2011, a year in games as viewed as a downhill motor race*…

*Apologies to Mr. J.G. Ballard for lifting his best short story title ever for this post, but this is the time of year where we are subjected to a bazillion blog posts with the same “Year in Gaming” in the title, so I thought I’d add some starch to mine.  Note bene: this is not my survey of the “Year in Gaming” as an industry, just my own observations about what the year meant to me personally, what I did, and how trends affected me.

So, yes, a year in gaming, where to begin.  I think I’ll start with the stand-out theme of board game acquisition.  As noted in a previous post, we witnessed Z-Man’s mass dumping of older titles on Tanga.com earlier this year, preparatory to  the company being sold.  The Z-Man cash grab on Tanga.com was providential for me– I ended up purchasing4 Z-Man games at bargain basement prices, 1 additional Z-Man game at regular price, and I got another two for Christmas.  I bought two games directly from GMT on P500 and two on one of their periodic sales.  I bought two from Worthington in a bundle deal and another Worthington game from a Boardgamegeek marketplace sale at reduced price.  I bought a bundled two magazine game deal from Against the Odds at a convention, and had some fortuitous finds on various flea market tables– Summoner Wars and Titan: the Arena.   Of course there was the occasional Ebay onesie or twosies but  I’ve noticed that I rarely buy boardgames from Ebay any more, I’d rather deal directly with the publisher if I can, or a reseller if I can’t.

I got these boardgames in 2011:

Yeah. Seeing it all written down like that, you  know what?  I’m cutting back.  I’m cutting waaaaaaaay back.  Not so many acquisitions in 2012.  31 games?  In one year?  That’s ridiculous.  I made a good faith effort to play everything I purchased or was gifted, but I’m going to be at it a while.  There’s just not enough time in the day to devote to it all.   Examining the common themes of my purchases, I see many older titles that are being sold by publishers at bargain prices to either clear inventory for new games.  Not counting Christmas presents, I wouldn’t classify many of those titles as particularly “timely” except maybe the Command and Colors: Napoleonics, Sekigahara, Guns of August and maybe one of the Leader reprints (can a reprint be considered “timely”?).   The result is I’m dipping into last year’s publisher’s backlist at a cut rate.  What’s amazing to me is that these backlist title deals are possible at all.  Publishing is either getting more affordable or else there are some companies publishing at a loss out there.  I saw many, many great titles from just one year ago up for sale on Tanga.com this year.. it got to the point where I just stopped looking, or I’d end up penniless.

The flip side to all this price slashing and dumping was the explosion of publishing that went on in 2011.  This is a subject that has been covered in depth on many podcasts and blogs by the typical board game prognosticators.  I’ve been meaning to get round to writing something about the Great Gaming Glut of 2011, but it’s not going to be included here.  Certainly, the effect of Kickstarter.com on the gaming industry has been pronounced, and I applaud the democratization of publishing, it really is revolutionary.  However, let’s be honest, there’s going to be a downside to this and we’re probably going to see it sooner rather than later.  A lot of games of marginal interest and quality are getting just enough funding to get published and they are going to be added to the EVEN BIGGER GLUT OF 2012 that we are going to all be writing about in January of 2013.  I’ve been noticing games that didn’t generate enough interest to make the publisher’s version of P500 showing up on Kickstarter lately.  Essentially this is a great way for an established publisher to move the risk of publishing a marginal title from the publisher to the potential consumer, so we’re going to see more and more of that in 2012, mark my words.   I’m not a critic of that trend, since some titles that intrigue me are certainly in that category.

I wonder if the Mayans predicted us being inundated in a dark tide of marginally produced boardgames in 2012?

Observations: When it comes to boardgames, I have little or no buyer’s remorse.  I acquired some great boardgames in 2011, and if you’ve been reading along with me over the course of the year, you’ll note that I have made a decided effort to play everything.  I haven’t played each and every one yet, but I have played a ton of them, and will get them all in eventually.  I am especially jonesing to play Quarriors and Merchants and Marauders, which I still haven’t gotten round to yet.  Give me a break, they were Christmas presents.

Writing: So I’m blogging more, and reviewing more, which is a good trend.  I wrote more reviews in 2011 than in 2010, most of them here, some were good, some were pro forma.  I’m not Tom Vasel or anything, I’m just doing it for fun.  I enjoy writing about games and that is a trend that will continue.

Playing: I’m actually playing a lot more than previously.  As far as it applies to me, the other great trend of 2011 (other than acquistion) was 2011 being the year of Meetup.com.  Meetup.com features several incredibly diverse groups in the Northern Virginia area where I live.  Many long established gaming clubs around here (such as NOVAG.com) have taken to Meetup.com like a duck to water, and are experiencing renewed interest as more people are exposed to their activities.  Indeed, I can see a lot of traditional methods of communicating to members such as static websites and newsletters taking a backseat to social media driven resources like Meetup.  And it works!  It’s not like I don’t have choices of where to play and who to play with– I have tons of them, now!  Time is another thing altogether.  Still, it’s an encouraging trend that my son Garrett is getting to an age where he likes to accompany me on a lot of my gaming jaunts.  So I can combine family time with games, and that’s win-win.

Socializing: I went to five conventions and several meetups and two mini-game days in 2011.   I’ve noticed that I am favoring smaller conventions these days over the big mega-cons that are more than I can afford anyway.   I plan on going to Cold Wars, the Williamsburg Muster, Historicon, Fall In, and “The Weekend” this year.  Five is about as much as I can manage in one year.

It’s not all boardgames:  I continued with acquiring Uncharted Seas units and painting them up, and am in the midst of polishing off the Ralgard fleet, as well as making a pirate fleet out of extra imperial humans and some airships.  I’m going to run it at a few cons this year.  I got the Ironclads bug pretty bad this year, too.  I have a pretty decent fleet of ACW ships built up in 1:600 scale at the moment.  I picked up Beer and Pretzels Ironclads (mentioned) and Hammerin Iron II (reviewed) and have played both of them. I haven’t (yet) found the perfect Ironclad rules set, but both of the ones mentioned are pretty good for convention games.  I picked up a few SF rulesets, because I have in mind to jump into 15mm science fiction at one point, which I’ll revisit in 2012.  I also picked up the Fields of Glory Renaissance rule set.  I went against my own embargo of Games Workshop, and picked up Dreadfleet, but in my own defense, before you get haughty with me, I did pick it up from a brick and mortar store not affiliated with GW, and the owner is a friend of mine, Baxter Key.  So there.   I’m still daunted by the models at this stage.  (I am not counting Dreadfleet as a boardgame, or really even as a hybrid.  It’s not either of those, it’s a miniature game).

Tablet Games: One element of gaming that has been on the upswing for me is acquiring and playing boardgames that have been ported to IOS games.  This is the third great theme for 2011 as it applies to me personally.  It was The Year of the Ipad game.  I have hesitated to list or outline what games I liked and didn’t like in a year end review, because I’m frankly embarrassed about how knee-jerk I was in purchasing a bunch of them last year– they are so affordable, it’s like tasty gaming crack cocaine.  I picked up an Ipad 2 about midyear and I’m very happy with it.  I had been considering getting a regular Android tablet instead, but in the interests of full disclosure, it was the fact that so many boardgames are being converted to the Ipad over the Android that sealed the deal for me.  I’m not sure if purists could consider this the same thing as acquiring the games themselves, but I did pick up games that I did not have in paper format, or had never played in paper format, and played them in electronic form.   That’s an interesting trend, don’t you think?  I’m quite taken with this trend, and have played and reviewed a few Ipad boardgame conversions– this will probably be another post entirely if I get round to it.  I reviewed Loot and Scoot (recently) and several others over the course of the year.   That’s a trend that will certainly continue.  I consider the Ipad and Android tablets to be an important element in the future of boardgaming.  I wish we could start seeing miniature wargaming utilities and game assists for the Ipad and Android, this is an area that has been sadly neglected.

In summary, what’s up for the new year: More small intimate conventions.  Avoiding getting sucked into the Great Mayan Gaming Glut Apocalypse of 2012.  More Ipad based games that can play other people over the internet.  More Meetup events.  More painting of miniatures.  I plan on enjoying myself, and spreading the word as best I can.  I’ll see you round the table in 2012.

One response to “2011, a year in games as viewed as a downhill motor race*…

  1. You don’t need to cut back on you game acquisitions.
    I was thinking the same thing earlier this year. But then I realized I got my games because I wanted to. Because they were all great games and they were worth owning them.