I’m bad at board games (but I don’t mind)
One of the things I hear from people when I tell them I review games is “Well I know not to play against you then, you must be great at them”. While it’s flattering that that’s their assumption, they’re also wrong. Oh boy, are they wrong. The truth is, that despite how often I play games, and however well I understand the rules, I’m not very good at them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not woefully bad, but the vast majority of the time, I don’t win games. I don’t think I can even tell you why. I know what things work together in games, and I can advise people about known good tactics, but when it comes to me, I’m rubbish. Maybe you’re reading this thinking “Yeah, yeah, false modesty, fishing for compliments there, Adam”, but it’s true.
I’m not very good at most board games.
This is the point where I was going to post my win/loss statistics for various games, but to be honest with you, I bored myself just writing it. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
“The true object of all human life is play”
GK Chesterton had it right with that quote. It’s so important to keep play in your life, regardless of your age. A lot of people get that playing fix through video games now, and I’ve been in that demographic for more than three decades. The trouble I find with most video games now, is that I lack the necessary attention span for anything big. I also tend to choose competitive games, and I find that having a bad hour of play leaves me feeling more stressed than before I started. That’s the opposite of what I want from a game.
When I play board games, I just enjoy the act of moving stuff around. I like watching my poorly-made choices unfurl further into the game, like coiled tentacles from the octopus of mediocrity. I like talking to the other players, regardless of whether they’re sat next to me, or on the other side of the planet via something like BGA.
Playing board games is, for me, a joyful experience. I finished an online game of Tapestry earlier the other day with a group of friends, and I ended up losing by over 400 points! If you haven’t played Tapestry, that’s quite a lot of points. It didn’t matter though, I had fun, I experimented, and was able to laugh at my own ineptitude afterwards.
Two sides of the same coin
People play games for lots of different reasons, but ultimately it all comes down to fun. Even if you’ve taken your hobby to a level that now feels like work, it started because you were having fun with it. If you play board games, which I assume you do if you’re reading this, how often do you ask yourself where the fun comes from?
The joy of a game comes from two different sources for me. The first is something I’ve spoken about at length before, and even had an article published about. It’s playing solo board games. The passive relaxation that my brain gets from not thinking about the usual worries and stresses of life, is something I cannot put a price on. The combination of that mental relief, and sitting down with my favourite games, is a wonderful thing.
The other source of happiness in board games comes not from the games, but the people you play them with. There are so few good reasons to spend time interacting with the people you like, that many people don’t even do it. That’s incredibly sad – the need to have a reason to enjoy one another’s company. But that’s the world we live in, and board games are the glue that binds my favourite social experiences together. We’re all playing the same game, but what generates the fun is the people around the table. It’s the conversations, the laughs, the banter, and the drama as games unfold. What makes me want to go back the next games night, isn’t the game I played, but the people I played it with.
Hands up if you’ve ever heard that, or words to that effect. There’s a troubling stigma that’s attached to ‘play’ for some people – the notion that for some reason, if you play games, you’re still just a child. You don’t deserve to be treated like an adult. No, you need to be out doing 12 hours of hard labour every day to earn the respect of these people. I’m here to tell you that play is okay. It’s more than okay, it’s important. You’re allowed to play. You’re allowed to have fun, and if anyone thinks otherwise, they’re wrong.
I’m well into my fifth decade on the planet now, and I play as often as I can. I’m going to keep doing it too, because life can be hard, it’s too short, and nobody wants to shuffle of this mortal coil thinking “Well, I’m glad I didn’t enjoy myself, like some kid, while I was here”.
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it really doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if your stats for Lost Ruins Of Arnak this year are 11 games, 0 wins (oddly specific, I know). Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the company of the people you’re with, and if that happens to be just you, then enjoy losing yourself in a pointless, made-up world. Learn from experience, get better, sure, but don’t sweat it. Lose triumphantly, then exclaim with me:
“I suck at this game, but it makes me smile!”
Which games do you love despite being horrible at them? Leave a comment, or let me know on Twitter.