Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Geek at the Table Interview #2: Isamoor

Thanks to BGG user daveroswell, I have a new name for this interview series: "Geek at the Table". It seems like a fitting name, so I'll stick with that. Thanks for your input, Dave!

This is now the second interview in the series. This time, we speak with the man whose avatar inspires the adventure fan in all of us: Isamoor. (All of my words are in bold text.)

When did you become a board game geek and what drew you into the hobby?

I've been a board gamer for a long time. Unfortunately, I played a whole lot of bad mass production games in my childhood. Some of my earliest fun times were designing scenarios for HeroQuest or playing in some chess clubs at school.

In college I did a decent amount of party gaming. There were good ones and there were bad ones. I'll always have a soft spot for electronic Catch Phrase though. I can't play my copy any more since I have maybe 60% of the clues memorized.

I met my lovely wife during college as well. And her family happen to be some big gamers. They introduced me to the absolutely classic game of Acquire. I played Acquire with them a half a dozen times before a Google search for it landed me on BGG. It all went down hill from there.

I'm mostly through my complete fascination stage. I've quit trying to get my wife's family to play the complicated strategy games. I've learned more about my own tastes in games. I've also joined a great game club here in Indy where we play pretty much all the Euros under the sun. The great host (Dave Koch) has a bad case of the Cult of the New, so I get to try out all the new fancy titles without buying them. He's been a card carrying member for many years now, so I don't think that'll end any time soon.

HeroQuest was one of my earliest and heaviest games as a kid as well. My friend bought the base game, I bought the expansions. That was also my first roleplaying experience. I have lots of great memories of playing HeroQuest. I can still get my wife to play with me sometimes.

Your gaming club sounds great. You are in the situation we all would like to be in - you have a chance to try every game before you buy.

What is the significance of your avatar? I have to say, every time I see you post on BGG, I get a quick jolt of glee because I'm an Indiana Jones fan, and you've chosen a great pic for your avatar.

I too am a large Indiana Jones fan. During my teenage years, I watched the Indiana Jones trilogy and the original Star Wars trilogy over and over and over.

Me too.

I'm still a large Harrison Ford fan and have seen most of the movies he has been in. Additionally, I've lived in the great state of Indiana for all my life, so I thought an Indiana Jones avatar was a great pick. I briefly toyed with a Jack Sparrow avatar, but it just seemed too cliche at the time. I stuck with an iconic character that has been around for much longer. (Which I'm glad I did. The "Pirates" sequels just were not up to snuff. The original will remain a classic for me however.)

Harrison Ford is always good. He was excellent as Linus in Sabrina. I agree about the Pirates sequels. My wife and I really liked the first movie, but then the writers really took a dive the with second and third movies.

How would you order all four Indy movies from most to least favorite? Did you like the new Crystal Skull movie?

Here we go:

A. The Raiders of the Lost Ark: The original is still the best. I absolutely *love* the great chase scene with the trucks. (I also have a soft spot for "Stagecoach", which inspired this stunt). Marion was a great character. John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott were some of my favorite supporting actors of all times. Both of them were sorely missed in the recent sequel.

B. Last Crusade: Sean Connery rocks. 'Nuff said. The whole interplay between Connery and Ford just made this movie. Around me, "The dog's name was Indiana" is still a favorite quote. As is "He chose poorly."

Sorry to correct you, but I believe the correct wording is: "We named the dog Indiana." ;)

C. Crystal Skull: I applaud the effort, but it's just not the same. It definitely nuked the fridge. (Look it up, almost as great as jumping the shark.) I did love the extended chase scene towards the end. A great homage back to the stunt men of old. The movie just took itself too seriously in parts and didn't have as memorable of characters. I like Shia and all, but he just didn't work for me. Give me River Pheonix any day. The plot was rather weak as well. I didn't mind the aliens, but the Russians just weren't menacing. Oh no! Communism! Pushaw. There are much worse things out there.

Here I disagree. I think they took an excellent approach to the new movie. I felt that Spielberg and Lucas were taking a lighter approach to this movie. If you are familiar with the pulp genre, this movie doesn't seem too out there. Nuking the fridge is exactly what happens in pulp, which is the genre Indy fits into. Crazy stuff like that happens all the time in the roleplaying game Spirit of the Century. That's what makes it fun. I like that Spielberg and Lucas were willing to give us blantant, unrealistic, over-ther-top action adventure. This is the kind of movie I would love to see more of. I enjoyed the story, and thought Shia LaBeouf was the perfect addition to the story. I'd love to see him as the future Indy. I'd say the movie doesn't take itself seriously, which is what made it so fun. But hey, everyone has their own tastes.

D. Temple of Doom: Actually the first Indiana Jones I ever saw. Turned me off from watching the others for *years*. Kate Capshaw was a shrieking mess. Harrison Ford was still strong in the movie, but it wasn't enough to save it. Also, dropping it down to the scale of a tribe of cannibals really lost the epic feel of the other movies.

I agree. Temple of Doom just missed the mark for me. The cultic stuff just wasn't cool. I'd say Indy 1, 3, and 4 are probably all equally sweet for me at this point. Thanks for your Indy thoughts.

I can tell from your "Plays Games with Lover" microbadge and from your profile text that you love your wife. How long have you been married? What is something you've come to appreciate more and more about your wife, having been married all this time?

I've been happily married for almost 2 years now. I dated my wife for 4 years prior to that though, so we've been together quite a while. The more I live with her, the more I appreciate her strong-willed independence. I love her for the way she lives her life and wouldn't want her to be any different than she is.

One of your microbadges says, "When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning." - a quote from game designer Reiner Knizia. This sounds a bit like my own gaming philosophy. Talk about this quote and its significance to you.

I'd appreciated the quote for quite awhile. Then I finally saw the microbadge and new I had to have it front and center. The badge is a three tier podium with each space labeled #1. I really should go find the designer of the badge and tip them.

For me, it's just a perfect quote. I don't play games to try and demonstrate intelligent superiority. I play games because they are fun. I love interacting with other people, but I also love exercising my problem solving muscles. Games provide a very good medium to do both. So for me, it's fun to try and win, but it's not the winning that draws me back.

Well said.

It's just such a better past time than watching TV in my opinion. I also spend a great many hours reading books, but books let me escape into my imagination. Books also help you grow as a person since you can vicariously learn so much from the experiences of the characters you read about.

You also have the "I love all games!" microbdage. What are some features of games that you don't like? Are there any mechanics or game features that you avoid?

Funny you should bring that up. I think I need to find a new badge that says "I love all types of games!" I definitely was a little more newbish when I bought that badge. I've gotten a little more picky recently and will actually avoid some games. Still, if a friend wants to play a game, I'll play anything with them. I just am a little pickier about what I suggest.

I don't generally like worker placement. It's way too passive aggressive for me. If you want to fight, let's do it to the death. Otherwise how about we find a different form of player interaction. Worker placement just causes the optimal move to be blocking way too often for my pleasure. I'd rather a game be an set of incremental improvements. Not a turn order dance of annoyance.

I also dislike downtime. I avoid many of the primary causes. I don't always like Variable Turn Order for this reason. If someone says "Who's turn is it?" twice in a 10 minute period, I'll doubtfully ever play that game again.

A while back, I created a geeklist called: "When fans are compelled to defend a game's flaws: games which provoke rabid defense." You were one of the main contributors to that geeklist. So, first of all, thanks for contributing. Second of all, what made you get in on that geeklist? Were you already somewhat familiar with the Criticism vs Fanboy Retort scene?

Thank you for a fun idea for a geeklist. I generally try to contribute to any amusing open-ended geeklists I see out there. Community interaction is how some of the best content comes about.

I do stay pretty up to date on most "goings on", which includes all the "Criticism vs Fanboy" jazz. It's usually most prevalent in the replies to reviews. I read a lot of reviews and usually stick around for the commentary. I try to maintain an unbiased opinion. At the same time though, where there's smoke there's fire. If you see the same topic appear in multiple places, there's usually a grain of truth in there somewhere. Personally, I try very hard to be objective in my own reviews. I know I've been guilty of being the "fanboy retort" to other reviews on occasion. Still, I know I always appreciate having the other side present down in the comments.

Your collection shows that you currently own 101 games. Do you envision this increasing, or are you getting rid of games as you acquire more?

Gack. I did just cross the 100 mark didn't I? Well, here's the deal. I have one armoire. It sits in the library. That's supposed to be the limit of my game collection. Thus was the agreement with my wife. Now, there is a slippery slope about sticking to that agreement however...

First, we gave in and put the kid centric games over in a spare bedroom on a bookshelf. There's still plenty of space there for the moment.

Next I confiscated a freshly purchased trunk to place our KosMos 2-player collection in. I got a little overzealous there though and my wife made me give half of that back. I'm just starting to feel the space constraints again though. I'll probably convince myself to get rid of a goodly number of games again. The problem is I've been drifting towards collecting more and more card games since they don't take up much space and are really cheap.

Oh the pain. Oh the pain.

You have posted frequently in the Race for the Galaxy forums. Talk about your feelings and experience regarding Race for the Galaxy.

I suppose I have. Most of my feeling upon the actual game can be read in my extensive review here: http://www.boardgamegeeks.com/thread/311579

As for my own relationship with the game, I sure was lukewarm when I first got it. I played it a couple times and tossed it on the trade pile. It sat there for a couple months while I ran it through some math trades asking for some big ticket items. Eventually I came back two it and really fell in love with it. It's not perfect, but I do give it a positive review.

As for the actual game forums, I think some people have *WAY* too much time on their hands. The card by card analysis is bad enough, but then the intricate strategy articles and discussions are way too much for me. I stay out of all of those and just play the game.

On your profile, you mention that the things you value most in a game are (and I quote):
  1. Fun! I'd better be smilin' or yellin' by the end of it.
  2. Meaningful decisions! I like to make important choices turn after turn.
  3. Quick Playing / No Downtime! I like my games to keep moving at a brisk pace.
I think this very well sums up my own preferences. Can you list 3 games that easily fit this description? Can you also list 3 games which are clearly in violation of this?

My favorite fits:

A. Schotten Totten: Still my favorite after a year at the top. My wife and I have played close to 40 games of this and it still hits the table. The stress of committing before you are ready and then hoping to draw the right cards is just too much fun. We always end up yelling and smiling by the end of it. At the same time, every decision is important and the game moves quickly.

B. Race for the Galaxy: Not quite as much pure *fun* as others, but very enjoyable. I enjoy watching my little empire grow over the course of the game. I like seeing the pieces come together into a cohesive whole. I also enjoy the *tons* of meaningful decisions and very fast moving game play.

C. Uptown: A recent addition, but definitely fits the bill. There's always cussing and laughing when pieces start getting smacked. Additionally, there really is a lot of thought that goes into what piece to put where on each and every turn. And the people I've played with have kept it to a very brisk pace.

Near Misses from perfect:

A. Brass: Brass is many great things, but it is not fast-moving. There is a lot to think about and the turn order is constantly shuffled. I appreciate how smoothly the components work, but it still just takes a little too long to play the game. I still enjoy it though.

B. Pick Picnic: I also love this game. It's among the most "fun" that I play. I love when the game shifts into quick negotiation mode. When they turn south, out comes the die!!! Still, the decisions aren't really *that* deep and meaningful here. It's true that some players will consistently win by understanding and predicting the group think, but many of the games still just come down to chance.

C. Magna Grecia: MG has lots of meaningful decisions all squeezed into a very short play time. However, there's usually not a lot of laughing and yelling going on in this game. I still have moods where I want to play the deeply analytical games, they're just not my absolute favorite.

With whom do you most often play board games?

Most definitely my wife. The vast majority of my collection can be played two-player. We usually get in 2-3 games over the course of a work week in the evenings. I'm sure this will change as children are introduced.

(I guarantee it.)

But then I just have to wait a few years and stock up on some good children's games.

I play about bi-weekly with a great gaming group here in town. They play much of the medium to heavy euro jazz out there. I also play a lot of the light to party games I own with my wife's family.

Do you play video games or roleplaying games?

I don't do traditional RPGs, but I've played pretty much all types of video games. I've avoided MMORPGs just out of fear of addiction. I loved the older Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid games. In recent years, I've played a lot of the America's Army FPS. I still play in AA leagues 1-2 nights per week. I play many adventure games with my wife. Just recently we picked up Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and that is FAR too addictive.

Do you currently have a favorite board game? If so, why is it your favorite?

My favorite is probably still Schotten Totten. It just does so much right. Multiple paths to victory, simple rules, tough decisions, exciting game play, easy to get into. I could go on and on, but then I would bore you.

My wife and I had the Battle Line iteration of this game. My wife didn't like it much, and I was neutral about it, so we traded it. I imagine we'd like Schotten Totten more.

If something great happened in the board gaming world today, what would it be? (In other words, what would be your ideal wish for the BG world today?)

I wish Wal-Mart would carry Ticket to Ride. I don't need to see Race for the Galaxy on the shelves at my local department store, but I just don't see how such a great family game as Ticket to Ride hasn't caught on.

A more realistic wish would be for more games to use innovative mechanics. I enjoy many games that are just piles of mechanics tossed in a blender, but I really enjoy the more innovative ones. Uptown is a great example of an recent innovative game. Sure, it seems a little Suduko like, but it's really a very unique game.

If you had something valuable to teach or share with new board gamers, what would it be?

Find a local board game group. If you can't, make a local board game group. Games will only take this hobby so far. Good friends take it the rest of the way.

That's some good quote material.

Realize that there is no "best game". There are only "best game for the current situation". Don't try to force a game onto a group. Play something they are open to.

What would you say is or has been your most significant contribution to BGG and/or the board gaming world?

Sadly, none of my contributions have been that unique. I've written some good reviews, but they're probably a little more analytical than most people would like.

The contribution I am most proud of would be this geeklist: Food for Thought - Logic Gone Astray.

In there I tried to identify the most common logical fallacies applied to board games. It still irks me to this day when people tell me a perfectly shuffled deck of Magic the Gathering should never experience mana screw. I also can't handle the "dice owe me some sixes" argument. Unless I really don't know someone, I usually speak up anytime someone makes one of these mistakes in my presence.

What kind of world view do you hold? What is the purpose of life and the cosmos?

I most appreciate Buddhism in my day-to-day life. Buddhism has a very pragmatic world view that doesn't sugar coat very much. At this point in my life, I don't worry too much about my purpose in life. In living my life, I try to concentrate on having fun and not causing other people suffering. I recognize that oftentimes hard work now pays off with extra enjoyment later, so I also don't skimp in my work just to play more. I enjoy discussing other world views and religions, but I actively dislike any other view that judges me lacking for my own beliefs. I don't really worry about the purpose of the cosmos. I already know the answer to it all is 42.


Isamoor said...

Thanks again for the opportunity Timothy!

I did just happen to notice that I spelled Dave's last name wrong. DOH! The local host here in Indy is Dave Koch. I'm sure he's going to give me hell for this. :)

TimothyP said...

Fixed. Hopefully he never saw!