A story about how I reconnected with the wonder of board games.
In my day job I am a general manager for a travel agency. A few years ago I was walking down the main street of a small country town called Warnambool on the way to one of my stores and I happened to pass a toy store. I was drawn into the shop. Curiosity got the better of me and I still had ten minutes to kill before my lunch was over, so I wandered in to have a look. Thinking back now I can't for the life of me recall what exactly drew me in. I have kids (three) so perhaps it was a thought of mine to get a present for them as I would typically do when my work took me away from home for extended periods of time, or perhaps there was something I had glimpsed in the window that had caught my eye. Whatever the reason was, I found myself perusing the aisles of this small eclectic store when I stumbled across a selection of board games. I became mesmerised by the games there on display.....Memoir '44, Puerto Rico, Pirates Cove, Settlers of Catan... These were games that I had never heard of or seen before and they looked.....absolutely awesome! I was instantly transported back to my youth.
Let me digress for a moment. See I was raised in a family that played games..........a lot. Board games like Trivial Pursuit, Risk, Cluedo, Yahtzee, Scotland Yard and (cough) Monopoly. Classic games such as Chess, Checkers and even Backgammon. Card games including Uno, Rummy, Canasta, Poker or Whist. Growing up in the Miles' household we (my sister & I) spent loads of time playing games with our parents. Many times my parents would have their friends over to play games or vice versa. I didn't think much of it back then, it was just a part of our everyday life. Socialising and games were just the done thing.
When I moved into my teenage years I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons by my school mates. This blew my mind.....here was a game that was pretty much played with some dice, a pencil, paper and our imagination. I fell in love with the game, the worlds that were the canvas for our exploits and the socialising fun that came from playing with my friends. Through this I also found another game, a card game called Magic the Gathering. Just like D&D I became somewhat obsessed with this collectible card game throughout my later teen years and that suited my adolescent ego just fine as, like most teenagers, I managed to pretty much avoid my parents yet maintain my passion for gaming.
After high school, university beckoned. I moved to the city to attend a college and study at the University of Western Australia. As a young, somewhat independent adult at uni the majority of my time was now spent either studying, attending classes, eating, sleeping or partying....not necessarily in that order ;)
The extent of my gaming experiences during this chapter of my life consisted of either drinking games, countless hours of the card game Asshole or time spent with a new player that was making all sorts of noise with lots of people across the world....gaming consoles and computer games. I had embraced technology and moved eagerly into the electronic era. I started with a Nintendo64 and then over the years slowly upgraded my platform of choice as newer, improved models hit the market. I switched to the Xbox when it came out and then finally settled down with the Playstation console (PS3), now currently on the PS4.
Over the next 20 years of my "normal" life I had finished university, started a full time career within the travel industry, met my beautiful wife Valika, got married and had three gorgeous children. Bianca, Cailen & Addisen. During this time my "gaming" life centralised solely around computer games, both PC & console variants and he time spent playing actual board games was but a distant, foggy memory from my youth.
As I stood there in the Warnambool toy store in front of several shelves of board games that I had never seen or heard about the memories of the fun times that both my sister and I had from playing games when we were young came flooding back to me.
It was clear to me then...I can create similar experiences again. But this time share them with my wife, our children and our friends. Yes! I should buy one of these new games but which one should I get??? I was confused. I didn't know what to choose. Which game before me would engage, entertain and connect my family together as had happened to me so many times in my childhood? I was paralysed. This was a critical decision and so I did what I believe many people do in moments of uncertainty.......nothing.
I left without buying a single game. My ten minutes were up and I needed to get to work. The store manager was not too enthused to see me deliberate for such a while and then leave with nothing but I couldn't care less. I felt exhilarated. I knew what I must do. If I am to make the right selection I needed to do some more research.
So, that evening, after work I was googling "best board games ever". I came across this website called boardgamegeek.com. It (BGG) wasn't a particularly fancy or slick looking site. Rather it looked like a remnant site from the early days of the internet with lots of stuff everywhere and quite messy. One could easily get put off by how "busy" the site looks at first glance and move on (or back) with a few quick clicks of their mouse. However my eye was drawn to a list on the left hand side of the page which said "Top 100 games" and number one on that list was Puerto Rico. I clicked through on the link to the game and read some more about what it was all about..... then clicked back to read some more about BGG and this list..... clicked forward and read some more about the game.... went back to google and did some more research about BGG.... checked out some more information about the awards that Puerto Rico had won and by then I was completely satisfied. Boardgamegeek.com to me was the subject matter expert when it comes to board games. They had a definitive list of the top 100 games of all time. And, at the time that I was looking at it, Puerto Rico was the number one game. My choice was clear.
Later that month I scheduled myself to go back to Warnambool. On my lunch break once again I walked back into the store, straight to the aisle of games and I saw a single copy of Puerto Rico still sitting there on a shelf. It isn't much to look at but my parents taught me to not judge a book by it's cover and I was satisfied with my research. It had a hefty price tag ($100) from memory. Surely that was another sign that the contents and game must be worth it, right? So without any further thought I took the game, walked up to the counter and bought it. My wife & I played it that weekend with another couple and it was amazing! It was unlike anything I had played during my childhood. This game introduced me to new mechanisms and gameplay that I simply never knew existed. For those of you who have never played Puerto Rico it is a game whereby each player is the Govenor of a colony on the island of Puerto Rico. The aim of the game is to aquire the most victory points by the end of the game. This is done by slowly building up your town over the game turns and establishing your community. The game employs a mechanism that is technically called "variable phase order", which is a fancy way of saying that each round has a number of possible actions that can happen. On your turn you select one of the available actions and carry it out and then so will the rest of the players. The person who selects the action gets a slight bonus over the other players and there are more actions than are players, therefore not all actions will happen every round. Make sense?
The actions available enable you (and your competing colonies) to build up your own settlement by planting and harvesting crops, erecting buildings, increasing your population, gaining gold and shipping your goods back to the motherland. All in the name of gaining victory points.
As hoped, the game was a huge hit. The money was well spent and the passion within me was once again reignited. We quickly realised that despite this game being so good it wasn't really suited for our children. Bianca, our eldest, played and enjoyed the game but it was too heavy a game to grab the interests of our two younger children given their ages at the time.
So back to the internet and boardgamegeek.com I went to find another game that would grab the excitement and minds of Cailen and Addisen.....and so the hobby was born within me. I find myself having come full circle within my love of gaming and back to my roots of board gaming. I am loving every minute of it.
The past few years I have learnt that board games (and card games) can be incredible social enablers. They connect people, familes and friends together like no other medium can. I have started several game night groups now across two different cities on either side of Australia and witnessed first hand the power of board games. Power to connect people, create magical moments and memories, laughter, fun, energy and competition. I have also started a family tradition that Thursday night is games night in our household. We turn the television off - no electronics - and will play a game together. The positive impact that this alone has had on our family and the relationships my wife and I have with our children has been wondrous
I'm so passionate about gaming. My desire to open up the world of board gaming to as many people as possible is so strong that I have decided to take the next step and start my own business to achieve this end.
I want everybody to be able to have access to these amazing games and be touched by the way that I and my family & friends have all been.
To be able to connect and create communities of like minded individuals who enjoy the social interaction, fun and entertainment that board games can bring....and most of all, to bring families closer together.
This is my vision and purpose for opening boardgamesdirect.com.au
Welcome to our store.
If you are new to the hobby then hopefully you will see something you like that inspires you too to take the leap.
If you are already as passionate about games as I am then hopefully we have what you are looking for...please let me know if there is something you want that we currently do not stock. We will do our best to get it for you.
We are only just starting out. We have huge designs for growth but we can't do it without you. With your support and business you can help us make our vision a reality.
I thank you for reading this.
I thank you for visiting my store.