Yesterday I had the opportunity to take some time off work and play a couple of games with friends. There is something delightful about spending a day playing instead of the normal gaming night where you only really get a couple of hours to get through a game. You don't feel rushed and you can take your time learning your latest addition. On this occasion I got to play Viticulture for the first time and Blood Rage for the second time. Whilst playing both these games I was able to observe my thoughts, emotions and behaviour, which sounds a little like a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) activity.
Playing for the first time
Viticulture is a Worker Placement/Hand Management game for 1-6 players and set in pre-modern Tuscany. Each player has inherited a meagre vineyard with a few plots of land, workers and bits of equipment. Your aim is to become a successful winery. The box, board and cards have gorgeous artwork and I think I may have to add this to my collection when I've finally purchased the other 20 games on my wish list. I had the privilege of playing this game for the first time with Craig Davies of "The UTG" (The Ultimate Tabletop Games) who has a YouTube channel teaching and reviewing games. Watching Craig read a rule book is interesting; you can literally see the game play on his face! He will put the rule book down and say "This is going to be good one." How someone can understand a game that quickly is amazing. Anyway, Craig talks through the rules, discusses the great wine production mechanism and offers us some simple tips.
Having Dyslexia affects the way people learn and I find simply listening or watching a demonstration often isn’t enough for me to understand the game. I personally have to get in the mix and play and learn at the same time. This may be frustrating to other players as I often have to ask questions as we go along; however, on this occasion this was completely fine. I may have been feeling stressed as we started the game because I hadn’t fully grasped it, but that doesn't mean I wasn't enjoying it. However, it did make me take actions in haste and I couldn't seem to develop a strategy. Viticulture's board is split up into 2 phases: you have Summer and Winter to plant, harvest, produce and most importantly sell your wine. The game has a lot of depth and I just couldn't seem to get past Summer. It took me half the game to grasp that side of the board and by the time I understood the Winter side, the game was over.
Playing for the second time
After playing Viticulture, we played Blood Rage: an area control game by my favourite designer Eric Lang. It is for 2-4 players. In this game you are a Viking Clan where you have a leader and warriors that invade and pillage villages. You may be drawn into a battle with another Clan, fighting for Glory. This was my second time playing this game and even though I believe this is a great entry game for people new to the hobby, I still struggled picking it up. Having played it before I actually felt excited to see it at the table again. You can probably finish the game in an hour due to the pace and adrenaline this game produces! This time around I had a plan and felt comfortable playing and at one point in the game I played standing up as I couldn't hold my excitement in. The difference in my behaviour and enjoyment playing it for the second time was dramatic. I remember saying to a friend the first time playing it that I wasn't sure about the game and the jury was still out; I just didn't think it was a game to add to my collection. After the second play, Blood Rage is now on my list as one of the top most enjoyable games with high adrenaline action.
"It's not you, it's me"
Mindfulness is a technique involving deliberately focusing on ones awareness in the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting thoughts, feelings and body sensations. It’s a form of meditation. You can practice this technique anywhere and doing anything. I've been doing mindfulness whilst playing board games and I've noticed something interesting....
My opinion of a game is a result of my thoughts directly influencing my feelings. I may not like a game purely because of insecure thoughts such as "I'm not getting this game" or "this is too hard for me" or "others seem to be so much better than me at this game". I have noticed this dislike has absolutely nothing to do with the game itself. For example, I struggled with Blood Rage during the first play, but during the second play I stood up in excitement because I had a plan. My confidence led to a change of opinion about the game.
Let the game grow on you
The other day I was looking at the collection of games of another user on boardgamegeek. They had played Agricola over 718 times! Wow - that's a lot of play for a single board game. What if they had written the game off after the first play after finding it too difficult? They may never have played it again. The 717 enjoyable plays wouldn't have happened! Realising that the issue could be me and not the game has set me a challenge and I will be bearing the following tips in mind:
- Play a game at least 3 times before having your opinion set in concrete.
- Be aware of how you are feeling when playing a game for the first time and give yourself a break if you haven't fully understood the game by the end.
- Be aware how you feel when playing a game for the second time. Has your confidence increased? Do you find you have a strategy? How has your opinion of the game changed?
Being relatively new to the hobby I do feel a pressure to catch up with experienced gamers. I have been playing games just once and then moving on to open the next game on my shelf. After thinking it through, I believe it’s time for a slight adjustment to my strategy so that I don’t miss out.
It's time to let games grow on me! Maybe I will end up playing Viticulture 718 times too.
Thanks for reading.