Here on The Little Metal Dog Show I am more than happy to give people the chance to express their views. Chris Hemmens (who happens to be the chap who introduces the podcast) dropped me an email to say he’d written a piece in response to something Chris and I had covered in the last episode – would I like to put it on the site? The answer was ‘Of course!’ so here it is. Have a read and comment yourself – I’ve put my own thoughts at the end.
On the last episode of The Little Metal Dog Show, Chris and Michael answered a question about whether the price of board games put off newcomers or not and I found the whole exercise rather interesting because Chris and Michael aren’t newcomers and neither were the people asking the question. I, on the other hand, do consider myself a newcomer because I’ve been listening to the Little Metal Dog Show since episode 1 and understand that owning two copies of Monopoly and one copy of Risk does not count. Not to mention the fact that the last time any of them were opened was 9 months ago at Christmas.
At the same time, I’m not averse to trying out new board games. I’ve been to friends’ houses, including Michael’s, where we played games about King Arthur, or games where a couple of you were saboteurs, or deck-building games, or trading games – I’ve played all kinds of these. With this in mind, I found a specialist games shop in the city where I live and I decided I was going to buy a board game. The reason I did not was because all the games I was interested in through listening to the show were all in the region of £40-50. Any smaller games were unknown quantities and I was not going to spend £20 on something that I didn’t think I was going to enjoy (I’m not entirely sure there were any for £20 or less). You might be saying now that it might have been worth the punt, but this where we get on to the part of being a newcomer that Chris and Michael didn’t come on to.
None of my close friends play board games regularly. I have two friends who are married that I used to play Dixit with pretty regularly, but once everyone knew all the cards, that began to get a little stale. Now, we don’t really bother. In the podcast, Michael and Chris said that, even though you may end up spending £40 on a board game, the amount of play-time you get out of it will be huge and will therefore be worth it. Except there is not a single game out there that I, as a newcomer, could buy that would guarantee me 10 minutes of play, for the simple reason that I can’t guarantee that I’ll have anyone to play them with. I told the friends I used to play Dixit with that I was thinking of buying a co-op board game for us to play and they both looked at me like I was ill. Michael and Chris compared the price and relative worth of a board game to that of a cinema ticket or a videogame. The difference is, is that most people understand what going to the cinema involves and, if I want to, I can go by myself and still have an enjoyable experience. On the side of videogames, the choice of single-player games is excellent and, if I want to be social, there will always be people online that I can play against or with. I do not want to play a board game by myself but trying to organise any of my close friends into playing one is like herding cats. At the same time, I don’t even know myself if the game I’ve picked is something I’m going to like and, if I make a £40 mistake, I’m not going to want to make that mistake again.
At the beginning of their answer, Michael and Chris seemed to consider the possibility that the price of new games was too high for newcomers but by the end of their answer, they’d convinced themselves that they weren’t. Well actually, they are. I’m going to bite the bullet and purchase a copy of Forbidden Island soon (or L’Île Interdite as it’s known here) and see if I can organise a session. The point is, if I can’t, and I genuinely don’t know if I’ll be able to, let alone organise more than just one, then the price stops me from seeing if another game might be more suitable. Because of the price, this really does become a do-or-die situation, and this is the same for many newcomers. If it weren’t for Michael and the Little Metal Dog Show standing so confidently behind it, I honestly wouldn’t bother.
See, now this is interesting and appropriately timed. If you’re relatively new to gaming as a hobby, you really shouldn’t be going out and dropping large amounts on money on games that you’re not sure you’re going to enjoy. We may have come to the conclusion that games are good value, but looking back I’m happy to admit that I was a bit evangelical. I know that I’ll get the value out of a game I buy because… well, I know about this kind of thing. I look at what I’m going to buy, I know the kinds of games I really enjoy because I’ve been playing them for years. For someone who’s new to it, they need to build up that knowledge bank and develop their own opinions.
The whole idea of Downtime Town as mentioned by Robert Florence on Rock Paper Shotgun is ideal for someone in this situation. All it takes is one person to be willing to take a chance. All it needs is one person with one game. With luck, others who have different games will be brought in as well. You don’t have to be the person who owns absolutely everything. Yes, we know that games are pricey, but with a bit of research and listening to the opinions of those on sites like Board Game Geek and Fortress Ameritrash you’ll be able to pick out games that could potentially interest you. Not everything you buy will be 100% amazing – I’ve got plenty of duffers in my collection, believe me – but by heeding the words of others, you’ll be able to at least make sure you’re not picking up something that will languish on your shelf until 2017.
NEVER feel that you should be responsible for getting the games for the people you play with ESPECIALLY if you’re new to it. Get involved with groups that will already have access to games, visit game shops and see if they have a group you could visit. If you do happen to have a game you want to play, there’s plenty of ways to get people to come and play. You just need to get out there and do it.