Snakes and Ladders: more resolutions

Posted by Craig Roberts on

Snakes and Ladders: more resolutions

It’s now January 2019. Were there any doubt, there’s that constant reminder of the new year in every supermarket in town: aisles of exercise whatnots where once were pies. It’s that Jekyll and Hyde like switch from cake to kale that always reminds me that the holidays are done. Either way, it’s a time of year when many of us engage in quiet reflection, review and forward planning. Traditionally, it’s the time when some of us make resolutions intended to improve our characters and lives. And then finish some more of those leftover pies.

I’ve never been one for resolutions. I think for the past three years, I’ve pledged repeatedly not to buy a new boardgame until I’ve played every one of my current games at least five or more times. I’ve never achieved it. As personal contracts go, it has always been written on cheap tissue paper, torn up and flushed the moment I start to see the weekly stockist pre-order lists coming through for the upcoming year. Each week that goes by, there’s a new shiny shiny that draws my eye: a new theme, a new mechanism, a new iteration on an old idea. I always find a thin justification to abandon the promise – just this one time, and just for this one game – and then go back to it the following month. (I never do.) Kickstarter has also provided the perfect excuse generator. I mean, if I back a game now, it’s not technically acquiring it this year; nor do I count last year’s games when they rock up – inevitably late in the new year – as I didn’t purchase them this year either. (And yes, I appreciate the illogic of this position; at times my thinking is like a snake eating its own tail.)

Having failed to curb my analogue addiction in 2018, I decided to try a ten-by-ten challenge instead (ten games played ten times). Some games faired better than others: Great Western Trail, Orleans, Viticulture, Food Chain Magnate, Star Wars: Destiny (though that one hardly counts!) Yet as is often the way, real life and the cult of the new got in the way, and some games I had planned to include in the challenge languished on the shelf unplayed (Rising Sun, I’m looking at you).

Another resolution, another failure.

To be fair, things did pick up in October when one of the members of Grantham Friendly Gamers suggested a more pragmatic approach. Ian’s idea was to try a gaming ladder: a series of games at different player counts played 3 times each. The intention was to allow us to get the rules for each game down, suss out the decision-making space of each title, and focus on pure strategy and fun rather than endless rules and FAQ checks. Whilst we didn’t complete the ladder in 2018, I’m still hopeful that we will see it through in 2019 and add some additional titles to the mix. Who knows, perhaps some of these games might make it beyond three individual plays.

Regardless, my resolution this year is to make fewer resolutions that focus on my spending, and more resolutions that focus on my playing. It’s a nice distinction, and hopefully one that will feel more positive, engaging and sustainable than my prior annual attempts at outright denial. This year I have resolved to immerse myself in 18XX as a format– certainly a niche within a niche – and heavier games in general. But as I already own some of these, the irony is that I may end up curbing my acquisition disorder anyway.

If only.


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