How I Became a Board Gamer

Confession: I was not born a board gamer. I became one. Here’s how.

In all fairness, I had good chances to join this lovely hobby. After all, I was born and raised in Germany, home of a thriving board game culture and cradle of the board game renaissance since the 1980s/90s.

Thus, as a child, I had a decent exposure to board games. Pachisi. Monopoly. Cheap board games with pirate and archaeology themes from supermarkets (I had a lot of fun with these, probably more than anyone else in my family).

The cover of my old 90s copy looked different, of course. I still have that copy. Well worn. Well loved. Image ©KOSMOS.

Yet the first game that truly lit the fire in my heart was… Catan (Klaus Teuber, KOSMOS). Yes, I’m a basic bitch. #sorrynotsorry. I played it at a friend’s place, and even though we didn’t even finish the game (the evening was late, and we were picked up to go home), I could not stop thinking of it for weeks. After going to bed, I lay awake like Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit, just that instead of chess, my imagination was running wild with hex grids and streets spreading out over them.

I also played my fair share of chess games, but I never got quite so excited about it as about Catan.

My love for games had been kindled. Yet without too many friends interested in board games, it remained a rather theoretical love. Things changed in my mid-teens, when some friends and I started experimenting with game design. The first attempt at a civilization game suffered from the rookie’s desire to stuff in everything that was vaguely interesting. A year later I produced a much leaner game based on secret negotiation and writing down of moves (in that regard similar to Diplomacy (Allan B. Calhamer, Avalon Hill), even though I’d never played that one) which proved robust enough to get played for the next five years.

Frederick the Great has sprung a trap on the unsuspecting Karl von Lothringen the last round. Now, the iron jaws of Prussian armies close around the hapless Austrian.

In terms of commercial games, I happened upon Friedrich (Richard Sivél, Histogame), and, as a history nerd, was entranced by the very first game I saw that took history seriously instead of just using it as window dressing. Friedrich remains one of my most-played games ever to this day, and I’ll never turn down a chance of playing it. I regard myself still good enough at it to have written a little strategy primer for Prussia.

In addition to these heavy-ish strategy games, I also met with bigger groups of more casual gamers (who would probably have not named themselves gamers) – The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow (Philippe de Pallières/Hervé Marly, Asmodee) was a particular favorite there. Other nerds introduced me to role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and The Dark Eye.

Pro tip: Bite/execute the most annoying members of the group first, no matter if they look dangerous. Saves you trouble later on. Image ©Asmodee.

When I left my hometown for university, board gaming ceased almost entirely for me. My gaming friends from home also dispersed into the four winds, and at university I did not know any other board gamers at first… or so I thought. Turned out that two of the first friends I made there were both into board games, and once we had found that out about each other, regular (and often epic) gaming sessions ensued – from A Game of Thrones (Christian T. Petersen, Fantasy Flight Games) to whichever new eurogames one of us had gotten.

The dominoes are falling in Southeast Asia.

Beyond thematic/American and eurogames, I stumbled over another type of games when I was just about to finish my B.A.: Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games) blew my mind with its dedication to history far beyond anything I’d ever seen. My historical conflict simulation days were about to begin in earnest. Two years after discovering the game, I began my M.A. thesis on the Cold War in board games, and not so long after, started this little blog here.

How did you become a board gamer? Which games shaped your gaming biography? Let me know in the comments!

Games Referenced

Pachisi

Monopoly (Elizabeth J. Magie, Parker Brothers)

Wild Pirates (Jürgen P. Grunau, Ravensburger)

Das Geheimnis der Pyramide (Thomas Schuster, Espenlaub)

Catan (Klaus Teuber, KOSMOS)

Diplomacy (Allan B. Calhamer, Avalon Hill)

Friedrich (Richard Sivél, Histogame)

The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow (Philippe de Pallières/Hervé Marly, Asmodee)

A Game of Thrones (Christian T. Petersen, Fantasy Flight Games)

Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games)

14 thoughts on “How I Became a Board Gamer

  1. Paul Hodson

    Airfix soldiers – inventing rules with them – then finding WWII rules, issue by issue, in Military Modelling in the school library in the early 70s. For board games, in the 6th form some other boys played SPI Frederick the Great, which I then played to destruction (of the Frederick counter’s legibility).

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    1. cliosboardgames Post author

      Great to see our foray into historical board gaming started with Frederick! …and school is probably the only period in one’s life when time is so abundant (and money so scarce) as to play a game to bits 🙂

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  2. Paul Hodson

    Oh and I realise I didn’t actually answer for board games as opposed to wargames. They were there from the beginning. Monopoly is terrible of course but then there was Buccaneer, Careers, The game of life, Explorer (??)…

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  3. Pingback: Farewell 2021! – The Best on the Blog | Clio's Board Games

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