It’s a 10, except when…

Rob got me thinking about pleasure and games with his comment to my last entry. I’ve been assigning too much importance to the game, and not enough importance to the other players. Its been so long since I gamed with anyone I actively disliked that it hadn’t crossed my mind that playing a game with a certain someone might inhibit my fun.

This is a strong reminder to me about why I only play games with friends, and in private settings.  To be sure, the Bistro game group keeps evolving.  Old players tend to fade away, but new folks tag along with old friends, and we seem to maintain a steady state of a couple of tables of gamers from week to week.  I rather like that the game group has this organic cycle.  That’s not to say I’m indifferent to people fading away – I am a bit sad when folks drop out of the regular rotation.  But my policy has always been to welcome those who come, and to never guilt-trip people to returning.

Details aside, I do truly enjoy the Bistro Players.  Each of them are fun gaming companions.  But to get to the point of my title – WHO I am playing with has a huge impact on whether a “10” is really a “10”.  Now this seems obvious, and I’m convinced most everyone does this – but you gotta select a game that allows everyone participating to have a chance at some fun.

I rate three games a “10” over on BGG:  Planet Steam, 1830, and El Grande.  Wonderful games, and ones I always look forward to playing again.  But even so, they are only a “10” if I am going to play against like-minded strategy gamers.  If my wife were to indicate she would be interested in playing a game, I would never suggest any of these to her.  She has very different tastes in games.  And while I rate these three games a “10”.  I would get no satisfaction playing any of them, if my opponents were not enjoying playing the game with me.

In fact, playing a moderately good game can be elevated to (temporary) new heights in my estimation.  A good example would be my one and only play of Hameln.  A game Rob taught me earlier this year.  We played with two female friends, and the hilarity and camaraderie at the table made this game a real highlight for me.  Honestly, as much fun as I had, I wasn’t tempted to buy the game for my collection.  It was a good game, played with great players.  Or to say it another way, I had a great time playing a good game.

And that’s my point.  I would much rather have a great time playing a good game, than have a miserable time playing a great game.  I think this is where having a reasonably large collection of games can be a real asset.  You need to know your players, and have the knack of proposing games that suit your players’ proclivities.  It is also handy if you are a glib ‘splainer of the rules.

One of the reasons I keep my collection somewhere near 300 games, instead of more, is to be facile about which games I might suggest.  I see people go into overload when they survey my wall of games.  While I own and display close to 300 games, about 1000 have passed through my hands.  Had I kept them all, I would also go into vapor-lock trying to suggest which game should be considered.  Adding to this, I have a varying command of the rules to the games I own, but generally speaking I am decent at explaining them.  But I have my limits, and were the collection 1000 games, many of them would be routinely ruled out as I would be unable to easily explain them.

So what have we learned?  That I over think things, I think…

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