Variant: Dealing With the Cult of the New
One of the big bonuses about board games is that they can have a very low cost-per-play or cost-per-man-hour. I’ve played Settlers of Catan dozens and dozens of times. For my initial $40 purchase, I’m down to less than a dollar per play. If I break that out further by man-hour, I’m pretty close to ten cents per hour ,per person. Contrast that with the cost of a movie that is watched only once and board games start to look mighty cost effective.
However, there is another hideous monster that lurks among gaming hobbyists. Gaming can be addictive. Sometimes, buying or playing that new game seems more important or more fun than the known quantity. Termed the “cult of the new,” some gamers fall into the trap of buying games, playing them once or twice, and then putting them on the shelf as they buy additional new games. If played only once, the cost of boardgames goes up dramatically.
But, while it is often spoken of with derision, is the “cult of the new” necessarily a bad thing? And, if so, how best to avoid it?
Full disclosure: I’m the kind of person that always prefers to play a new game over one that I’ve played before. For me, I place a premium on novelty. So if I haven’t played it before, it immediately goes up in my estimation. (As an aside, that’s also why I give my review games several plays. I want to make sure that novelty wears off a bit before I place a review). So, I’m going to come out in defense of the cult.
One of the things that’s important to any game is how replayable it is. After all, if it’s only good one time, then it may not be worth buying. You can just play it at a convention or trick a friend into buying it. You want to make sure the game stays fresh over many plays in order to get your money’s worth. Well, the “new” game is like a perfectly replayable game. It will be a completely original experience since you’ve never played it before.
Plus, for me gaming has an almost addictive quality to it. I have a number of worker-placement games—from heavy classic Caylus, to newcomer Fresco. But each time a new worker-placement design comes out, I want to know how it is different from what came before. In what ways does it improve on the classics. I want to see the fresh spin on a familiar mechanic—though sometimes I unfortunately experience a warmed over imitation. Still, that goal of seeing interesting or novel designs really stokes my lust for the new.
However, there is one area where I depart from the company of my fellow cultists. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it is good. I’ve written before that Fresco was overhyped for me. Hansa Teutonica also suffered from that a bit. In fact, when what should be an interesting game that has received praise turns out to be less than advertised, I have no qualms in voicing my displeasure.
I’m also lucky enough to have two things keeping me from going completely off the rails in obtaining new games. First, I have limited funds. Since the power company and the water district also want their due, I have to make choices about which games I’ll try and which I have to take a pass on. But, more importantly, I have a couple members of my group who are, for lack of a better term, anti-cultists. They want to play games they are familiar with. They find more fun in perfecting and testing new strategies to familiar games, than in trying something new altogether. Thankfully, this means I get to play my games many times and learn them in depth as well.
What about you? Where do you sit along the spectrum of loving the new vs. cherishing the old?