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Witherle Words

All Fun and Games

By Nick Berry

In my first Witherle Words I talked about my love of gaming that grew from playing cribbage with my grandmother to playing Dungeons & Dragons and other more complicated games within the hobby. If you’ve walked by Witherle Library on a weekday and peered inside my car you might have seen the two large boxes full of board games which I take with me wherever I go. Despite having games at the ready, I never seem to be able to play as often as I would like. You could say I have a healthy obsession.

My gaming collection includes standard chess and cribbage boards as well as award-winning games, Settlers of Catan (see also Star Trek Catan) and Carcassonne. It ranges in difficulty from the simple like Skip Bo to the complex like Betrayal at House on the Hill and the Marvel deck-building game Legendary. Over the summer we hosted weekly programming for what many would consider the classic example of a deck-building game, Magic the Gathering, and by the time this is published we will have had our first meeting of the new Witherle Dungeons & Dragons group.

Games can bring people together, like the cooperative Legendary, or (temporarily) tear friendships apart, see Monopoly or Catan (though I have the weird distinction that Catan actually made me less competitive and made me enjoy games more in the moment). You have party games like Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity to your classic Trivial Pursuit (which now has a different version for practically every franchise you can think of from Disney to Star Wars). Crowds would gather around for hours while chess masters played. Nowadays viewers flock to YouTube channels and Twitch streams to watch people play board games and tabletop role-playing games. Poker tournaments are nationally televised and there are entire conventions that are just about gaming, tabletop and video games alike.

We are in the middle of a tabletop gaming renaissance, where new board games come out every year, from your everyday family games like Uno to the games that only those that have fully immersed themselves in the hobby would know like Twilight Imperium. Crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter, which asks people to back projects in exchange for exclusive perks that won’t be available to customers on the open market, constantly bring in millions of dollars for game designers to release new games or gaming related accessories. I recently backed a Kickstarter for a tabletop rpg based off the animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender that earned over $10 million by the time it had completed.

We have games with mechanics that range from “draw a card and move” to multi-mechanic games which can go for half a day at minimum (make sure hydration and sustenance is at the ready). So, what draws us from the childhood simplicity of Candyland or Chutes and Ladders to games like Catan and Dungeons & Dragons? Does competition or cooperation draw (pun intended) you to a game? Is it about fun, family, desire to destroy your enemies, or all of the above? I will admit while I love competitive games like Catan, the cooperative aspects of games like Legendary or Castle Panic draw me in more these days because not only do they present a situation where you are working with and not against the other people at the table, they have a spark of strategy as you work against the board itself and not each other.