Keep Yer Freaking Bordgame Burnout to Yourself!

At this time of year, everyone is looking back at the previous year and making all sorts of judgements about how good a year it was for our hobby.  And almost without fail, you’ll find a number of crotchety boardgame “luminaries” whining and complaining about what a crappy year it was and how there’s nothing new or innovative going on and how these new-fangled games these days are just mash-ups of mechanics (or even worse, they call ’em “mechanisms”) that were already stale and how there’s too many games out these days anyway so someone should do something about that and bring me some lintament for my rheumatism while yer friggin’ at it!

Just shut the freak up!  Keep your ennui, burnout, disillusionment or whatever the heck else is going on between you and the boardgame hobby to yourself!  I can understand that the scene may look a little stale after 10 or 15 years in the hobby, but please, have a little introspection going on to see that maybe, just maybe, your opinion of 2010 and its games has a heck of a lot more to do with you than it does with the them. 

I mean, sure, there are a lot of boardgames coming out these days.  But, contrary to common crotchety opinion, this does not necessarily spell certain doom for the boardgaming industry.  In fact, from all that I’ve read, this “glut” of games is a reflection of the general growth of boardgaming both in awareness and revenue. 

And I don’t doubt that there are a lot more crappy games being released these days, but that’s just because there are more total games being released, some portion of which have and will always be crappy.  And the other trend is that the barrier to getting a game published has definitely dropped to some degree (what with methods of independent financing and/or publishing and the increase in small-press game publishers), so that segment of the market may be a little less polished than those that come through more traditional channels.  But, just as always, the best games will rise to the top and the publishers that make them will have success.  

So what about the whole “nothing original” mumbo jumbo?  It’s a load of bull, too!  First of all, is there really anything truly original and innovative in the world anymore?  But think about it this way: Star Wars pretty much nailed that whole sci-fi/space opera thing, so there’s no real need to make another sci-fi movie, right?  Of course not; do’t be stupid!  What’s important is how well a new movie, or new game, deals with developing familiar ideas.    

And what’s so freaking bad about games that mash together “old” mechanics?  The mere fact that a game has mechanics you’ve seen before does not mean that it isn’t good!  Sometimes, heck, a lot of times, the new game actually does it better than the original game did!  Or you might find, if you give it a chance, that the way those old mechanics are put together actually results in a rather new or interesting experience.  At some point, I’m sure that there were people who complained about how chocolate was perfectly good on its own and didn’t need to be mashed up with peanut butter, and they were stupid too! 

I’ve rambled on too much already (it’s time to tell myself to shut the heck up!), but let me finish with an impassioned plea.  It’s totally okay to have opinions either way about games.  If you are tired of games that all seem the same and you don’t want to bother with them, you are perfectly justified to feel that way and to avoid them.  But please, be self-aware enough to realize that your opinion may not actually be a reflection of the games themselves, and therefore please restrain yourself from spraying negativity all over those of us who still have some excitement about this hobby! 

Whew!  Glad that’s out of my system…


  1. Paul Lister

    ..and yet dissalusionment with 2010’s offerings opinion might be as much a measured reflection of the merits of games released in 2010 as a expression of boardgaming ennui. Just as much as the wanting to like the latest and new is a mind set. What i find strange is you are asking some one to shut up who has not spoken yet. What does that tell you about yourself?

  2. Chris Norwood

    But they have spoken.  This is an open response to a few people on blogs and podcasts that I’ve already encountered who were badmouthing 2010 and its games, but who (to me at least) came across as sounding thoroughly burned-out on boardgaming in general.  From the way they were talking, I doubt that any crop of games would have satisfied them. 

    Could someone more or less objectively make a case that the games of 2010 were not that great?  Of course.  All I’m asking here is that before you rail on the industry/hobby in general, at least consider that your opinion may be colored by your overall excitement level (or lack thereof) about boardgaming.

    Because the pendulum swings both ways.  I keep track of the stats for our game group, and it’s always interesting to watch how people that are truly new to modern boardgaming rate games.  At first, they rate almost every game as an 8 or 9, because all of the concepts and mechanics are new to them, and because these games tend to be so much better than the mass-market games they’re used to.  But then, as they gain more and more experience, ratings begin to drift downwardas their taste becomes more and more refined.  Eventually, this refined taste can begin to turn into pickiness, and then maybe even drift into disillusionment with new games if you slip into a period of ennui/burnout with the hobby.

    Thankfully, after 4 years of hardcore boardgaming, I’ve still managed to avoid any sort of burnout.  Hopefully that will continue!

  3. Paul Lister

    Name ’em. I listen to Dice Tower, Doug Garret and the Spiel and i don’t hear any negativity about 2010 in these.

  4. Chris Norwood

    Paul, how dare you hold me accountable on my own blog!  Don’t you know that this is the internet and that people are supposed to get irate and mouth off about all sorts of unsubstantiated stuff?!!! 

    Seriously, though, I can’t begin to remember which blogs and BGG posts/geeklists I may have picked up negativity from (I read over a hundred), but the big podcasting one was Scott Nicholson on On Board Games episode 55.  Eric actually made my point to some extent in the show, but my brain was already going with this idea. 

    Plus, this post is launching a semi-regular series called “GamerChris’ Freaking Rants”, in which I go off half-cocked on something that irritates me.  They’re sort of intended to be somewhat less balanced and tempered than most of my posts…

  5. Anonymous

    I’m going to assume he is referring to On Board Games.

  6. Paul Lister

    Chris – no problem and we are all alowed a rant from time to time

  7. Paul Lister

    I have now listened to the Podcast – thanks for the link – and i can see where you are coming from. However, i’d say it was less negative, more reflective about the evolution of a gamer.

  8. Keith Carter

    Hear hear Chris, I agree with you… generally. While I have not seen that many posts declaring gaming doom and gloom that amounts to burnout when read between the lines, I have seen posts aimed at coming to a conclusion of doom and gloom in the future of board gaming.

    Oddly this is usually based on the rise in popularity of board games or the increase in the number of titles published. I have seen posts go by predicting all the good themes will get used up, the well of new mechanics will run dry so our gaming experiences will decline in a series of re-mixes, and quality gaming experience will be diluted by the ever increasing flood of new titles which will increasingly include games where the desire to cash in on growing popularity trumps quality design.

    Outside influences have gotten some doom and gloom predictions going too. Things like the iPad being a threat to face to face table top gaming for reasons like non-gaming time creating opportunity costs, video game promotion, and solo board gaming against AIs taking the social out of our gaming. When VideoGameGeek launched I saw some posts about its ability to undermine BoardGameGeek.

    Will there be a call for citations? Will I post them? Yes, if there is interest and I come back across them. I have already invested more time on this than I intended. While I am prepping this post I am not gaming.

    I have heard all of this before with miniatures, war games, role playing games and now modern board games. Me, I just keep gaming and enjoying it.

  9. I echo Keith on this. It’s a cycle. A couple of years ago boardgamers were wishing for an increase in boardgaming popularity. Now that they have it they are complaining about it, wishing for ‘the old days’. We have and are seeing the same in rpg’s. As PDF publishing and blog posting becomes more popular and feasible, more less than good games are available. But at the same time there are some really excellent games that have been published. So you have to take the good with the bad. One good point in the growth is it is growth. Without growth things die. To become too insular is to invite death. New blood is a good thing. I’m relatively new to boardgames. And I’m playing the new stuff AND the old games. T&E, Puerto Rico, Lord of The Rings, Acquire, Settlers are all new to me. And fortunately I am not alone. Settlers is now called ‘the Monopoly killer’ as it’s sales are skyrocketing (for a boardgame). New people means new $$. New $$ means publishers can publish more games.
    I guess reality finally invaded the boardgame hobby.
    Of course I probably misunderstood the whole thing.
    As Keith said, I’m just going to keep playing games until they pry the last meeple from my cold dead hands.


  10. Adam K

    Enjoyable post. If I can add on with my own thoughts about jaded gamers …

    There should be more unabashed joy in gaming. Less haughtiness. Less ‘tude. Drop the too cool for school schtick. Games are games. The meaning of life, they are not.

    Approach a new game with a positive outlook instead of an air of superiority and not only will you enjoy the game more, but the people you’re playing with might just tolerate your company.

    Sure, sometimes ya strike out and buy Cthulu dice or Back To the Future the Card Game, or Alton suckers you into playing Alice In Wonderland the Board Game. But that’s just part of the ride. Suck it up. Make a joke or two. Be pleasant. Keep things fun somehow. It’s a gamer’s duty. ‘Cause if you’re not there to have fun, what are you there for?

    Every week in a game group potentially introduces a gamer to some things you dig and you some you don’t. So be it. If you’re consistently clucking with disapproval, maybe it’s time to take a week or two off and recharge the batteries.

  11. tomg

    What Adam Said.

    “Every week in a game group potentially introduces a gamer to some things you dig and you some you don’t. So be it. If you’re consistently clucking with disapproval, maybe it’s time to take a week or two off and recharge the batteries.”
    Playing a few games that don’t flip your lid is part of the whole. “Keep things fun somehow. It’s a gamer’s duty. ‘Cause if you’re not there to have fun, what are you there for?”
    Amen. I have fun even when I’m losing (which is a lot). Games are for fun.

  12. Chris Norwood

    Just to pull something completely inconsequential from your post Adam, I’m coming down to the wire compiling stats for our anniversary, and I do believe that Alice in Wonderland is the worst rated game of the year!!!

  13. Adam K

    I will say it was fun to twist the boards. And they used some cool fonts. Um, uh, trying to think of something else positive to say … Graham kept singing to himself throughout the game; don’t know if that’s a positive, more a weird, slightly concerning side event actually. And thus concludes my review of Alice in Wonderland.

  14. I hope I’m not one of those bad-mouthers. I don’t think so. While it’s true that I’ve been around the hobby a bit longer than some (~15 years), and often say that I prefer the older games to newer ones, that’s not the same as burnout. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever really suffered that. Just the opposite, actually–I still like the same older (1990s) style of euro boardgame that others have grown bored with. Every year, even in 2010!, there are a few new games that come out with that sort of elegance and simplicity.

    Unfortunately I can’t come up with a title off the top of my head, but Name of the Rose which my group played the other night is a recent (2008) example, and I just ordered Sumeria (2009) hoping for the same thing.

    I haven’t played them yet, but I have hopes for Tikal II, Samarkand, and Sobek from 2010.

  15. Chris Norwood

    No, not at all. 

    You have some pretty clear and specific preferences for certain games, but you never come across as “burned out”.  If anything, I’d say that you sound, I don’t know, “seasoned” maybe, where you have a very refined game palate with well-defined tastes.  But the whole nature of the podcast (and what makes it one of the top 2 or 3 around) is how self-aware and reflective you tend to be.  If you ever did reach the point of burnout, the show you’d do would probably be more of an exploration of what you were feeling and why rather than an unsubstantiated criticism of everything new.

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