Shortly after I began to realise just how much the world of games had changed since I was a kid, I recognized that feeling I used to get when a new console appeared in the arcade, a simmering but non-specific excitement and anticipation.
I didn’t necessarily know anything about that new game, but I had fun playing on the machine next to it and this new one might be that much fun too. I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. It was simply the idea of ‘more fun’.
The idea of board games being something worth knowing, worth exploring was still new to me, even five years ago. By then, I had started collecting new family games sold in independent toy shops in Toronto and our family collectively and immediately stopped playing almost all of the classic games that we had been playing.
“Bonkers” and “Horse-o-poly” had been tiresome; keeping moose out of houses and memorizing food-chain order was much more entertaining. It was still a parenting pursuit, however, not a personal passion. When I was a kid, I played games with my family; playing games was something I naturally did as a father.
Soon, family events became an excuse to gather at the board game café and we tried something new each time, each game more fun than the last. But board game cafes were not common and their retail stock was limited; not one of the games we played was simultaneously available for purchase. Subsequently, when we returned, stock had either been replenished and sold out again or I had forgotten the name of the games we had enjoyed.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, I passed a new board game café and was inspired to browse their stock to see if I could recognize any of the family games we had played, thinking about the holidays approaching, about the hours in pyjamas and cozy socks that could be filled with games.
By now I knew what I didn’t want (any game that I remembered playing as a child, despite their having been reissued to match current taste in television shows or fresher colour palettes). But I still didn’t know what I did want.
Which is how I made a truly ridiculous decision, based on my newbie experience level; buying the boardgame “Munchkin Quest” seemed like a “fun” thing to do. Despite the playtime on the box of 3 hours and the mention of a 20-page instruction book in the list of box contents.
If you’re new to boardgames, I recommend a 4-6 page instruction booklet and a 30-45 minute playtime. But, as it turns out, Munchkin Quest is a tonne of fun and it’s still a favourite on the holidays. And what can I say: I was an ambitious and enthusiastic newbie.