I have been playing games of one type or another for as long as I can remember. In my early years, I was obsessed with video games and played them any chance I got. So much so, my parents had to limit my play time to Saturdays and Sundays during the school year. When this rule was passed into household law, I had to find my gaming outlet somewhere else. This was my first excursion into the board game world. I had played them in the past, but sparingly. Mom dealt with the household and my younger siblings by five and ten years couldn’t play the games that interested me. Dad worked and didn’t play board games. So, it was up to me to formulate how to play games by myself.
I have fond memories playing games of Risk and Monopoly at full player counts completely solo to fill the time. I had complex rules and regulations in place to ensure I did not attach myself to one token and nudge them towards victory. I was every token and I had to make the best moves possible for each one. Risk was easier, as it held a little bit more luck. Monopoly was hard since I could easily accept a bad trade. I spent many afternoons wheeling, dealing and conquering the world solo.
Middle School and High School were dominated by Trading Card Games (TCGs). In Middle School (sixth to eighth grade), my friends and I spent many lunch periods playing Yu-Gi-Oh! This was my first introduction to Pay-to-Play type games. The board games I had played when I was younger came with all the pieces already there. You didn’t have to buy more. I soon learned the value of a dollar, as I looked for any way to earn money to get my hands on more cards. Eventually, I was able to craft a deck based solely on dragons – a deck that I still have to this day.
As my friends and I moved into High School and started earning our own money, we turned our hearts and minds to one of the oldest and most popular TCGs out there – Magic the Gathering. More complex than Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic was the “adult” TCG and the fanfare surrounding it was big. I started playing Magic just before they introduced the first Ravnica block and was fascinated with the color crossovers. Just as in Middle School, lunch periods were spent with friends playing Magic and discussing the best/worst combinations of cards. I still have my favorite Magic decks, along with a tin full of extra cards that I hope to break out again one day.
It was also around this time that my brother and sister were old enough to grasp gaming concepts, so they were finally able to play board games with me. I even got my dad to purchase his own Magic deck. While I still could easily pull out a win over them, it was nice to finally have people to play games with inside and outside of the house. Some hate their High School years and mine were great as it laid the foundation of what was yet to come.
After graduation, I moved out of the house to live with a family friend while I went to college. Since I was not beholden to the “only play video games on the weekend” rule any longer, all my extra time and energy went back to video games. Not only that, my first college job was working for a new/used entertainment store. They had me oversee the video game department, so I was up close and personal with video games day in and day out. Due to this, I lost touch with board gaming and failed to be present for the start of, what I like to call, the Board Game Renaissance.
My board gaming journey picked back up six years after I had graduated from college in 2013 when I was in training for my first ‘career’ job. I was working in an inbound call center and one of my colleagues brought in Forbidden Island to help pass the time. I immediately fell in love with the game, as it was an awesome concept and the first ‘co-op’ game that I had ever laid eyes on. I became obsessed with finding this game. After that, they introduced me to Gloom. Now, I have always loved storytelling and have a morbid sense of humor, so a game where you killed off a family in hilarious ways struck a chord.
This was the start of my own board gaming renaissance. While looking for instructions on how to play, my wife and I stumbled upon Wil Wheaton’s YouTube show – Tabletop. This was both good and bad for us. It was good because we got to see all the “new” and exciting things happening in the board game industry (which was no longer just different iterations of Clue, Monopoly, and Risk). The bad was it hit our wallets hard. We found a local game store that is still around today and fell in love with everything on the shelves.
I started frequenting my Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) weekly to participate in Dungeons and Dragons session, remember I love telling stories and dragons. I even got my wife to participate as well. This meant we had to drag along our newborn to the store. The owners have always been welcoming and knowledgeable. They have watched both of our boys grow and become more interested in gaming themselves. Like any good collector, our trove of games started out small. Small enough to lug around easily. Ever so slowly, it grew to need some space in the closet, then it took over the closet. Eventually, we broke down and purchased a 4×4 Kallax shelf from IKEA and that sufficed…for a while.
In late 2018, we purchased our first official gaming table. With the kids getting older and the games having increased amounts of small bits, it is nice to know the chance of losing pieces is slim. Along with the table, we started hosting monthly game nights for our friends. As of today, both my parents and sister come to play games on a regular basis, along with several friends we have found who share the same love of board games we do. While having friends and family enjoying games is great, the greatest feeling is having one of my kids come to me and say, ‘Daddy, can you play a game with me?’