Sharing Scars: Notes from a Board & Card Gaming Enthusiast
By: Tim Bean
Digital games require consoles, controllers, digital media and displays. Analog games require rules, pieces, cards…but mostly hefty imaginations. This article is dedicated to analog gamers everywhere, a flock of misfits that possess more imagination than Pixar on PCP
My Qualifications as an Analog Gamer
I float in the world of gaming journeymen (and women) who posses skill enough to appreciate those that can swing their gaming knowledge like a Louisville Slugger. But I have put in my time, and am lucky enough to have two excellent game stores nearby (quick shout out to my friends at By the Board Games & Entertainment in Lowell, Ind. and The Tenth Planet in Schererville, Ind.). With their help, I have…
~Been trounced on and spanked by Apocalypse in The Others: 7 Sins
~Painstakingly primed, painted and washed all 71 miniatures from Zombicide: Black Plague
~Felt the bone-crushing weight of Smough’s hammer in Dark Souls
~Engaged Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia across the South in Battlecry
~Lost my inspector’s sanity amidst ancient lore in Mansions of Madness (2e)
~Rolled two consecutive nat-20’s, immediately followed by a critical fail in a late-night D&D 4.0 session (100% true, folks)
Sigh. I have my scars, ladies and gentlemen. With them I have learned a smattering of the codes and taboos ubiquitous to gamers of all levels and mediums. Here are a few:
Respect the Merchandise & Never Ask What it Cost
It’s prime time for analog gamers. Crowdfunding and Kickstarter have allowed small game designers to turn the business of card and tabletop gaming into an true art form. Games cost more, but the materials and presentation is breathtaking.
Hundreds of YouTube videos are dedicated to board game and card pack unboxing (or “cracking a pack” in the case of MTG). But that art isn’t cheap.
If you are playing someone else’s game or shuffling their cards, recognize those pieces of cardboard or coated paper cost a lot. How much? Don’t ever ask. Not unless they voluntarily tell you. It’s the analog gaming equivalent of going through their wallet. Good games aren’t cheap. That’s all you need to know.
The nervous flicking of card edges, shuffling sloppily or carelessly tossing down cardboard markers? Yeah, don’t do that. Bending or creasing a card renders it useless and unusable and replacing it costs big bucks.
Spend Locally, Buy Online Seldom & in Secret
A good game store is priceless. It’s your best connection to the gaming community, tournaments and the wealth of knowledge owners and workers usually possess. Find one, introduce yourself and patronize them.
It may cost a little more than Amazon, no doubt, but that extra 10-15% keeps the game stores nearby and accessible. It’s not just a homage to small businesses; it’s recognizing and appreciating an essential asset to your gaming life.
If you do buy online, don’t tell the store employees. I once made the mistake of mentioning I found Mansions of Madness: Second Edition on Amazon for $40 less than the store price. The owner shrugged and said, “Well, Amazon doesn’t set the price. That’s all bots.” Her statement addressed more than automation. She was saying that online mega-stores don’t give a fawn’s fart for the game, the gamer or the demand. It’s all algorithms for Amazon.
She was right. Two days later, the same game was listed at $140, then $180. Since then, I have only made secondary purchases online. All my board games since have come off a shelf.
Lose Gracefully, Win Gracefully
A recent NBC News article shared results from a human behavior study demonstrating our brains can’t understand winning and losing in a board or card game isn’t real. Our minds know it’s fake, but our brains don’t. That’s why the roll of a dice brings that sudden squirt of adrenaline or bad card draw can make your stomach sink like a lead elevator.
Those raw emotions need to be controlled, suppressed. If you’re furious at the way the dice fell or the card dealt, do not curse or kick. Be Zen. That’s doubly true when you’re winning, trebly true if you are winning from start to finish.
No one likes to lose, but losing can be educational. Losing painfully isn’t educational. That doesn’t mean you should let people win, but show humility no matter how advanced your skills. There’s always someone better AND worse.
To put it in more familiar words, no one will want to play with you.
Remember You Were a Noob Once
I remember playing World of Warcraft after it first came out. It didn’t take long for the dedicated players to max out their levels. Soon after came the contempt for the noobs. Noobs were hated, teased and denied the most basic human compassion. It turned into a WASP’s grade school playground. In my experience that kind of snobbery is much more common in digital gaming than analog gaming thankfully, but I still see it from time to time.
Noobs keep the gaming going. Every time one of us explains a game, we ourselves learn it a little better. I learned most of my MTG strategies by explaining the game to a noob friend. Noobs also buy products and make up a sizable chunk of the market.
Game manufacturers aren’t really interested in the guy or girl who already has the 20+ board game collection they always wanted. They want to advertise to that noob who WANTS the 20+ game collection. Respect the potential of the future gamer.
Hosts Offer Refreshments & Guests Bring Their Own
*I apologize if I sound like Ms. Manners in this section, but some people just don’t know this stuff
If you are hosting any game night, play Martha Stewart for a few hours first. Part of the social side of gaming is finding a location, and the game store isn’t always the best, especially for marathon sessions (no game store wants you taking up a table for five hours).
That means having snacks and drinks on hand, cleaning up so the location is presentable, and having a clean bathroom available. ALWAYS have a toilet plunger in the bathroom. I’m not joking. Save someone epic embarrassment before it arises.
Guests, be polite and bring your own snacks and drinks, especially for long sessions. Do not bring booze unless that was mentioned beforehand. Drinking and marathon gaming don’t work that well together. After a couple hours, the alcohol takes over and deadens your much-needed focus. Also, no one likes to soberly sit with the drunk guy or girl, a fact mosts drunks don’t notice. Because they’re drunk.
Advice Offered Honestly, Humbly
This honest advice is offered humbly. I am positive I left out some rules. If you’ve got one to suggest, I’d love to hear it. But if there is a gaming troll out there who is fuming at my fumbling article, be aware that I tried my best.
I am an honest gamer who sees something fantastic in the abandonment of digital gaming in favor of analog gaming. It’s a move from isolation to community (that’s a social and psychological shift I may explore in a future article). But if this piece coughed up your anger at my ignorance, then be Zen, my friend.