Published on April 5th, 2013 | by Nicole Jekich
My own private Idaho
I grew up in Boise as the oldest of four kids. As an older sister, I was also the person to look up to for fun and entertainment for the family and on weekend nights that often meant board games. Our collection consisted of the common household games that families know and love like Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Clue, Sorry! and The Game of Life. Oh, and then there was Monopoly. I hated Monopoly. We had five full versions of the game, but no matter which themed board we played, we never finished a single game. Monopoly always ended in tears or frustration or boredom; but my brothers loved playing that game and being a good sister, I played this game at their request many, many times. Watching a shiny car circle a board and collect money was hardly interesting so I spent most of those games seeing how quickly I could bankrupt myself so that I might go read a book or return to my homework. For a long time, Monopoly colored my view of board games as being repetitive, tedious and often cut-throat experiences and limited my willingness to try new board games. I figured that most games were a winner-take-all death match and that games couldn’t be fun unless I was winning. Three years and hundreds of hours of board game play later, I have changed my tune and am looking to bring my experience as a new gamer to Across the Board Games.
The board game that started my transformation into a hardcore game nerd was Smallworld. A few friends came over with a large, colorful box filled with tons of small game pieces. It was a free-for-all of fantasy races conquering each other and making a mess of the world. There were Berserking Wizards, Swamp Trolls and Alchemist Orcs all running a muck trying to be the last man standing. We were all trying to conquer the most land, being very competitive, but up until the last turn I was engaged and having a blast. Five hours and many laughs later, we completed our third game of fantasy conquest and I knew that I needed more. I suddenly realized how fun a board game or really any type of game could be.
Games could create stories and worlds; games were intelligent and games were a great way to have fun with some awesome people. I attended board game nights, participated in a weekly Dungeons & Dragons campaign and started to play Magic the Gathering again. Phrases like “deck building” and “worker placement” were now part of my vocabulary. I went to bars and played game after game with friends on a every week. I may have been late to the party at age 22, but I quickly left my preconceptions behind and welcomed any opportunity to try out a new game!
Since that first interaction with Smallworld, I’ve found my preferences and favorites and am still apprehensive towards games more than 3 hours long. I prefer games that are everything Monopoly wasn’t: easy to learn, cooperative/collaborative and contain a well-constructed theme. That favorites list continues to grow longer as the board game market expands with the help of Kickstarter and increase of independent publishers. More and more great games are coming from the players who have an idea for a game that they think would be fun to play. As board games become more mainstream, families and new gamers have plenty of options before them. That is why I’m here: to share my experience as a recent gamer convert and to recommend more challenging and entertaining games that people can add to their gaming shelf beyond those found at Target and Walmart. I want to offer game recommendations that are substitutes for those suburban favorites like Clue, Sorry! and Monopoly.
My next few articles will highlight my preference in games and list a few examples of games that are my favorites. I also love lists, so expect a series of “Top 5 ____ Games” lists to help you pick out some games for the perfect occasion and the perfect gamer.