Meet “The Husband”!

Hello Readers,

Well, every other contributor wrote a profile article, suppose I should crank out one. I am “The Husband,” here’s hoping you find the aimless prattling about my the more hobby-centric portions of my life interesting. Either way, let’s kick thing’s off, shall we?

Due in no small part to my (almost 6 years older than me) brother, I’ve had an interest in “geek culture” since even the most early of my memories. I grew up playing on an Nintendo Entertainment System, reading comics, and playing parlor games with my family. During every family gathering (of which there were A LOT), I was forced onto a folding chair to be slid into whichever side of a card table needed a warm body in order to “fill out numbers.” Odd evenings spent being inundated with long diatribes about how my generation were a mouth breathing herd of degenerates…and being viciously obliterated at games of Skip-Bo (Mattel) or Phase 10 (Mattel). My initial impression of table top gaming was being voraciously descended on by 30-70 year olds whom wanted to impart on me some manner of comeuppance.

…I assure you, it gets better.

When I was much younger, my brother would take me on excursions to our friendly local comic shop, upon occasion…whenever my Mother would proclaim that she was weary of looking at her “little mistakes.” I swear, that joke gets funnier with time…no? O-okay… Regardless, this particular shop was my initial gateway to multiple things that would heavily influence my life. My first comic, first manga, first anime, and my first table top game that was all my own!

See, this shop generally kept primarily to selling trading cards and (the gorgeous and all too confusing for my young brain) Magic the Gathering (Wizards of the Coast) as its gaming contingent. However, one day I stumbled into the corner of the store furthest away from my precious “DC Dollar Bin…” and there it was… a wall of composed entirely of baggie games! That’s to say, games that were packed into moderately sized baggies, in lieu of boxes. As I scanned the wall, one game in particular caught my eye: Ogre – Pocket Edition! (Steve Jackson Games) Featured on its cover was a large, futuristic, hovering tank volleying bombs every which way but loose! My young brain was enthralled with the prospect of bombing the ever lovin’ ass out of everything! What’s more…it only cost $2.95! My brother, seeing an opportunity to circumvent possible begging, purchased the game for me…under the agreement that I shut up. It only took 3 bucks to buy me off as a child…oh how little has changed.

As I went through my preteen and early adolescent years I found myself drifting towards athletics, video games…and girls. Sure, I tried the occasional game here and there, sampled Settlers of Catan (Mayfair Games), played the occassional nondescript RPG, and the occassional collectible card game. But, primarily my hobbies were left in the electronic realm. Fast forward to age 18…when I suddenly became a Father of three. Now, it’s a safe assumption that children like video games, but there’s some connection that’s simply lacking on a digital medium. And that’s when I decided to give parlor games a try…I never knew Skip-Bo wasn’t terrible! It also helps when I’m the person verbally assailing the other players: “I haven’t seen such a crappy move since the last time I had to change your diaper! HA!”

My return to the hobby didn’t occur in earnest until I met my Wife, the blog author with whom you readers are so well acquainted. See, she encouraged me to seek out my interests and enjoy all of the things in life there weren’t previously available to me, for any number of reasons. I got back into comics, anime, and table top gaming. Less than a year after we initially became a coupling, I was already sonically berating her during games of Skip-Bo! Loyal readers, it was true love. Due to lovely programs like Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop and Tom Vasel’s Dice Tower channel, I had an amazing insight into the hobby that once intrigued me so much as a kid…and now financially cripples me as an adult.

Now my days consist of violently pacing around my table during a game of Disc Duelers (Level 99 Games), accusingly pointing at the horrible person who totally obstructs Las Vegas (anarchistic jerkfaces!) during a game of Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder), or weepily staring bullet holes through the person who purchased the only large building that would allow me one final sliver of hope for victory in Puerto Rico (Rio Grande Games). Needless to say, I love it!

This hobby is a phenomenal one, filled with the highs of ravenously gathering up victory points one game, to the monumental lows of hearing the thunderous roar of your large Nordic friend (KYLE!) bellowing “Wu-Tang” as another player (SAM!) manages to Kill Doctor Lucky (Cheapass Games) with an overly tight hat. But, you know what’s even more phenomenal than this hobby? Having family and friends to share it with…and to verbally berate.

Thanks for reading.

– The Husband

Meet The Bartender!

Hello Internets!

I figured I’d introduce myself to the blog fans, I’m J. I’ll likely be doing some behind the scenes stuff here, with an occasional article. I’d still like to introduce myself as part of the growing crew here, and as part of the board game table (you could call me The Bartender since I’m always bringing and making the drinks). I wanted to write an article about board gaming and a bit my history with it.

What a lot of people know about me is that I love video games, but they don’t really know that even younger I had a love of board games too. Friends of mine never cared for board games- so I was left playing video games alone or occasionally with family. I don’t have too many memories of my childhood (I blame that concussion I got in college) but one I do remember is playing Payday with my step dad.

If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a classic from the 1970s. You play on a month with 31 days, where bills and other things rack up. At the end of the month you get your salary and have to pay off all those bills that racked up that were unexpected or taken on in trying to earn more cash- by buying properties and the like. In retrospect it was similar to adult-life but without crying myself to sleep every night. The crushing reality was surprisingly still there though.

I didn’t play much else growing up. The occasional hated Monopoly game, the forgettable Yahtzee. The stuff they let you play in class with an educational twist (though I have to say, Spanish Scrabble is a lot more fun than regular English Scrabble). I got into trivia style games late in high school, but due to having a tendency of being able to guess the answer out of nowhere- no one wanted to play very often. In college there wasn’t many board games- mostly just Smash Bros, an N64, and the closest we got to board games in Cut-throat Uno and Euchre. I think maybe there was a Game of Life and a Family Feud the board game somewhere in there but nothing too exciting.

So when I reconnected with The Husband a few years ago and he asked if I wanted to play board games, there was interest for sure. He knew me as mostly a video gamer, but fast with rules and how things are played. And I’m glad we did. I never knew how much the industry had grown in such a short amount of time, and how much it’s still growing. I’m happy to play some of my faves with new and old friends alike. We’ve had some heated arguments on rules a few times, but there’s still love at the table.

If you’re just starting out like I was a couple years ago and all you know of is something like Payday- some of my faves are Ticket to Ride, Takenoko, Splendor, and my newest in Tiny Epic Galaxies. Don’t get me wrong- there’s plenty of other great titles I enjoy playing, but those are my personal faves for sure. Start slow, with a group one evening you’re free. Bring some drinks like I usually do. And the next thing you’ll know it’ll be 1 AM, and you’ll be asking yourself how many games you guys played that night.

When you stop counting, you know you’re having fun. When you start counting again because it’s not enough games in one night- you know you’re a fan. Until next time, cheers.

J, aka The Bartender

How board games saved my sanity.

Greetings All,

This is a post that I have been extremely unsure in writing, but maybe it will help someone as much as it helped us.

My husband and I had some very unfortunate events happen to us this time last year. We were going through a rough custody case and ended up going several months without seeing our children. During that time, we had no clue what to do with ourselves… we went through a large amount of depression and the thing that helped the most was board games.

We played Ticket to Ride and Castle Panic like they were going out of style. I think it’s quite obvious that it didn’t fix the entire situation, but it was one heck of a coping mechanism and a healthy one at that. Board games exercised our minds and made us interact. I know that there were many days when my husband and I only wanted to curl up in balls and pretend like the world outside did not exist.

I know it most sound silly for me to say “if we can beat this game against all odds, surely we can put the pieces of our lives back together.” Something like that probably seems childish, but you know what it really was to us? Hope. It was a moment in our day where we could conquer this or that and have hope in our life. You’d be surprised at how far a small glimmer of hope can take you. No matter why you have that hope and how you got it, it becomes a powerful thing that can lead you out of your sadness and help you maintain sanity until the storm passes.
I can see how someone would doubt that board games could make that much of a difference, but it did for us.

If you are having a difficult time in life, board games are incredibly helpful. If you are frustrated by the way that things are going competitive games are great, like Ticket to Ride or King of Tokyo. The competitive nature of the games help let out the anger in a more productive manner, you can take a minute to strive hard to beat your competition and even if you do not win… it has taken some of the stress off of you.

If you are feeling alone or sad, cooperative games are perfect, like Castle Panic or Sentinels of the Multiverse. When you work together to reach a common goal, you automatically get a sense of closeness and it’s beautiful.
Our situation definitely called more for co-op games, although we did have our times when we wanted to compete.

We had many late nights with board games, tv shows in the background, and snacks by our side. The more we played our games, the more the two of us bonded. We started to consider board games part of our family and you know what? Well after we got our children back and that storm passed… board games are still part of our family. They’ve helped us bond with our children. We played board games with them before and after the custody battle and that is something that made the transition much easier on all of us. When we got them back, our board game nights made it feel like they were never gone.

Even now, when we have a stressful day or week we play board games to help overcome the stress. It works like a charm every time.
Having gone through sadness with and without board games, I can tell you that they really did make a difference. If you don’t try to relax you end up going through life so serious all of the time.

You know The Game of Life? While I can say that real life doesn’t quite happen the way that it does in that game, the creators weren’t entirely wrong in making a game called Life. I for one consider many pieces of real life to be like a game. I even make up “game plans” for stressful situations and more often than not I do manage to defeat the goblins or dragons and get prizes… like my car getting repaired.

Alright, now I’m just babbling and probably not making a whole lot of sense. My point is that board games are perfect for escaping life for a bit. You can be someone else, lead a different life… for however long it takes you to complete that game and it’s wonderful. I realize that these are things that you can also do in books and video games, but holding a controller is vastly different from moving your game pieces around the board or rolling actual dice as opposed to flicking the controller or tapping a screen.

In all honesty I can’t sit here and tell you for sure that board games will make as big of a difference in your life as they have mine, but what I can tell you is it never hurts to try. The games you play do not have to be the ones I’ve mentioned in this blog. Go out and try Jenga, Monopoly, or even Uno. Don’t let the stresses of life beat you down, take your dice and roll as best as you can. Until next time… Live by the Board.

-livingbytheboard