Wednesday, August 01, 2018

First Impressions - A Primer for Convention Going Gamers on the Eve of GenCon 2018

I'll keep this short, sweet and to the point.

Chances are excellent that your first impressions of the games you play over the next few days (for those of you attending GenCon) will be skewed.

Note: I didn't say "wrong"... I said "skewed".

Here's some of the ways that your view of these games can be "through a glass darkly" rather than "face to face". (Sly Pauline reference for my friends out there in Bibleland.)
  1. Nice people showing you the game - it's easy to confuse your warm interaction with the designer, publisher or volunteer with the actual quality of the game you're being shown.
  2. There are only X copies available - every once in a great while, a game you really love will only be published in small quantities and will require you to jump on it immediately. But the vast majority of the time, if it's worth owning, there will be more available later.
  3. Have to be the first guy on my block! - related to #2, but with the added pressure of being the cool kid who buys all the new hotness. Remember, just because it's new doesn't mean it's good. 
  4. Chronological snobbery - related to #3... new stuff isn't automatically awesome (Cult of the New "beer goggles") nor is it automatically a derivative pallid imitation of a classic (Cult of the Long-Suffering Curmudgeon).
  5. Playing with the wrong rules - long the bane of all convention plays... and even if you aren't playing a booth demo. Wrong rules can cause you to think a diamond is a piece of coal.
  6. Playing with the wrong people - I hated my first game of RA. Due to a particular AP-prone player, it lasted over an hour and a half. When I (much later) finally got to play it in 35-45 minutes, I fell in love. Moral of the story: keep in mind who you are playing/demoing with - the objective is to get the feel of the game, not turn it into a competition to find the winning strategy.
  7. Blinded by the bits - attractive components have managed to cover over a multitude of game design "sins" over the years. Just because it has cool minis does not mean there's a healthy game system under all that plastic.
  8. Other people think it's cool - the BGG Hotness and convention buzz is interesting, but it can be misleading. And, let's be honest - every gamer doesn't love the same things about board games. 
All that said, don't let my "sage advice" deter you from demoing, playing, buying and enjoying games you find at GenCon (or any con, for that matter). Just remember that your first impression may or may not be your long-term verdict on a particular game.