I like to play board games with my three sons when they visit. I think they do too, although there's always the chance they're just humouring their dad, I suppose. It's interactive and one generally spends time with them and has fun. I think it better than watching movies or TV shows, which are more individual activities that can be done in groups, rather than an actual group activity. When you watch TV, you're not actually interacting with your co-watchers in any meaningful way.
Before Christmas, they announced that they were growing bored of Monopoly, and as Scrabble didn't go very well (as it generally doesn't) I'd decided to get a new board game. I also announced that to them, which meant I'd have to follow through. I think it important to announce your goals to others, it provides social impetus to make serious attempts to attain them. Now, I don't know very much about board games. It's not my cup of tea, usually. I remember that when I was their age I liked the Games Workshop line, so I stuck to the adage, “go with what you know”. Games Workshop makes the Warhammer games, with elven and orcish armies (amongst others) in mortal combat a la the big CGI battle at the start of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. There's also a popular future alternative with Space Marines, amongst other projects. Relatively popular. I'm sure more people watch The Bachelor than play it.
The dwarves and space marines are largely irrelevant because what struck me the most on their website was the ridiculous, outlandish price tags on all their products. $99 for a starter kit, but GW has also arranged things so that expansion packs and accessories are virtually essential, so this gets very expensive, very quickly. Either times have changed since I was young, or my parents spent far more on my Christmas and birthday presents than I gave them credit for at the time.
So ended Plan A. Now as I said, I have no knowledge of board games. I do, however, have friends who are quite avid about this. Well, probably not in the grand scheme of things, but as far as I am concerned they are avid and worthy of consultation, which is what I did. They recommended the Settlers of Catan, which I went ought and bought from the local game store, and which was far more reasonably priced. I could have gotten the main game and several of the expansion sets, and still have paid less than Blood Bowl from GW (the name constitutes fair warning as to the violence contained therein).
And it really was a blast. Everyone enjoyed it (at least, that's what they said). It's very easy to learn but I get the impression that there is some seriously deep strategy involved if you get into it, I won't go into the details since they have a website which does all of that. My youngest, Gavin, picked it up really quickly.
What struck me the most about the first game was Brenden's abandoning of the predetermined victory conditions. He announced that his goal was to be the ultimate “sheep harvester”, by which he meant collecting as many wool resource cards as possible. He tried to position himself to collect as many from the board, and traded any non-wool resource cards away for wool. Just for clarification, there's nothing you can do with wool. You cannot improve upon your starting condition in any way and you cannot win the game. Although you might say this was not entering into the spirit of things, I was actually impressed that he had defined his own personal goal and pursued it relentlessly, and that he hadn't just pursued a “victory” as laid out for him, as everyone else did, including yours truly. Basically, he took the tools provided to him and made his own game.
Rob asked me if we used the bandit or other game mechanics to strip him of his excess wool cards, which we didn't. After all, what would be the point? Were he to achieve his self-defined victory (and I think he did), he would not impede the ability of anyone else to achieve theirs. His achievements come at the expense of nobody else, and he made it perfectly possible for multiple people to win the same race. I think there's a lesson in there.
I should buy him SimCity.