming session of Lascaux
, Chang Cheng
, In the Year of the Dragon
, and Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
. Love it. I plan to get some good gaming in during the 3 weeks I'm in USA, especially since I got about 30 new games this month, most of them delivered to USA:http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/43525
Now the question is, which to bring back? Like most of the games I brought with me (about 100 of my 400), I will only bring the bits in ziplock baggies, and leave the vacuous boxes in USA.
Anyone care to guess (or know) what my avatar is from? I'm not sure if I have anything to offer as a reward (I spent all my GG in the avatar auction), but it might be fun to try to guess. Please don't say if you know me, or are/were affiliated with what it's from. I can drop like daily hints if no one gets it right away.
Ok, that's more than enough to start with. For anyone still reading, here's the obligatory 2 truths and a lie (in a single theme, just to make it extra difficult):
At Microsoft, I have given a work-in-progress demo to:
1) Bill Gates
2) Steven Spielberg
3) Mick Jagger