From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
A post at Quirkworthy caught my attention the other day, about being able to put time back into your gaming hobby, and where to put that time. It got me thinking. As you grow as a gamer (by which I mean grow older) there are more and more calls on your time. There are four things I have brought to my gaming as I have grown older, and for me these have worked fine. I have broadened by gaming in some areas, and slimmed it down in others, depending on where my priorities. lie. I’m also a bit lucky in that I have the opportunity to play card games, board games or miniatures games more or less as I choose.
As you make choices in your gaming, some opportunities open up, others are closed off. In economics, this is known as opportunity cost. If you spend $20 on something, that $20 is no longer available to you to spend on something else. Your choices are defined not just by what you get, but by what you miss out on. With gaming as you grow older, it is more often time that is the subject of an opportunity cost, rather than money. If you spend three hours playing a game, that’s three hours that you won’t be spending playing any other game.
If you decide to get into one game, what are you up for, not just in money, but in time? Miniatures games can be expensive and time consuming, requiring hours of painting before an army is tabletop ready. Card games such as Magic may seem ready out of the box, but deckbuilding is a bottomless rabbit warren (and a big part of the draw for many). Others ignore deckbuilding and look to see the most suitable deck for them, buy the cards, and spend their time playing. A board game may be complete within the box, but if it takes four hours to play and a minimum of six players are needed, how often will it come out of the cupboard? Is it worth the purchase?
The real understanding is knowing your own preferences as a gamer. Once you do, you know where to focus your time, effort, and money for the best return. That sounds a bit dry doesn’t it? But many a frustrated gamer I’ve met over the years is really someone who has not matched their time and effort with their purchasing, and spends too much time lamenting what they didn’t do, rather than enjoying what they are doing.
If you have limited time playing, why waste that time on your second-best option? Or third or fourth? You really need to focus your activities here, and this also means within games themselves. Consider the example of mythical gamer Gary, who gets 20 opportunities to play his favourite tabletop miniatures massed battles game each year. Gary has his favourite army, which his regularly plays. Then Gary decides to buy a second, different army. He now has 10 opportunities to play with each army per year. His second army gets half the play time of the first (as does the first) but that army still cost just as much. Gary is now into the territory of diminishing returns. If Gary decides to buy another two armies, play time per army drops still further, to five times per year. The armies still cost as much, if not more. Then Gary and his friends discover a new miniatures game and start buying armies for that. Play time and return drop almost to zero at this point, unless armies are disposed of. If Gary wants to do this fine, but many gamers end up with too many armies and too little time by not understanding their choices and not focusing.
Being ruthless generally means being ruthless with yourself and your gaming choices. If your shelves are filled with sealed boxes you’ve never opened, and may never open, you haven’t been ruthless enough. Part of focusing is ignoring everything that isn’t the best choice for you – this may involve being decisive, fence-sitters. Divest yourself of those games and activities that aren’t at the core of who you are as a gamer. You’ll be happier, have more fun gaming, and be more fun and engaging as an opponent to others, believe me.
Ever seen one of those gamers with a huge collection – but it’s all for one game, or for one army within that game? See how happy they look in every photo of them and their huge collection? It’s because they have done all of the above, without necessarily needing to think too hard about doing so. People who have 10,000 point Undead armies, or 400 points of Cygnar, or four of every rebel ship for X-Wing, aren’t generally losing sleep at night over not having 2,000 points in six other armies, or Cryx, Khador and Menoth forces, or an Imperial Shuttle. They understand who they are, focus on what gives them the best return, and ignore everything else. IT may sound harsh, but it’s something that is more often done with a smile than a frown.
There’a a big gaming word out there, so jump right in! Does this sound contradictory with ‘focus’ and ‘be ruthless’ because it shouldn’t. This really stems from understanding yourself. It’s easier to approach games quickly when you know and understand where your enjoyment will come from. If you like miniatures but don’t need to collect another huge army, there’s a lot of skirmish games out there to explore. The cost in time and money is lower, and you may find one that fits well with your interests.
Similarly with board and card games, there are just so many options out there, that your expectations may change. Instead of expecting to buy a single game and still be bringing out a battered copy of that game 15 years later, a clutch of games where you enjoy all of them, and each is the ‘best’ choice for a given occasion may well be the way to go. You’ll never know what is out there for you if you don’t look, so put your explorer’s cap on and get out there!
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Nice article and some good points. I was going to reply here, but I thought it more fitting to rely back on Quirkworthy 🙂
I love Internet tennis! Also, thanks for the kind words about the blog.
Excellent post! This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately, how to make the most out the gaming time I have. Personally, I am often able to find time to work on models (one of my favorite aspects of the hobby) a few times a week, but actually playing the games happen much less frequently. And because I end up playing games so infrequently (only a few times a year when I get together with my gaming friends), I find that I do not remember all the rules properly and a lot of time is spent flipping through rulebooks. Often then whatever I learned then gets forgotten in the months that go by before I get a chance to play again.
Eventually I decided to try to learn how to use Vassal, to play some of the games online with some of my friends and have found it to be pretty great. It certainly will not replace playing games with actual models, but I have found it an excellent way to keep up-to-date with rules and keep me excited about games. That way when I do get together with friends, the games we play are better for it. I wrote a little more about it on my blog if you are interested:
Ultimately, I think one of the most important elements, which you bring up in the “ruthless” portion of your article, is knowing what you enjoy most about the hobby and really trying to focus on it to get the most out of your time.
Thanks Eric, I will read your article soon
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The idea of ruthlessness is very familiar to me, but as a post- rather than pre-purchase concept; if something hasn’t been played for a while it doesn’t tend to stick around for long. Focus, though… no. I chop and change ceaselessly, mainly because I’m a mercurial sod at heart and what I enjoy today may be my anathema tomorrow.
I found that a certain ruthlessness in selling on the unused stuff led to the same attitude to purchases… not all at once though. Even recently the blood bowl chaos team and Dropzone Commander UCM army can only be classed as impulse purchases.
Interesting post. The Ruthless part is what stood out to me the most. At this point in my life, money’s not a huge issue. I don’t have unlimited funds, but given enough time, I can pretty much buy whatever I want. Time is of course my limiting factor, as I continue the slow crawl towards the grave.
The thing is, I do have hundreds if not thousands of unbuilt and unpainted figures in boxes, unopened, opened, sorted and unsorted. Since buying a permanent place to live, I’ve been sorting through them all, and since discovering KoW, I’ve been going through so many of those old models – that I kept out of nostalgia simply liking the sculpt and of course a great helping of “I’ll use that for X one day”. The funny thing is that now I’m actually painting them and using them. Not all of them yet in any case, but actively working on 3 fantasy armies and slowly on another 2 – all of which are hitting the table in games I’m hosting with my non-miniature friends (and my wife).
If I’d been ruthless when I decided to put away WHFB/Herohammer for the final time, I’d no longer have many of the old, rare and interesting figures that I have in these forces, and instead would have armies almost solely made of the much more bland mass-produced models of the current age. I don’t value them because of their rarity, but because of the nostalgia, quality of sculpt and character that so many of them have. They are what gives my armies character and make them unique and endearing to me.
So there are two sides to that coin. I’d have saved some space and storage, but I wouldn’t be able to field these lovely forces that are growing around me, and for a pittance of what they’d cost to buy new off the shelf…
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