It doesn't look like UPenn is going to have me do anything special today. Too bad! Even though being "happy" like that last week was draining, it provided a darn good story, $5, and I got to learn about myself and life a little bit.
That $5 put me well over the $50 mark for Mechanical Turking, which I cashed in--along with some other credit I've accumulated--for a free copy of Virgin Queen. Not bad for killing downtime for two weeks. No idea when I'll play it. I haven't even played Here I Stand, and I have all the counters sorted out into spiffy little color-coded trays. And I traded it off once so far...for what, I can't remember.
I've mentioned before how I'm kind of a spectator, most of the time, for boardgames. I haven't played nearly as many games as a lot of people have, never mind one game as many times. One couple played Jambo 5000 times! I'm pretty sure I haven't played games against people 5000 times. Even when I was gaming heavily, back in Austin, I would play maybe...fifteen games? Twenty at the outside, and that would mean several small games. That would mean spending about six years playing Jambo, and nothing else. And I hate Jambo.
Anyway, I was struck by something similar with another of my interests. I consider myself a big baseball fan, and if you ask people who know me to make a list of Things Alfred Is, baseball fan is on there for most people. (Although some of you may be surprised.) And I was struck when I read a baseball post from someone my age who has been to over 1000 games at the local ballpark. Good Lord! I've spent my whole life within reasonably easy access of college, minor league, or major league baseball, and I've seen, in person, maybe thirty games. The last game I went to, I watched virtually none of the actual game; my group just sat in the concourse and talked. (It rained like hell.)
That's the social scientist in me, I suppose--a desire, or willingness, to participate by observation and study.
I'm been seeing games called "dry" lately. It's generally considered bad, although (like most such terms) isn't really well-defined. It seems to have to do with setting, predominately. You never see wargames or AT called "dry." Even a game like Popular Front, with forces represented with wooden discs, has to at least be considered "damp." Legend of Drizzt: Sopping.
But it's not quite all setting, it also has to do with how well the setting is portrayed in the game mechanics, and to a lesser extent it has to do with how overdone the setting is perceived to be. Renaissance noblemen? Dry. Egypt? Dry. (Sorry.) Shipping routes in the 16th century spice islands? Dry. Running cursed artifacts from the planet T'sam through the blockade of imperial monitors so you can sell them for a profit in the tekerrt dens of Loz'nge? Less dry.
Anyway, if the setting is perceived to be overdone or just boring, and/or does not fit the mechanics particularly well, that curses a game to the land of the Dry Euros. That's bad. The thing is, many of my favorite games are dry Euros, by any reasonable definition. Taj Mahal has nothing to do with India, at all, other than art. Through the Desert. (Sorry.) Same with Qin, which in computer form is becoming a favorite light exercise. No China there, at all. What about all the card games? Res Publica, Trendy, Lost Cities, for heaven's sake. Some of you might be seeing what I'm doing here.
But I love them! They don't seem dry to me at all. Of course, I don't really count since I think of "dryness" differently, as something to do with the mechanics. It is essentially impossible to be "drier" than an abstract, especially one with a plain board and plain identical pieces, but I have lots of games like that, and they make me think in interesting ways. I like what go and Yinsh and Zertz and the like make me do, intellectually. Bamboleo has no theme at all, and all the pieces are simple geometric shapes (basically), but I defy anyone to call it "dry," with its mix of strategy and skill. (And making fun of your friends' poor grasp (sorry) of physics.) And for a fun, light, game, I'm looking for a certain kind of social interaction, not a certain kind of game. Trendy is a great silly game.
If anything, it's AT and wargames that seem dry, most of the time. In many wargames, the "heat" of your moves is usually very low; either it doesn't matter very much where you put that infantry division, or there are very few real choices. For much of many wargames, you're just fooling around. (I'll have more on this later.)
So I think what we're seeing is a crowd of gamers building more demands on setting. I remember being excited by Eurogames, but it was never "I'm settling an island! This is awesome!" Settlers and all the rest appeal to my puzzle-solving self. And puzzles tend to be dry, to the ordinary sort of person...
Other than getting myself in trouble on BGG, things are frankly not going very well. I'm not sure if this means there will be more posting or less, but there we have it. Changes afoot? Maybe...