Hemulen Syndrome – collector’s biggest fear

Moomins is one of my favourite childhood book series. A Swedish writer, Tove Janson, created a whole world full of mysterious creatures and lands. A world so different from our own, so unique, that my childish imagination was thriving with vivid images of the Moomins family, Sniff, Snufkin, Little My and… Hemulen. The latter one has always been a bit of a neurotic character, absolutely crazy about collecting stuff – basically my proto-geek. There is one story about him that bore to my memory so deep that I have even come up with a “scientific” name for his condition: Hemulen Syndrome. Our poor old Hemulen was an avid stamp-collector. One day he managed to get the very last missing stamp from his collection – and his life has immediately fallen apart. In a split of a second he stopped being a collector and became a collection owner. He got properly depressed and I could have already seen the grim end coming to the old Hemulen. Fortunately, Moomintroll pointed out to him that whereas stamps might actually be not for him anymore, there is an infinite number of plants species in the world. This way Hemulen found a new hobby and become a happy botanist. Why am I writing about this and what does Hemulen Syndrome to do with board games? Let me explain.

Hemulen Syndrome is a term I came up with a few years ago when I was slowly crawling up to owning my first one hundred games. I was pretty sure back then that a day will come when I will have played all the possibly interesting games, learnt all the relevant mechanisms, bought the last game that would be missing from my collection – and that’s it. Finito. I would not be a collector anymore. I would own a collection. A finished, never-to-be-changed set of games. As you can imagine, the sheer thought made me feel disastrous. That’s how Hemulen Syndrome was born. Fortunately, I got the one hundredth game. And then one hundred and first. Now I have 717 games and expansions and I can’t see the danger anymore – the Hemulen Syndrome threat has been defeated by the very characteristic of the board games market. With about 3000 new games being published every year and with my intense crave for the new I don’t think I will ever consider my collection as “complete”. However, there are many gamers that are not insane – as I am – and do try to keep their collection in some limits. What about them?

Let’s simplify the thesis and assume that you will never want to have more than ten games. You want to have the greatest possible wargame, worker placement, family game, party game, two-player game, 4X game, thematic game, solo game, card game and abstract game. And you found them – the ten absolutely best titles that you have ever played. What now? Will you actually stick to your list or will you try hard and play every new game from each of the categories, checking if you’re not missing out on a new Holy Grail of party games? Will you be really able to choose between Wits and Wagers and Codenames? Will you be able to submit the inner collector urge to have both? If the answer is “yes” I have to congratulate you and warn you at the same time. Congratulations come from a simple fact – I would not be able to stop myself (not hard to tell, judging from the size of my collection). But the warning is: one day you might find yourself a subject to Hemulen Syndrome. You will have a complete set of games and your passion for the hobby will slowly dry out.

The board game world is so amazing for me exactly because of it’s never-ending development. Drafting. Worker placement. Legacy games. LCGs. Games with apps. New inter-mechanical twists. All of the above and many more make every single game unique. And you know… you gotta catch’em all! We, board gamers are in the same blessed position as Hemulen The Botanist was. Our collections are always open. Our shelves will always fit one more game. Our partners will always agree on buying just one more… Well, the last thing might not exactly be true, but you got my meaning. Coming to a point – We, the board gamers are immune to Hemulen Syndrome – as long as we allow ourselves to be. If, at one point, you’ll feel you’re loosing this childish curiosity, this tiny spark that heats up when you hear about a new title – act fast! Run to your Friendly Local Gaming Store, check out your preferable online shop novelties offer or open Kickstarter page. And inhale. Deeply. Breathe in, breathe out. Find your must-have. And then add it to your collection. Now, you’re good. You’re safe. You’re my fellow geek. And it’s great to be crazy together, isn’t it?

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