Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Board Games I

Listening to:

Dvořák, symphony no. 8 in G, op. 88. Played by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Carlo-Maria Guilini. (A free download from the Dutch Radio 4 channel.)

Why Board Games?

To even make this post, and have it properly tagged, I had to edit my list of “blog categories”. It already included computer games, but not board games. I don’t know why I was so narrow-minded when I started the blog (what was wrong with just gaming?), but I’ve definitely come back ’round to an interest and appreciation in board games.

As a young child, I was taught classic games like draughts (checkers in the US), chess and various card games. None of these made a particularly big impression at the time. I subsequently played chess at secondary school a bit, but was put off by not being particularly good, and disliking opening theory. Incidentally, I’m certainly willing to consider card games as if they were board games; the BoardGameGeek website has a similar attitude.

I guess the first game to make a big impression on me was Monopoly, which I played as a child with my cousins. I was sufficiently interested in it at the time that I even borrowed and appreciated Brady’s The Monopoly Book from the library.

As a teenager I also came to learn and play quite a bit of Go and Bridge. Go doesn’t have Monopoly’s social nature, but it’s clearly an amazing game: elegant, deep and sufficiently well-regarded to support professional players and an extensive literature. These factors made it the apple of my eye for quite a while. Bridge was a bit more social, but it suffers from the problem that the best ways to play (teams or duplicate) require at least 8 people and 2–3 hours. (Bridge also has the problem that it may be in terminal decline; see David Owen in The New Yorker.)

With the exception of Monopoly, all of the games mentioned are theme-less and abstract. The board games I’ve been playing more recently are social and much better themed. But that will have to wait for Part II.