“Gametes” Update

Since my last post, the Gametes have  collected quite a collection! Using Gofundme.com, we raised over $200 in cash, as well as over $200 in games. Companies and stores from all over sent games to the high school to supply our little club.
The experience has been very humbling to me. When people gather around a common hobby and experience, there are good things that can occur. I shared our club’s fundraiser with several communities of which I’m a part. Not only did that experience supply our club, but it inspired others to start similar clubs.
Our club is growing and young people are playing games together. It has been a great destresser for me after school, and I hope it is the same for them.

Stress-Causing Factors at the Table

Last time, I wrote about how games can (and should) be a way to relieve stress. There are certain ways to play games to help you do that. For some, games can be a source of stress. There are certain stress-causing factors to avoid when playing games. Not everyone needs to avoid these. These are things you “learn as you go.” After years of gaming, I’ve learned a few things.

Analysis Paralysis (AP)

For some folks, the number of decision to make at once can be paralyzing. They want to do something, but they’re unable to commit. Some of it is fear of loss of course, but much of it is hard to qualify. I tend to go by the axiom, “Lose fast and play again,” but for many, this isn’t an option. The decisions are too much, and that leads to long turns and frustration. If this is you, pick games that have a low decision density or lower “weight.” Work up to more complex games as your decision-making improves. Table Downtime I link this one with the one above. This is one of the most frustrating factors for me in playing games. Sometimes, it is about the design of the game. Most of the time,

Table Downtime

I link this one with the one above. This is one of the most frustrating factors for me in playing games. Sometimes, it is about the design of the game. Most of the time, however, it is about the people who are playing it. I’ve solved this a few times by choosing who I play with. Other times it may not be that easy. A simple strategy would be to first make sure you plan out your next turn. Also use the time to learn the board and consider what your opponents strategy might be. This has helped me many times not only to become a better gamer, but to help my friends who suffer from AP.

Non-game Talk

This is a bother for many folks. They have sat down to play a game, not talk about baseball or the latest Kickstarter game. This has a lot to do with group ethos. If your group allows for this, it probably doesn’t bother you. But if you have one or two folks who can’t be quiet during your turn, it can be frustrating. One solution is to stop playing with those people. If that solution isn’t socially viable, then either join the conversation or politely ask them to stop. This is a hard one because of the delicate balance found in some groups. This is another one that is hard for me. Good luck! What are some things that stress you out while playing games?

Games as Destressers

Every person experiences stress sometime in their life. Stress can come in many forms, whether the problem is real or perceived. People have developed lots of ways to combat stress, from sensory deprivation to working out. For me, a major source of de-stressing is gaming. In a study performed by Real Networks, researchers measured the effects of “casual gaming” on stress. Their findings are what you might think: games relieve stress. They defined casual games as “non-violent games that are simple to learn and difficult to master, and categorized as games that players can leave and pick up again easily.” This applies to many, but not all, board games I’ve played. Below are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years when it comes to playing board games as a destresser.

Adjust your Approach

The most important part of destressing with games is coming at them in a relaxed manner. Are you bent on winning? Is the perfect game always on your mind? Gaming as relaxation may not be for you then. If you answered “no” above, then games can be a great source of relaxation. Games are a way to enter into a world that doesn’t exist and do things you couldn’t do in real life. It’s a fantasy – even if it is realistic. It is a release from actual cares. If that is your mentality going in, it will help.

Vary your Play

Rather than coming at a game attempting to have the best possible strategy, adjust your play to try different things. Some games allow for this more than others. Again, it has to do with your original approach to the game, but if winning is the main goal of the game, then trying alternate strategies could be a great way of exploring the game. There are few more relaxing activities that playing through the many facets of a deep board game.

Choose Your Group Wisely

When playing games this way, it is important to make sure your group understands the low-stress environment. In many groups, this is likely unspoken. Every group has their try-hard types, but most groups are able to tame them by example. If there are those who must win at all costs and will make your experience less than fun, play with someone else. There are times to play for keeps, and there are times to play for relaxation. If you’re like me, the latter is always true.

The “Heavy” Games – How to Approach Them

There are certain games that the gaming world calls “heavy” games. We call them heavy because they have more complex rules and longer play times. These are my favorite type of game for a few reasons. I like investing in a game for a few hours – watching it develop and change. I also like the reward of seeing a strategy work. There is even some satisfaction in trying bad strategies for kicks.

I decided to write on heavy games because of my family’s “100 Game Challenge.” contains several heavy games. Many folks have commented, saying things like, “Your family plays some heavy games!” They’ve also added, “I wish I could get my family/group into games like that.” My family does tend to play heavier games because I do. To groups that want to up the complexity at the table, I have a few tips. 

Increase Nice and Easy

Every game fits in a particular category of games like “worker placement” or “deck builder.” In that category, there are going to be lighter games and heavier games. Start with lighter games in that category and move up. If you want to play Agricola, you may want to start with Lords of Waterdeep or Champions of Midgard. You aren’t sacrificing quality with those great games, but you are building skills. Those skills will help your group ease into Agricola or others like it much easier.

Plan to Play Twice

With heavy games, there can be many rules with thick rulebooks to go with them. Some rulebooks aren’t the most helpful either. When you group decides to play a heavy game, plan on playing it at least twice in a row. If you have time to do it back to back, that’s great. If not, plan on playing it at your next session. This gives you more familiarity with the rules and mechanics. It also allows you to immediately correct the mistakes you are bound to make in the first play through.

Play to Learn

For heavy games, your group should call the first play through a learning experience. Some people are more competitive than others – this we know. Your group would do well to suspend the competition for a game or two. Instead, walk through each others’ turns and even help one another make decisions. This seems like a bit much for some, but I promise the experience will pay dividends. It also builds a spirit of helpfulness in the group, which is much better than other vibes a group might produce. What is your favorite heavy game and why? How has your group approached playing them?

What is your favorite heavy game and why? How has your group approached playing them?

100 Game Challenge – Update and Advice

My family has been on Spring Break this week. When mom and dad both teach, and the kids are all in school, it is a family break. We have played lots of games this week and have progressed our “100 Games Challenge.” To that end, I have some notes and advice.

First, it has been great to play some of the same games over and over. We have lots of games. We don’t play half of them as often as I’d like. This challenge helped us to pick some old ones and new ones, and play them an equal amount. A game like Terra Mystica deserves successive plays to capture its value. Others on the list are similar. While King of Tokyo and Pups are games that we can play lots of times in short order.

One thing I would do differently is to include fewer “heavy” games. We tend to play heavier games as a family, and I forget that isn’t the case for many groups. I would have thrown in a few shorter play time games. Not only could we play more, but it would also give the appearance of traction in our challenge. We are currently still all on board, but if it every gets tedious, the fun is gone. Shorter games might help to keep that feeling away.

Also, I’d suggest tracking your plays someplace. Boardgamegeek.com has a great way to track plays of any game you own. There are also apps gamers have developed for that task. Tracking your plays would help you to understand your families highs and lows in gaming. It might even help with future purchases.

Again, all in all, we’re enjoying the Challenge and will continue it until it is complete. I’ve already got my mind on the games I would play next.

Heartland – April Update

I made two major decisions about Heartland this week. First, I decided to step away from it until school is over in mid-May. Next, I decided that I am not going to self-publish. I am happy with both decisions, and both have given me rest.

The decision to step away from the game wasn’t hard. I’m piled with work from school. Sunday’s also continue to come around as do the sermons I preach on them. I was finding my desire for game creation was very low and I found myself getting discouraged. I knew then it was time for a break. I took the question to a group of designers – about whether I should step away – and they agreed. Their general consensus was that most games take lots of time to come about. There are no quick successes with game design. It is the slow-but-sure-slog that gets it done every time. I’m going to take a break from the slog to get my real work done and remain excited.

The decision to step away from self-publishing was hard. For some reason, Kickstarter had become the pinnacle I wanted to achieve. I watched other creators do very well and run great campaigns, and it became the dream. A common thread emerged from that group of creators – time, time, and time. This is something I’m not as blessed with, or I’m unwilling to give up. I could work more, but I’d have to sacrifice things I currently do that are not work. I’m not willing to do that. My family, my personal fitness, and my sanity are more important. I’m glad those guys can pull it off and I’m happy for them, but I can’t do it. It would drag me down with it. I’ve decided to talk to publishers that I align with on production level and audience.

I recently sent my game for a company to review. It was a giant step for me, but and exciting one. Even if they tell me my game needs lots of work, the process will be well worth it. I’m learning more and more in life that the process is better for me than the product.


“Gametes” Needs Your Help!

In an earlier post, I wrote about the board gaming club at the high school where I teach. My students started the club after I told them countless stories of great board games.
Now that we have our club, we need games. We have been using my personal collection, but we need our own games to increase interest. It will also provide the students with some ownership and pride.
To get funds, we have started a GoFundMe project. Please consider giving by clicking here. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section, or my finding me on Facebook.

A blog discussing games, family, and games with family.

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