The plants keep on growing but, as they say, a watched kettle never boils, so playing in my garden, unfortunately, cannot be my sole source of entertainment. I have recently become something of a board game fanatic. It snuck up on me – although I had always enjoyed a good family game at christmas or when visiting grandparents it’s not something I ever would have thought of inflicting on my friends until a few years ago.
I originally found solace in boardgames in a post-break up, post-finals, miserable and extremely anxious period of my life where finding anything that would ‘switch off’ my racing destructive thoughts was something of a saviour. Although the wonderful world of fiction works well for this there are some draw backs – books themselves can throw you into a state of misery or anxiety depending on the content (although this is mitigated by re-reading books, particularly books I loved as a teenager), this can also be very antisocial, fairly addictive, can start getting in the way of sleep and other important day-to-day functions.
Boardgames however allow you to be with other people but also focused on something, I remember going to a good friends house and playing Settlers of Catan solidly three times in a row with both of us pretending to be two people to make it work properly. This was my ideal post break-up therapy. I didn’t have to talk or explain, but I wasn’t on my own, my friend was there with me and we could just play. Silent supportiveness.
I then started a new job in a city which most of my friends had left. Boardgames now provided a way of socialising with new people with out wondering what to say, or worrying what people are thinking etc – Good old structured fun! I was lucky that I found some good friends who also enjoyed games, even if only one or two really loved them as much as I did! Gradually once the frienships were more solid ‘games nights’ were required less, so it just came down to enjoyement.
By this point I had become hooked on games: even though I no longer needed them to distract me from crazy thoughts or to allow me to socialise without any anxiety I had developed a true love for them and wanted to continue on my gaming journey. Happily I had converted some of my close friends who even encourage it, and dare I say it, have over taken my passion! Unfortunately, despite my housemates telling him that if he didn’t like my games I would probably stop dating him on about date 3, my boyfriend is not a fan. He tolerates playing them with me, and sometimes even suggests it if I am being particularly grumpy but there are very few games that he seriously enjoys – much to my ongoing despair.
So, now that I really can’t inflict Settlers of Catan on people many more times, it is time to branch out. The huge variety of games on offer in board gaming shops (not quite the place of peaceful joy that a bookshop can provide, but almost) has led me to look for some sort of structure in my boardgaming – I have suggested to one of my friends, who has started a very impressive boardgame collection over the last two years, that we make it our mission to play all of the ‘Speil des Jahres’ winners, and if we finish them, then we can move onto the nominees!
Speil des Jahres is a german award for family style board games and card games. It was started in 1978 and is a really big deal in the board game industry. Think the Oscars, a nobel prize, a knighthood…
Obviously this kind of list ticking quest is crying out for me to blog about it, so to start with here are the Speil des Jahre winners and nominees that I have already played:
- Bizarrely the Rubik’s cube, despite being neither a board game or a card game won in 1980. I cannot complete a Rubik’s cube.
- 7 Wonders won the 2011 Connoisseurs’ game of the year. I actually quite like this game although it was a bit of a slow burner. Initially i found this extremely difficult to understand and my friend that originally bought this as an attempt to move on from Settlers spent hours watching YouTube videos to try to understand the rules but also, how it was fun. After a few attempts we gave up until I ended up playing it with another group of friends – I think crucially in a much bigger group – and suddenly everything came together and I realised it was actually a really great game.
- The Settlers of Catan won 1995. I think I have already made it clear how I feel about this game. I own seafares, cities and knights, 5+6 players, and seafarers 5+6 players expansion packs…
- Carcassonne won 2001. This is a great game, and pretty iconic for the invention of the Meeple. I like it, its simple and easy. Not much depth.
- Ticket to Ride won in 2004. This is the game that really got my friend who I want to do this list with hooked on games. She agreed to come to the Thirsty Meeples cafe in Oxford with me, without thinking too much about it, and loved this game so much that she bought it whilst we were there, and couldn’t resist opening it when we got back to our hotel to continue playing it despite meaning for it to be a present for someone… I just bought the Nordic version for myself. The great thing about this game is that there are so many maps you can get so that you don’t get bored of doing the same maps over and over again.
- Dixit won 2010. I love this, it’s so abstract and creative but you do need to mix up the group that you play with or you will start to learn which words people associate with which pictures!
- Hanabi won 2013, It’s a collaborative game where you work together to beat the game. I don’t think I have played the full version of it, just the card game but I LOVED it and have now bought it for myself and I thought that my boyfriend actually liked it but he has now corrected me to say that he would rather play it than some other games, and slightly enjoyed being the ‘judge’ to check we weren’t cheating but saying he enjoys it is an exaggeration…
- Camel up won 2014, simple, slightly childish, but fun. Slightly spoilt for me by having to play it so many times in a row that I couldn’t imagine wanting to play it ever again the first time i played it! I am just about ready to break out camel up again though… I mean whats not to love about gambling on racing camels and a build your own pyramid dice shaker?
- Colt Express won 2015. Another 3D game,so different from anything else, it can be so frustrating but so hilarious and its nice and quick for those who aren’t big gamers. I always look forward to this game.
So now for the rest of the winners… or shall we start with the 2016 nominations? Should I go from back to front or front to back? Where am I going to find all these games without going to camp out in Oxford!? Shall I rank them? Rate them? When will I find the time??? What about all the games I love that aren’t on the list? Questions that I will ponder another day…