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A former member
Post #: 84
Michael V and I have been having a side discussion about gaming. For those who are unfamiliar, there is a relatively obscure subculture of people who are gaming enthusiasts. I have long considered myself one of these gamers, and have been active in the community for many years. Gaming in this context covers a fairly broad spectrum of game types: board games, computer and video games, war/strategy games, role playing games, collectable card games. It however does not usually refer to traditional western card and gambling type games.

I have been curious since joining this group if any other members consider themselves gamers or are curious to learn more about this hobby. I am writing this to measure the interest level. I think some members of this group may enjoy getting together on a semi-regular basis to play some of the modern hobbyist board games. Our membership is also filled with creative and intelligent people who may enjoy trying their hand at role playing games, and I imagine many of us already have. Also, I'm curious if anyone else regularly plays console or computer games.

If any of this sounds Greek to you, allow me to explain a bit more, starting with board games.

Everyone here is probably familiar with games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Sorry!, Clue, and others. Most of these popular games were designed many decades ago, and manufacturers like Hasbro and Milton Bradley have kept them on the shelves of every department and toy store in the country. These are not the games I'm referring to.

Over the last 10-15 years there has been a great deal of innovation in the board game world. Germans take their board games seriously, and they spurred the early phase of game innovation with some great titles and the birth of the celebrity game designer. These games eventually made their way to the US, and over the last decade or so there has been an explosion of new and ingenious titles. This genre of games is usually referred to as hobbyist board games.

The specific methods of gameplay and rule mechanics in hobbyist games vary greatly, however they tend to share some characteristics. Strategy is emphasized over chance, often with elements like die rolls and card draws eliminated entirely. Players interact with each other, ranging from simple trading of elements between players to the formation and breaking of alliances. Players have choices and options rather than simply moving their piece in a defined manner. All players are "in" until the end, there is less use of player elimination or "first player to do x wins."

These games are very fun and range from simple and quick to complex and very lengthy (4 hours to play or more).

War and strategy games are popular also. Many people have their first introduction to this genre through the game RIsk. This genre commonly uses miniatures on a scale battlefield map to represent skirmishes to all out war. They usually are tied to a theme like World War I, Roman legions, or fantasy and sci-fi. The complexity and length of these games varies widely also. I don't have much experience in this genre of gaming, but I have been looking to try out some of the simpler titles.

Collectible card games are the bastard child of the gaming world (is my bias showing?). Players assemble a collection of various cards, build a game deck from their collection, and play versus each other. Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering are examples. I never cared much for this genre, myself, for reasons I won't delve into here. However there are a number of hobbyist card games that are not based on assembling large collections of soon to be obsolete cards. I do enjoy those games much more.

Role playing games are... well, hard to explain. Most people think of Dungeons & Dragons when they think of role playing games, as well as the unflattering stereotype portrayed in the media. The reality is, of course, very different. D&D is only one of many and diverse titles, though it is the eight-hundred pound gorilla. Role playing games require the players to take on characters and rely on, and are only limited by, their imagination. This article explains the concepts involved quite well.

So far as computer and console video games: you are either into them or you aren't.

If you made it this far, chime in if you are into gaming or might like to try a new activity with your fellow freethinkers. Respond here or through the mailing list if you are interested.
Rafiq M.
Bogor, ID
Post #: 437
I know that game theory is an important part of applied mathematics used in social science and behavioural analysis. It may be directly relevant to what we are trying to do (at least I hope we are trying to do) in bringing about a new Enlightenment.

I know this is just a rather trivial example (a spur of the moment response) but would the Infidel game fit in with the sort of Monopoly time, old style, board game or the newer strategic type of game?

It does sound interesting.
A former member
Post #: 1
@James Great explanation, and obviously I'm game for this. I'm trying to find a good location on the West side for us to hold these events.

@Rafiq The Infidel game strikes me as more like a traditional style board game; the games James is talking about are less structured and tend to rely more on the player's imagination rather than an established set of rules. That's not to say that such a game couldn't be played en masse; simply that what we are talking about falls into a slightly different category.


Bruce O.
user 11034342
Akron, OH
Post #: 1
(sent this via the email list too, but copy/pasting here too, in case you get a bunch of replies and want them all in one place)

Im definitely a gamer, and might be interested in game related meetups. Done everything from the "advanced" board games you mention (like catan, carcason), to magic (although no longer have a deck) to video (xbox360,pc,ps3, rpgs, some 1st person shooters) to pen&paper (d&d from basic to 3.5, T&T,call of cuthulu, it came from the late late late show, gurps) so would really be interested in just about anything. (Im a kid who never grew up :) )
A former member
Post #: 85
I kind of neglected to followup on this forum post due to the start of the school term. Sorry about that. This weekend I plan on writing a brief description of each of the board game titles that I own and will bring to meetings. I also will describe the various role playing game titles that I have and would be willing to run.

@Rafiq: actually quite a few of the game designers and writers are fluent, or at least knowledgeable of, mathematical game theory. Part of the reason I am such an avid collector of games that I will hardly, if ever, play is the diversity that can be represented through the rule mechanics. Variables like whether the system uses dice, how many dice and of what type, shuffled decks of cards, combinations of cards and dice, or some other method make a profound difference on the "feel" of the game. I put that in quotes because it's kind of a nebulous concept. It generally refers to the tenor and tone of the atmosphere surrounding the actual mechanical rules, much like the genre concept in film and novels. For example, does the game bring to mind the epic, Campbellian hero's quest, scheming machinations and political intrigue, pulp action and adventure, unflinching realism, suspense, or even noir. Of course the mathematical concepts behind the rules is only partly responsible, but it can have a big impact in that the wrong mathematical model can ruin the atmosphere of the game.

Also, I agree with Michael that your Infidel Game is more toward the traditional style. This is because the player's experience is mostly subject to chance events and is dictated in a more direct manner by the spaces the player lands on or the card he or she draws. It's actually a very compelling concept though; you should look into making a prototype and pitch it to some of the "indie" game companies. If you decide you want to move in a more hobbyist board game direction, just keep in mind that chance in those games is only a minor contributor to the players experience. Chance should dictate what happens in the wold around the player, but the player should have some choice in how to respond to that event. The strategy elements need not be complex, however. In fact many of the most popular and highest regarded hobbyist games have some of the simplest rules.

@Bruce: I'm glad to hear there's at least a couple other gamers in the group. Michael and I are definitely interested in doing some RPGs, maybe as part of the general gaming meetings or separate. Obviously this is in the early stages but I am optimistic that we can get a regular group together. Call of Cthulu is one of my favorites, I just love the setting. But I've also played various D&D, Shadowrun, Marvel Superheroes, and others. I'm really itching to try out some of the newer small-press games I've been collecting lately like Savage Worlds, Sprit of the Century, and Burning Wheel.

Out of curiosity at this point: what games would you be most interested in playing, or are you interested in a variety of titles? Do you prefer story driven games, or dungeon crawls? Is there anything in particular that is a deal breaker for you?
A former member
Post #: 87
As promised, here is a brief synopsis of the various games in my library. I hope this generates some excitement and interest to give this a try. I will add another post about my role playing game selection soon.

Ticket to Ride
This is one of the most popular gateway games: games for those who are new to hobbyist board games. The rules are simple and the game is very easy to learn. The setting is North America in the early 20th century. The goal is for each of the five players to connect major cities in the US and Canada by railway. Points are earned for building routes, and bonus points are earned by completing specific destination tickets linking specific cities. Bonus points are also won by the player with the longest continuous route, and the player with the most completed destination tickets. Many who play this game for the first time are hooked and later move on to the hard stuff.

Carcassonne is a tile-laying game; players build the board as the game progresses. Each player draws a tile from the box and places adjacent to another tile already in play. The tiles have different elements: city walls, roads, monasteries, and farm fields. The players decide which elements to control, and then try to complete that element to earn points. When the tiles run out, the game is over and the final point tally is made. The rules are easy, only slightly more complex than Ticket to Ride yet more strategic, and gameplay is pretty quick. This is also a dangerous gateway game.

Settlers of Catan
This is the game that kick-started the designer game industry, and maybe the most insidious gateway game of the bunch. Settlers of Catan is a resource management and development game, which might sound as exciting as accounting. But don’t be fooled; the game is fun and has converted many to the hobby. Each player represents a community of settlers on an island. The goal is to collect resources (wood, ore, brick, wool, and wheat) and use them to expand the player’s settlements by building roads, towns, and cities. Players only gain the resources that are produced near their settlements; however they can trade resources among each other or through marine ports. Other elements, such as a wandering thief, add some spice to the proceedings. The winner is the first to achieve the goal, usually 10 settlement points. The board is modular, being made up of a number of terrain tiles, and can be radically different game to game. Try this addictive game at your own risk.

Mystery of the Abbey
This who-done-it, logic puzzle game is set in a medieval abbey following the murder of a monk. The players are trying to find the culprit by exploring the abbey while looking for information and questioning other players. Essentially it’s Clue with several added elements to spice things up and keep it interesting.

You are one of a few survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Will you survive long enough, taking out any undead in your path while exploring the town, to make it to the helicopter? This is another tile-laying game with lots of little zombie figurines. Rules are simple, gameplay is quick, and there are many chances to stick it to your opponent. Lots of fun when you want something light and not too cerebral.

This comedy-heavy game is not actually a board game, but a card game. Players draw cards and play them in various ways to fight their way through an imaginary dungeon crawling with beasties ready for a tasty snack. Whether you work together or stab each other in the back, this game is lots of laughs all around.

Not a board game either. BattleTech is a strategic combat game set in the far future. Wars are fought using mechs, massive war machines bristling with weaponry. Players maneuver their miniature mechs on a grid map and attempt to beat their opponents through brute force or slick strategy. This game is an introductory version; there are actually numerous volumes of rules available covering nearly every imaginable scenario. There can be a lot of number crunching and rules minutia, but for the tactical strategy minded, this is nothing but good times.

Pandemic is the first of three cooperative games in my library. Players take on the role of various professionals, such as scientist, medic, and researcher. Players must work together to contain, treat, and hopefully cure a series of infectious diseases that have begun to spread around the world. The game has fantastic epidemic and outbreak mechanics that can quickly trigger a domino effect, spiraling the game out of control. Everyone wins or loses together, but even losing is fun.

A Touch of Evil
This game can be competitive or cooperative, depending on the players’ choice at the beginning. It is a horror game in the vein of Victorian period pieces. Players explore a region terrorized by some supernatural evil. They must uncover information that reveals the nature of the fiend, where is its lair, and how can it be defeated. Along the way they will be hampered by the evil being’s forces, aided by terrified townspeople, and betrayed by possessed agents of evil. While a little corny, with a group in the right mindset, especially on a dark and stormy night, this game is challenging and tense. It is much more complex than the other games on this list, and play time is fairly long. Only Arkham Horror beats it in those two categories.

Arkham Horror
Arkham Horror is awesome. This is a cooperative game based H.P. Lovecraft’s short horror fiction. The rules are deep and complex, the game is challenging, even brutal at times, and it can take a whole evening to play through one sitting. Arkham is beset by ancient and unimaginably powerful forces that threaten to awake and reclaim the world from the human infestation. Players take on the roles of investigators, exploring the town of Arkam and its environs, even crossing into other realms of existence, in a most likely futile attempt to stop the inevitable. The tone of the game is one of bleak desperation; the Great Old One is waking and gathering strength, nightmarish creatures spring from portals to other dimensions, and the players’ sanity is hanging on by a thread. Lose your sanity, end up in Arkham Asylum; fail to stem the flood of creatures invading Arkham, towns people flee taking their resources with them; allow the Old One to wake, say goodbye. Unless…
Bruce O.
user 11034342
Akron, OH
Post #: 2
Sorry for the delay in responding, been a busy few weeks.

Nothing is really a deal breaker for me. I've played both Catan and Carcasson (well, the online versions, which follow the same rulesets) before, two games you mention above, and like them.

Would also be into the pen and paper type games as well, if any are interested. The one thing I dislike though about those types of games are when they devolve into a "rules lawyer" match, where half of the play time seems just to be people arguing which rules apply to which situation. Very annoying. Would be interested in trying pretty much any system, new or old, but would love to do an old style D&D game someday too (Call me nostalgic :) )

A former member
Post #: 93
Bumping this up to the top o' the list. I hope to finally get around to adding my next entry covering the role playing gams in my collection soon.

We should also be listing a date and location for the first gaming meetup soon as well.
A former member
Post #: 58
I'll admit to being a Scrabble fanatic - sorry if that's not "geek" enough, I just *love* word-gaming! But I've also recently tried some of more Euro games - although none that you've listed here. Arkham Horror sounds interesting since I read H. P. Lovecraft waaay back in high school and am familiar with the "universe" as such. But I've up for trying new games. :)

Hooray for Freethinker boardgaming! Thanks for getting this started.
Cleveland, OH
Post #: 531
I’m interested in games too. Scrabble in particular (well, and computer games of various kinds) but I’m open to trying all kinds of things.
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