Board Games: An Autobiography By Angela Ferris
I must start this endeavour with a thank you to Katie for allowing me some real estate on her blog to share with you my thoughts on board games. I’ll give you the briefest of backgrounds on me–my name is Angela, I’m 34, married to a lovely husband, and I teach secondary school English and History to teenagers who are termed “at-risk.” The short explanation of this is that these students have terrible home lives, have been in trouble, and are dealing with all sorts of social issues and drugs. I’m from Canada (more specifically Central Ontario), and I’m continually unhappy, like all Canadians, with the weather. Much to my chagrin, I’m becoming more and more like my mother everyday, and sometimes when I when I talk I hear her coming out.
My love of boardgames stems from my father, who has a rather large and battered library of Avalon Hill titles from the 1970s and 1980s. He will play them with anyone who shows the slightest interest in them, and he uses Alexander the Great as a measuring stick for any game that has been released since. We used to play these games together for hours on Saturdays when I was young. I thought we were in this sort of special club when we played them together, because my mother didn’t like them and my brother was too young to touch them. We played all sorts of things. I remember Britannia and the original Merchant of Venus. My father is a quiet, patient person, who has a knack for teaching people things without them getting discouraged or confused. He is also a good sport, because I started beating him at games when I was 11. When I went to university, I found a board game club and started playing things like Settlers of Catan and El Grande, in addition to games that had chits and tables. From there, I just didn’t stop.
My husband has a similar love of games and our relationship is strengthened by them. We met in 2005, and bought Descent: Journeys in the Dark together, the way new couples buy toasters or curtains. We’ve been playing it since then; once a month, and we have people who join us for campaigns. We play games together all the time. According to his game tracking app, we played 312 games together in 2017. I think that’s pretty interesting. We talk about games constantly, and I’m grateful for them and the connection we have because of them.
I bring games to work to play with my students at lunch time. They like dexterity games and FlipShips and Animal Upon Animal are popular. I don’t think these students played games with their families when they were children, and it helps them build positive social relationships and to learn how to lose without getting angry (I’m still working a bit with them on that last part). I’ve used Freedom: the Underground Railroad, to teach them about slavery, and Memoir ‘44 is a hit when we’re learning about World Wars.
I’ve had the privilege of being a part of this hobby since before what I term “the explosion.” I know the 1995 release of The Settlers of Catan created ripples in the industry, but it was nothing compared to the cannonball effect that Ticket to Ride had in 2004. For me, that is what kickstarted (see what I did there?) this industry into high gear. I used to buy 1 or 2 games a year, and now, in 2018, I have to figure out how I’m going to buy everything I’d like to have; not to mention have time to play it all. I went to Gen Con last August and bought 16 things! I feel giddy when I see our large (but also small) hobby seeping into people’s lives. I see Ticket to Ride, Codenames, Pandemic and Carcassonne being sold in department stores, and more and more people are discovering these sorts of games for the first time.
I feel a weight and responsibility to advocate for my hobby. People at work talk often about how they can’t connect with their families and friends anymore. Everyone is on their phone and human interaction is almost being phased out. I often will suggest games for families to play. Sometimes I’ll teach someone a game, and then they’ll go out and get it and play with their family, and talk about how fun it was, and thank me (which I dislike, because Canadians don’t know how to accept compliments without being awkward). It’s still nice, though, and I often think that I know a really great secret and if people only knew about it, they’d feel as enriched as I do.
This hobby is full of wonderful, caring people who are intelligent and enhance the community this hobby has created. I watch and listen to everything The Dice Tower uploads, and the Secret Cabal makes me laugh on a weekly basis. I think Rodney Smith’s Watch It Played is a genius idea. Recently, I’ve discovered a podcast called This Game is Broken. It’s HILARIOUS. I listen to it on my work commute. I could list dozens and dozens of board game community members that I respect and admire. Katie is one of them. I used to think I was the only female war gamer, and it’s refreshing to know that there’s a whole network of people who are just as excited about board games as me.
My favourite game of all time is Martin Wallace’s A Few Acres of Snow. I can’t even give a decent explanation as to why, except that I like it, I always want to play it, and perhaps because it’s name is derived from a quote from Voltaire. My gaming tastes have evolved a bit from those old Avalon Hill games I played all those years ago with my dad, but I still hold war games very dearly to my heart. I love COIN games from GMT, and I think Twilight Struggle is a masterpiece. I like Commands and Colors: Ancients and I LOVE Memoir ‘44, because I can teach it to anyone, and I can play giant 8 player overlord scenarios. I also really like dungeon crawl games, and rolling dice is one of my favourite things. Although I don’t gravitate toward euro games, I think there’s something really satisfying about Troyes and Castles of Burgundy. I think there is a game out there for everyone, and if I could, I’d try and help everyone find a game that makes them get as gleefully excited as I do about games.
This is such a positive community to be part of, and I’m fortunate to be able to lend my small voice to it here. You can follow me on Twitter at @lastczarnian83