Board Games History
I think around the time I was growing up (Late 90s / Early 00s) board games were still really in their infancy. Games like Monopoly or Risk, which had been published well beforehand were among the most prevalent. Among my favorites back then were more physically interactive ones like Mouse Trap. I just liked to build the Rube Goldberg-esque contraption. I can’t even remember how the game was played, honestly. These days, whenever I see people sitting down for a nice Table Top session, Monopoly is just referenced as a meme for having a bad time.
Around my teen years, board games had become more of a side show for me and most of my peers. Maybe we’d play a game of Password or Scattegories here or there, but for the most part Table Top gaming was pretty non-existent.
Board Games Today
Flash forward to present day and Table Top gaming has since surged into one of the more main stream social experiences again. Games like What Do You Meme? and Cards Against Humanity became super popular almost out of no where.
Think back to the past decade or so of television advertisements. I know, remembering all those shitty “Only 4 installments of 19.99” ads sounds like torture. But seriously, how often do you recall seeing any type of ads for games? Maybe Sorry or Connect 4 a few times, but no ads like Sock-em-Boppers (*) that were constantly playing. I figure the rise of the internet filled a large gap that the Table Top industry had been missing for quite some time. A way to find new games to enjoy. Not only that, but it has (now that talking to strangers on the internet isn’t frowned upon) become a way to find other folks to game with.
How It All Began
For me, my real Table Top gaming adventures began relatively recently. While I had considered myself pretty well versed in more recently popular games, I wasn’t truly as experienced as I had thought. One of my co-workers, on the other hand, was quite an avid Table Top gamer. One day he had offhandedly mentioned a game he had been playing with his friends called Betrayal at the House on the Hill. After hearing his description of the game, it had caught my interest pretty quickly and caused me to go to my own friend group and suggest it. Instead of buying the game outright, we figured we’d head over to the Steam Workshop and check out if someone had made the game available on Table Top Simulator. An amazing way to game with your friends who are no longer within driving distance for board game nights!
Fortunately, a couple generous souls had taken the plunge to create such a thing for the public. One night we set off on trying out the game ourselves. That night was quite literally a game changer for me. Shortly after having tried the game on TTS, I had gone out and bought myself a hard copy of the game + the expansion. I knew this was an investment that would last me a very long time.
Catch the Table Top Bug!
The resurgence of fun and unique games has caused board games to become an infectious activity. The next big step was presenting this game to my family and having them also become hooked on it. My older sister and her fiance went on to continue looking for more new games to play and even bought their own copy of Betrayal because of how much they loved it. It’s always a joy when they come to visit and bring over a new game to try out for the night. What’s even better is that I’ve slowly begun to spread the interest in Table Top gaming with other friend groups. Because of this I’ll always have a group to play with if someone’s having a Table Top craving.
Legacy Board Games – A New Way to Play
Over some time of looking into new games I eventually stumbled upon a more recently popular style of game, once again thanks to my co-worker. Legacy Board Games. Legacy games are a serialized version of a classic board game. Mechanics and pieces will change each time you play the game. Every action and game result has consequences, causing permanent destruction of game pieces or additional rules to be added. This is your normal, average, every day Risk or Pandemic on STEROIDS. The other great aspect of Legacy games is that you’re encouraged to keep the same group over the course of the Legacy “campaign”. This can be a great boon to already strong friendships, as well as, building completely new ones if you’re so inclined.
Legacy games are still in their infancy and there aren’t too many games out there that have Legacy versions created. That being said, the ones that do exist are still quite something. I highly recommend picking one up and finding a group to play with ASAP. I’m looking forward to more and more games adapting this style of game play.
The Ultimate Table Top Experience
The final piece of the puzzle for me was eventually getting into what I consider the Ultimate Table Top Experience. Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, I know, D&D is definitely not the most glamorous of activities to discuss. Fortunately for us board games enthusiasts, however, it’s slowly beginning to become more and more accepted throughout popular culture.
There are several TV shows that have had episodes entirely based on the characters playing the game. For me, the big eye opener into how fun and entertaining D&D-like games can be was watching HarmonQuest. A live, studio audience included, improv show created by Dan Harmon. The creator of Community and Rick and Morty. He has a set of main actors along with a special guest each episode where they take part in a ‘dumbed down for TV’ version of D&D. Additionally, the show swaps between the live studio as well as a post-animated version of what’s going on in the game. You can check out episode 1 here!
While this was fun to watch, my soon to be brother-in-law dropped off a gift one day: His own D&D rule books that he never used. From this, I was inspired to take the helm as a DM. I brought the idea up to a subset of my friends, even those who weren’t as into gaming to begin with. I was surprised at the welcome reception to the idea. Dungeons and Dragons seems like the kind of thing a lot of people are interested in trying out, yet, most aren’t really sure how to begin and are likely too embarrassed, due to the social stigma, to ask about it.
This has been quite an experience for me. DMing and D&D in general really require you to reach outside of your comfort zone to bring an enjoyable energy to the table. While we’ve gone on a bit of a hiatus from our campaign, I’d be looking forward to getting together and continuing soon!
Board Gaming and FIRE
While I wanted to have some time away from writing about FIRE, I feel very strongly about the role Table Top gaming can play throughout the FI Journey. The key things about Board Games I believe are either highly synergistic with FIRE or not so much are:
Cost per Use
It is very unlikely that you’ll get a game and only play it once. If you’re a Table Top enthusiast you’re going to be spending several sessions filled with multiple play-throughs on a single game. Each time you do so drives your cost per use down! Unlike a lot of other hobby related activities, maintenance costs for Table Top games are more or less non existent. A lost die can be replaced with a die from another game and tokens can be replaced with other random items. They’re very flexible!
One of the best things about Early Retirement is the amount of time you’ll be getting back in your life. This has great synergy with Table Top gaming as many games can last from 30 minutes to 3-4 hours! Unless you’re playing strictly on the weekends, it can be tough to find a window of free time when you’re stuck working 9-5. Add to that the rest of your daily errands and you’ll never get to play!
The great thing about Table Top games, in particular ones which let you express yourself a bit more, is getting to know your players better over time. Keeping a steady stream of social interactions during retirement will be key to keeping you active and happy.
Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a catch 22 with an Early Retirement. I think this is a problem with Early Retirement in general that many struggle with. How do I make plans with my friends who haven’t retired yet? Naturally, it will be tough to accommodate the amount of time required to play some of these games. Especially so as kids and families become more prevalent. Part of this may result in requiring you to build new friendships with others that have the time or schedule that works.
I figured I’d end this post with a collection of games that I’ve played and would highly recommend for veterans and new comers alike.
Betrayal at the House on the Hill
Board Building; Story Driven; Semi-Cooperative awesomeness. Feels like you’re playing a new game every time.
The Legacy version of BHH. I’m currently playing through this with two separate parties. The awesome thing about this Legacy game is the fact that you can continue to play this like a base copy of Betrayal once your campaign is through. However, your copy will differ from another groups copy because of how your campaign played out!
Pandemic: Legacy Season 1/2
Cooperative game where players take on the role of scientists trying to cure a rampant disease across the globe. The Legacy versions take the original game to the next level, really amping up the story telling and the game-play astronomically. My one issue with Pandemic as a cooperative game is that it can easily become one or two people running the show, with others just following along. Pandemic Legacy is only slightly better in this regard. If you have a group that can keep the balance right, it’s sure to be a good time.
Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space
A fantastic, high replay-ability cat and mouse type game. Players either play as Aliens or Humans. Humans try to escape and Aliens try to kill the humans. Everyone is trying to keep track of who is who and where each person is going. It really feels like stumbling around in the dark.
Dungeons and Dragons
D&D can be extremely daunting. It still is to me. It’s pretty absurd how much thought has gone into this game. I would say if possible, try and find someone with experience DMing and see if you can set up a group to play with. If that doesn’t seem feasible and you’re an adventurous type, go ahead and try your hand at DMing yourself. You can change things up however you see fit and play the way you want to play. The amazing thing about D&D is that you’re able to play any kind of game and any story you want. It’s a try open-world for you and your players.
My current addiction right now. Gloomhaven has won numerous awards over the past couple years and deservedly so. I’d describe it as a fully built D&D campaign with its own unique style. If you think you’ve seen a big board game, you’ve never seen Gloomhaven. Clocking in at around 20+ lbs and sporting thousands of different pieces (Mostly cards), this game is a monster. It’s a bit on the pricey side at ~$110, but it could last you a year of game-play EASILY even if you played 1 or 2 sessions a WEEK. My number 1 recommendation for sure.
If it has been a while since your last board game session, I highly encourage you to get a group of friends together for a game night and whip out something new and exciting like one of my recommendations. There’s countless hours of fun packed into these games and it’s a brand new experience from the classic games. It’ll really give you a new perspective on Table Top Gaming. I’m excited to build my Table Top repertoire, especially with more legacy style games. There’s so much fun in unlocking new items, rules, and trinkets. The element of surprise really seals the deal. I think I’ll slowly begin to add on to this list over time, either within this post or in new posts later on in the year!