Why I play the games I know I’ll hate

When I was a little kid my dad used to make me eat really weird stuff. I mean REALLY weird. Imagine a strawberry jam and horseradish sauce sandwich. Or pickled prawns and milk chocolate. I’m not saying it was the smartest thing to do or that he’s been the smartest father ever, but it definitely taught me one thing: I have this strong imperative in me to try various thing in my life.

It might be food but might be extreme sports or… board games. It is actually my proper geek disease – chasing the novelties. It sometimes involves playing games I know I will totally dislike, yet I do play them – and usually do hate these games. But I never (well almost never) regret it.

I’m a Euro gamer. That’s a fact. Nothing satisfies me more (at a gaming table) than calculating my ways through a point engine I’m building, and seeing it prevail over the others’ designs at the end of the game. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I do play other games, I love two player abstract logic strategies for example. But in general I’m Stefan Feld’s fan and that’s just the way things are.

On the other hand, Błażej, the designer of Mistfall is much more versatile in his tastes. He can play both Castles of Burgundy or Gingkopolis (if you haven’t played the latter, run to your FLGS and buy yourself a copy – it’s marvellous!) but he also has a complete set of Descent or Eldritch Horror series, he’s got plenty of wargames, likes painting miniatures or playing tabletop RPG games. In other worlds – he’s a full-time geek, while I am more of a stubborn euro-fan. Yet it is him who usually shows me games (and I’m asking for it, nothing gets pushed down my throat, I swear!) I know I will not like. And I play them happily.

The thing I despise the most in American games is the lack of control. When I’m playing a proper Euro I know exactly what and when will happen – even if there is some random factor involved – like a deck of cards in Trajan or a stack of tiles in our own Versailles. I can count things and only my proficiency at a game – or it’s lack – is my real opponent.

In American games it’s usually quite the opposite – the opponents at the table are the real danger – they can ruin my plans, conquer my lands, destroy my buildings, or simply attack my troops. I hate it. Cooperative games are even worse! First of all – there is no REAL opponent, we just all sit round the table and chat over a pile of paper and cardboard. That means you can’t REALLY win – because there is nobody to win against!

Secondly, the final result, just like in American games, doesn’t depend on my skills – other players can also decide how we’ll fare. That’s just blasphemous for a Euro gamer! And there are also games with high negative interaction – no matter if Euro or any other. These I hate the most. I’m building my bloody castle. Brick by brick. It’s a sophisticated structure – you know, turrets and everything. And then, suddenly, this gang of bullies from the other side of the board comes and starts throwing rocks at my damn castle! If I ever feel like table flipping, that’s the exact spot.

Yet, every now and then I ask Błażej to show me such a game and, well, he does – what are friends for if not for hurting us purposely when we ask for it, huh? And you know what? Most of the time I’m right – I hate the game. But every single time I learn something new about board games.

The truth is that because by choice I avoid plenty of titles – like Cyclades, Blood Rage, Kemet and such – I would never know about unique and marvellous ideas that have been used in them. And, as a board game geek and a member of a publishing team, I can’t simply afford NOT KNOWING.

And there is also this small percentage of games I should hate, yet I love. Heart of the Mists. Harry Potter: Battle of Hogwarts. Innovations. Coop, coop, high negative interaction. I have them all and I really enjoy every single game, yet if I had been stubborn enough never to get out of my euro-hole, I would have never got to know of their existence!

There is also one more thing – I really don’t like pickled cucumbers. But every spring, when they show up, I try one – just to make sure if my taste has not changed. At the very beginning of my board game geekiness I played the first edition of the 51. State. I hated the guts of it. It was horrid. It almost destroyed my interest in board games. Yet I survived.

And one day Błażej said he got a copy of the 51. State Master Set. We played it three times that evening. I’ve got a copy of the game now and all the micro-expansions Portal published for it and am actually waiting for the newest expansion to come to my FLGS. Because the game turned out to be great! Or maybe it was me who changed? Who knows.

But if I didn’t try this strawberry jam and horseradish sauce sandwich I would have never known that I actually enjoy it.

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One thought on “Why I play the games I know I’ll hate

  1. That is fantastic! And I’m wholeheartedly the same way re: Eurogamer; add economic, mathy, heaviness and I’m there. Though probably, to be fair, not quite as easily swayed into something I *know* I’ll hate as you… I still delight in playing things that my friends scratch their heads over… aka: Kingdom Death Monster, Descent, Pathfinder, etc… If for nothing more than to keep people guessing, eh?

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