2013 was a great year for me. I went from being single to being engaged and unemployed to employed. I really sank my teeth into a new hobby, birdwatching, where I have seen almost 200 different species. Throughout the year, my love of gaming, specifically tabletop gaming, has given me hours of enjoyment and it even gave me a way to propose to my wife-to-be, Lynne.
Determining a way to propose marriage can be a challenge for many men. I had one idea before the one I eventually went with that I absolutely loved, but the plan fell through, so another idea was necessary. My first idea involved photography, which is the reason why Lynne and I started talking, but my second idea involved gaming, specifically our favorite game, Agricola.
In Agricola, there are 14 round cards, 1 per round of the game. There is a pseudo-randomness to the way the cards come out. For example, there are 4 cards that are shuffled and come out during the first 4 rounds. On the 14th round though, the card that comes up is always the same: the renovation/fences card. Lynne and I often joke before the final card is flipped, pretending we don’t know what card is coming.
Well, on June 20th, 2013 in my sunroom, to start the 14th round of a game of Agricola, the renovation/fences card did not appear. Instead, an engagement card appeared in its place, in the style of the typical card, created by gamer nerd founder and amazing designer Gary. I explained that this was a special card that, unlike most cards, could take two workers. I explained that in that case, I put my worker on the space, ask a question and, if met in the affirmative, she would also place a worker there. I asked the question, she said yes, and that moment became my favorite in my own long history of gaming. I thought Lynne would not want to finish the final round, but she did, so we played out the rest of the round, counted the score, and Lynne won.
Although the engagement was, by far, my biggest moment in gaming, it was not the only one. For the second August in a row, I took a trip to Indianapolis to go to GENCON with my brothers and, this year, Gary was there too. I played in tournaments for Agricola, Power Grid, Ticket to Ride, Union Pacific and Tichu. I won my 1st round game of Agricola, and took 2nd place in the championship round. In Power Grid I suffered the same fate. I love playing these tournaments of my two favorite games in particular because it is great to be able to play these games with the best players.
I also got to spend a day in the GENCON library, which is something I regretted not doing last year. The highlight from that was learning the game Eclipse, which I had been wanting to play for quite some time but is just not played at my local gaming groups. Eclipse is a Euro-style space war game and I really enjoyed it, even though I thought I was doing great but got crushed in the end.
Eclipse is an example of one of the top rated games on BoardGameGeek.com that I had not played but wanted to. To end the year I have now played every game in the current top 20 except Mage Knight (#9) and Dominant Species (#18). A few weeks ago I finally played Through the Ages (#2), which I found very interesting and want to give another play, but I need to find a time for the same 4 players to spend 4+ hours together. I also played Caylus (#13), which is often called the father of my favorite game, Agricola; I like it very much.
The big events are great, but really what I love most about tabletop gaming is being able to sit down with intelligent people and compete with each other to try to best figure out how to win at a game. People who dislike Eurogames sometimes point out how there is a lack of memorable gaming moments in them since they lack theme, a notion I disagree with completely. I bought the game Sleuth for my fiancée last Christmas. We played it 7 times in a row before Lynne finally lost on the 8th time. I actually had mixed feelings about winning. I really wanted to win, but I loved telling people that she was undefeated. Lynne and I analyzed this game multiple times over the year and we knew, just by the nature of the game, that her streak would not last forever, but it gave us a lot of good times.
The game Lynne and I played most often was clearly Race for the Galaxy. We liked to joke about having late night Race for the Galaxy rendezvous. We were so into it that I was writing down the score of each game and the type of strategies used each game. We had the base game, bought the first expansion, and then (not much later) bought the next two. We have been waiting for months for the new expansion arc to come out and it finally did, so I bought it for Lynne and gave it to her for Christmas.
When we give each other games, it’s really a joint present anyway. Lynne bought our first Stephen Feld designed game, Bruges, and gave it to me as an early Christmas present so we could start playing it, which we already have 4 times. While Agricola is our favorite game, Stephen Feld is our favorite designer. We played a lot of Castles of Burgundy and Macao at Eastside Gamers and, both great games designed by Feld. We also played Trajan which we like a ton and will probably be our next Feld acquisition.
When I look back, I played a ton of games. Between playing games with Lynne, local gaming groups, and games with family, there is a lot of great gaming I have not touched on. I played more heavy Eurogames than ever before such as Terra Mystica, a game that became popular in the gaming group. Lynne and I seem to really like playing medium-heavy Euros as well, acquiring games such as Tzolk’in and Belfort. One of the best things is introducing games to non-gamers, such as having both Lynne’s mother and a grad student from Case Western Reserve University we know really liking the game Blokus.
I don’t think it’s possible to top my 2013 year in gaming, unless Lynne and I are nerdy enough to somehow be able to incorporate gaming into our wedding on March 29th. Well, how about board game table decorations? Check.
Happy gaming to everyone in 2014!