Gaming New vs Gaming Old
My long-time gaming crew is a tight circle of four and we all have a keen interest in table top gaming (I would say, "naturally" but many gamers I've met are actually very casual about their interest). Almost from the start, we have been pre-occupied with the new. In the crew there's Mr. T, who is the most avid gamer, the man who risk life and limb to travel gaming conventions and has more than one regular gaming crew. He winds up returning from conventions with a pile of new games, usually acquired through the bring-and-buy used game sales. There's Special K who is an avid Kickstarter patron, having backed so many projects most games haven't had the chance to hit the table yet. Agent N, of the four of us, I think, leans the strongest into wanting to play something familiar, and yet she's no stranger to picking up a new game when something catches her eye. Then there's myself, who, of course, has an interest in games that sound unique or otherwise key into my specific areas of interest (eg. dice-based, or licensed properties). With all this driven game buying, more games are bought than can ever hit the table in our (barely) weekly gaming sessions. Beyond that, legacy or campaign-based games tend to eat up the majority of our gaming every year.
I had just assumed that this "dominance of new" is what most gaming groups dealt with. That's been my experience for so many years now, and it seems like every youtuber, blogger or podcaster is constantly in the fix for what the latest and greatest is... and there is a LOT of latests, and in the mix more than few greatests. Just take a look at the Game Trade Magazine monthly catalog. So many new games, and that doesn't even include the bountiful collection of what's on Kickstarter on any given day. We are a consumerist culture, we've been raised to consume, and we're basically told to keep consuming. So the market keeps feeding us more to consume.
One of the most attractive aspects of "new" in boardgames is the way games are constantly being reinvented. Thought Agricola was fun? Here's Caverna (like Agricola, but better). Castle Panic a little to basic? Try Beseiged. Love Arkham Horror? Try AH:The Card Game, or AH third edition. New games are constantly taking designs or concepts and working them into new scenarios or themes or improving upon broken or tired gameplay mechanics. Why keep playing same-old same-old when you could play something similar that's *NEW* (shiny glitter sparkles)?
I've recently joined a weekly gaming circle of around 25 members that is counter to my regular group. This crew seems to embrace older games, and largely prefer them. To clarify, it's not really about the age of the game, so much as familiarity with it. They seem to prefer playing familiar games. A couple weeks ago I walked in on them and there was a massive session of Steve Jackson Games' Zombies!!! going on, while another crew of four played King of Tokyo. I didn't want to join into either, however. Zombies!!! was the one of the first non-department store games I ever bought (almost 15 years ago) and I have had my fill. King of Tokyo I've played countless times with my daughter since she was about 5, and even though it's an enjoyable all ages game, I still think of it as a kid's game, and my familiarity with it makes it a little less enticing. It's almost the opposite of what others in this circle feel, they want to get familiar with a game so they can play it to the best of their ability.
I'm seduced by the "new". Yes, I see all the new "hot" games and I want to try them. I have my own list of games I want to play culled from the various youtube "best of" year end lists, and it's gotten so long over the years that I've just abandoned it. I want to keep playing different games to see how the games are built, to see what they did with them, to see the stories they tell and the iconography they used and quality of the rule book and the innovations or elaborations. If they're a "hot" game, what makes it so hot. As a wanna-be designer I'm overly interested in how the muffins were made.... Sure I like eating muffins but I also want to pick them apart to see what was used to put them together. Especially the good ones This is a bad analogy.
But there's something liberating about playing a familiar game, even a broken one. The first thing is a liberation of time, where you don't need to invest so much energy into figuring out set-up, learning rules and teaching. Another is liberation from the frustration of not having any starting play ideas or strategies when you're playing a new game, you know the game and how to get from A-to-B-to-C. Plus, there's something to be said about mastering a particular game, feeling like you're really good at it, and the almost perverse pleasure you get when you know your opponents don't know your strategy which could lead to a possible rout.
When the same crew is always playing new games, everyone starts on equal footing, but if you don't keep playing that game, you never grow with it, you never better your play...and without repeating play on the game you don't commit the gameplay to memory, so the next time you pull it out, you're basically starting from scratch.
If only time permitted all gaming circles would happily be a mix of new and old. Alas, there's family, work, responsibilities, emergencies, and other entertainments, among other things, that divide time and attention. If you're lucky you will find a balance that works for you and your crew. In my regular circle of four, Mr. T, Special K and Agent N and I all seem to be fine with jumping on the new and repeating our legacy/campaign-based games, with the occasional dabble in familiar territory. If we could get together more often, I know that familiar territory would be covered more and also more new games would be played as well.
There's never enough time for gaming, new or old.