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Boardgames: On My Eurogame Blindness

posted Aug 16, 2012, 10:39 PM by Douglas Sun
Originally posted: May 18, 2009

A thought that occurred to me while I was out running errands today:

You will recall that in my post on the GMT Games Weekend West just past, I mentioned that I have a certain blindness when it comes to Eurogames, and yet I very much enjoyed Chad Jensen’s as-yet unpublished design, Metropolis. Afterward, Gene Billingsley asked me point-blank whether or not I would buy a copy if GMT published it. It’s a much different question, of course, than, “Did you enjoy it?” And in all candor, I had to answer, “Probably not.” It was perhaps tactless to say so with Chad and Kai present, but Gene deserved an honest answer.

The fact is, I have few boardgames in my collection other than historical wargames. Historically, when I play a tabletop game, chances are that someone else already has a copy and I get roped in at that person’s suggestion. I’ve had enough friends with enough ideas about what to play that, strictly speaking, there isn’t much need for me to own a copy of anything, except to satisfy my own curiosity. That means that if I have a copy of a game at home, it’s probably for individual study and maybe solitaire play.

Eurogames are resolutely social, and they resist solitaire play. They’re all about steeping your hands in the mechanics and slap-fighting with the other human players. They aren’t about anything other than the game mechanics.

Historical wargames, on the other hand, generally aspire to some degree of historical simulation. As such, just reading through the rules and studying the components has some stimulative value. Even games that are designed to resist solitaire play in that they require players to hide information from each other (like card-driven games) can yield rewards in solo play if you approach them as historical studies. You may enjoy it or not, and you may agree or not with the designer’s take on the historical record; but the experience is rather like reading an historical book.

So my wargame collection is, in a sense, an extension of my library. I guess that means I keep them around and revisit them for the same reason that I might want to re-read a book that I found interesting. A Euro, on the other hand — well, sure, I’ll play it. But as long as we can use your copy, there’s no reason for me to spend money on one.