An Introduction to Tabletop Gaming (a.k.a.–How I met my Wife)


There are two qualifications for enjoying a board game.
Qualification #1: You like to have fun.
Qualification #2: You are a human being.
Great. In a few sentences, we have destroyed the age-old stigma that board games are not for everyone.
I love tabletop games. My addiction began in October 2014. I secretly listened to board game podcasts on my commute, visited Boardgamegeek and /r/boardgames daily, and wondered quietly how in the world thousands upon thousands of games existed that weren’t called Monopoly or Settlers of Catan.
Sixteen months later, I still can’t believe how deep this hobby is. Dozens and dozens of genres, hundreds of brilliant designers, and countless people who flock to conventions every year. (I’ll come back to this.)
Tabletop gaming is huge, and it’s growing exponentially.

Quick Story

One of my good friends has the story you might have. Once a month, her family would gather for game night. Naturally, their games of choice were Dominoes, Monopoly, or choose-your-own-card-game (rummy, gin, bridge, etc.). Five minutes in, and family members were already tearing each other apart, shouting phrases like, “You cheated!” and “No, only tax money goes onto the free parking space!” It aggravated her so much that she would fake sick and hide out upstairs to “nap.” Wise girl.
Mexican Train Dominoes on a table

Actually called Mexican Train Dominoes.

Anyway, years of this built up a tall wall against cardboard and plastic bits, and she had developed a deep distaste for board gaming. Who wouldn’t?
Years later, she would cringe at the mere mention of anything related to board games. Someone name dropping “Catan” in the hallways at college would bring back horrid memories of monthly game nights past.
Finally, she found a boy. She liked him, but he was obsessed with the Board Game Geek Top 100. He was a fan of critically acclaimed cardboard masterpieces, and dreamed of finding a woman who would love and support his career of Starcraft II professional gaming. After months of “he said, she said,” they tried a date.
She looked forward to homemade Chef Boyardee pizza, and watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He really just wanted someone to play three-hour, cold-war simulating, strategy game, Twilight Struggle. Ah, but her old repressed memories of board and card games fought back. In the end, her feelings of affection overpowered her, and she said to herself, “I can, and I will do this. I have far too many butterflies in my stomach to say no to him.”
Twilight Struggle on a table

And by the fourth game, you finally begin to grasp how your opponent plays.

So she learned. An hour after learning rules for this complicated #1-rated strategy game, she took a bathroom break, returned, and was promptly stomped by the Soviet Union. Not enough reinforcements in Europe. The USSR took over the world with their communist tendencies.
Strangely enough, she enjoyed it. She tried another game called Dominion. Before long, she was involved in a weekly game group. She liked the strategy. She liked the critical thinking. She liked the social interaction.
Story time is over. Who knew I would find my wife after subjecting her to one of the deepest, most acclaimed games in the industry?
I tell this story because it could be yours.
This is a hobby that breaks capitalism. It gets beyond the Milton-Bradley mainstream games that line up the shelves at Wal-Mart. It teaches you patience as you learn to explain rules to people glued to their smart phones. It shows you restraint as you try desperately not to overspend on your gaming budget to acquire the latest hotness, when you already have 12 games that haven’t been opened. It pleads with you to invite that socially inadequate co-worker, who might just need some friends, to your weekly game group.
I’m obsessed with this hobby. There is too much to gain from it. It can apply to almost every person you know, in some way or another.

What Comes Next?

In the coming weeks and months, I aim to write up informative reviews for popular, gateway, and random board games that I think are worth talking about. I also hope to help you grasp an understanding of the many facets and answer the many questions you might have about tabletop gaming, but didn’t know how to ask, including:
  • 2-Player Games
  • Board Game Acronyms
  • Board Game Geek
  • Choosing Games
  • Conventions
  • Designer Board Games
  • Game Mechanics
  • Gateway Games
  • Genres
  • Party Games
  • Podcasts
  • If I like this game (Monopoly), what hobby game would I like
These things said, let’s dig in, and learn more about the captivating world of modern board gaming.

Chris Hecox

Chris enjoys the simple things in life, like teaching his wife the newest review game, looking up Ketogenic recipes, and playing 10 hour long indie games on Steam. If he's not thinking about the oil drum components from Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, playing Player Unknown: Battlegrounds with his college buddies, or dwelling on the release of Daredevil Season Three, he's probably shooting or editing video, because that's what he does for a living.

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