How I Felt Six Months Ago - The Start of a Journey
Pre-lockdown, whenever I walked into a board games shop, I felt out of place, out of my depth. I’d look around wide-eyed at all the boxes that may or may not be something utterly great. I was always drawn to the names I recognised, the safe games; Dobble, Monopoly etc. I recognized these nams though because I had played them before or I had seen them in the supermarket. Now that just ain’t the way to broaden one’s gaming horizons now is it?
An Upside to Lockdown
I know, surprising that subheading - but after much soul searching, I have come up with a postive to the world shutting down. I will say off the bat though that many won’t agree, but hear out my reasoning. It massively benefitted me that board game shops closed. See, I said many wouldn’t agree. But for me, it pushed me towards online games stores, where I can do lots of research into my next buy, and where the fact I don’t “feel” like a real gamer does not matter or hinder me at all!
First New Games of 2020
It took a global pandemic for us to finally crack open our Christmas games - Takenoko and Tokaido. Both were utterly beautiful boxes, I know that because they sat on our side board for 3 months unplayed. Both are Japanese themed, and were our first games with a “real” rule booklet, rather than one of those folded leaflets in 10 languages. Looking back now, I realise that these really were my gateway games. The Accidental Gateways, that have led to me having a borderline addiction to board games, and a definite addiction to buying new games.
So I have always liked board games, we had a collection of maybe 10-20 games, mostly family weight, things like Yahtzee, Cranium, Rummikub, as well as some my partner arrived with like Hive and Pandemic. But, we played games pretty infrequently, mostly just on holiday. We felt out of place in a game store, but knew we enjoyed games. It was a cycle. Which was broken by Takenoko and Tokaido, which is why these are our Gateways.
Bamboo Growing and Eating
Takenoko, which I had bought for my partner after much deliberation. I thought he would like it as it has a tile laying concept like Carcassonne which he had recently bought himself. Controversial opinion 2: I don’t really like Carcassonne. I don’t hate it or anything, just can always think of something I would rather play!
In Takenoko, you choose which action you want to take that turn, a little randomness is brought in by throwing the weathr die. You can lay plot tiles, irrigate them, drawing task cards or moving the gardener or panda to grow or at bamboo respectively. The last round is triggered once someone reaches 20 points, and the winner with the highest points score gets the privilege of being gardener to the Emperor. It’s a really pretty game, the panda is super cute, the game is good and it is quite relaxing to play, I think the theme brings that zen feel. There is a it of player interaction when people move the gardener or panda and scupper all your best laid plans. No malice mind, which I like.
Walking Along a Road Having “Experiences”
The other gateway for us, played the very next day, was Tokaido. We have the Collectors Edition, which has beautiful shelf presence with its lovely bright artwork in the centre of a crisp white box. I chose it for the looks because well the premise of the game does not sound all that thrilling; you walk along a road having “experiences”, eating in inns, taking photos of the views and buying tatt in the souvnir shops. But, it is actually really good. The pieces are for the most part great quality, the mechanism of the player at the back always gets to move I really like, adds a bit more strategy.
Player interaction is quite high, there is for the most part only space for one pawn at many of the spots along the road, so it is easy to mess up best laid plans. There is a neutral pawn addition for the 2-player variant, whch is the only version we have played so far, but we like the game still. Hopefully as resrictions lift we will get it to the table with a few more players!
Feeling Like a Real Gamer
Since playing these two games only 4 months ago, our game library has grown at least three-fold. I’ve got so much passion for knowledge about my new hobby, Iit;s exciting. We have transitioned from not feeling like “real gamers” to being desperate to find local gaming cafes to broaden our horizons further and get a different location to play, with better coffee and much more cake!