Monday, August 15, 2005


The life of this gamer began in the same way as most Americans--a bland mix of strained peas, carrots, Life, Trouble, Aggravation, and Monopoly. "That's what I ate, and I turned out fine!" Playing games was just another thing I did, but it was nothing special.

By the age of 13, I discovered computers. Input one fairly normal kid. Output one geek. In today's world, a 13-year-old spending hours on a computer is normal. In the mid 70's, it was all but unheard of.

Once the geek was turned on, there was no stopping it. Much more interesting games appeared: Risk, Pathfinder, Code Name Sector, 4000 AD, Stop Thief, Manhunt, Sub Search, Dark Tower, on and on up to the top of the closet. And a little brother who was now old enough to play them with me.

At the age of 15, I purchased my own computer--a TRS-80 Model I. This was very cool for the late 70's. The game designer in me awoke when I programmed the game Pay Day as an exercise. What a disappointment. All you ever did was press ENTER when it was your turn. There were no decisions to speak of. In fact, if I removed the keystroke, the computer could basically play an entire game with no human interaction. After that day, I stopped playing Pay Day.

Then came Axis & Allies and Dungeons & Dragons. These two games took me from high school, through college, and out the other end with no signs of slowing down. 20 years later, D&D has still not lost its appeal.

My first job out of college surrounded me with like-minded geeks. Two of them were very good duplicate bridge players. That got me playing bridge, which got me a permanent bridge partner who ran a Diplomacy 'zine. A game with no dice? Hmm...

Years later at my next job, a co-worker exposed me to Magic: The Gathering, Kremlin, and Advanced Squad Leader--quite the mix. I went ballistic on Magic for a year or two, but never got into serious deck building strategies or collecting. In fact, the constant barrage of expansions is why I stopped playing. ASL hooked me on sheer page count. I bought my own ruleset just to read it in my spare time. We played over lunch for several months, one turn per day.

Then an old friend--the same one who introduced me to bridge--contacted me about playing Settlers of Catan. I had no idea what this was, so I went looking for it online. I found a site at some college that had a Java implementation. We played 10-20 games, but it never really grabbed me. In my prior searches for SoC rules, however, I had bookmarked a site that caught my eye: Board Game Geek.

Board Game Geek? Oh my. They have lots of games here... And rules! And pictures!! And ratings!!! What's this? Puerto Rico? Euphrates and Tigris? Princes of Florence? If these games are so good, why haven't I heard of them before? PR was #1 by quite a bit, so I checked it out. The pictures didn't impress me, but I read the rules regardless. Wow! I had to have this game. I called all over, not knowing that Maine is the opposite of gamers' heaven. One store an hour's drive away had a copy. An hour later I was surrounded by miniatures and Magic cards. I called about Puerto Rico? Ah, the shelf in the back. Apparently, one percent of shelf space was the allotment for board games. There it was, shrink-wrapped and dusty. Walking up to the register with my treasure, I had to run the gauntlet of 15-year-old Magic players looking at me like I was carrying a clay tablet and stylus.

Well, that was a year ago. Since then I have purchased 61 "euro games" and my want list is still growing. I enjoy looking for new games, and reading the rules to games I'll never play, as much as I enjoy playing the games I have. Now I'm a regular on BSW. I chat with gamers on IRC. On BGG I'm posting reviews and articles, and even answering questions for games I haven't played yet. What's next? Oh yeah, this blog...


At 1:32 PM, Blogger John Sherman Hoyt said...


Glad you're posting stuff now, Ek.


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