Quite recently I joined a couple of Board Game groups on Facebook and one really awesome subreddit on well… Reddit. We’ve been playing board games for a little over two years and while I primarily do write about travel, I also wanted to talk about our newfound passion: Board games. It wasn’t something I wanted to jump into directly. After all, compared to the board game pros, we own just a handful of board games. Was I competent enough to write reviews and opinions? Would anyone really want to read what I write? I mulled around the idea for a long time and then decided to post asking fellow (more experienced) board gamers their opinion. The response was overwhelming to say the least. I learned one thing very quickly. The board game community is extremely supportive, friendly and there will always be someone out there who will help you when you need it!
Overwhelming right? At first that was exactly how I felt. I tentatively put out a couple of posts, but I haven’t talked about my story yet. It is something that I have been urged to share because I stand and look at the gaming world from a country that doesn’t have much access to board games. **Gasp! Yes! Those countries exist! I am getting ahead of myself and I think I would like to start my story from the very beginning.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Playing board games with our friends was the highlight of our week!
I’m sure everyone can draw a line back to the time when their board game story began. Ours started out a little over two years ago. I met an amazing Dutch lady when she came over to discuss whether I would board her cat. Yup! I love cats too! Anyway, over time we became friends, started going out together and one day her husband invited us over to play board games. At first, my husband Shawn and I raised an eyebrow. Board games? Were we going to sit around playing Monopoly? Wasn’t our idea of a great Sunday but we had no plans and well why not?
Imagine our surprise when we are introduced to his collection. 250+ board games neatly stacked in shelves. I think my jaw dropped right to the ground. My entire experience with board games (I should mention that we live in India) has always been Snakes and Ladders, Ludo and Monopoly. Monopoly probably being the most intricate game. We had never heard of any of the others.
I still remember the games we played that day. We started out with Hanabi and then went on to play Ghost stories. When you talk about the game that flipped the switch… For us that game was Ghost stories. I remember telling anyone and everyone who would listen about how amazing the game was and how the tiles would flip around and change the set up of the game, so you technically never played the same set up twice.
That was how we began on our slippery journey to becoming board game addicts. To say that we spent numerous weekends playing board games is probably an understatement. We spent every single chance we could playing. Good company, access to board games and so much more made every meet one to remember.
LIMITED ACCESS TO BOARD GAMES
Board games are popular in USA, Canada and some parts of Europe. This means that people in these countries have easy access to board games. It is a no brainer. Hear of a game you probably would like, search for it on Amazon or your local game store and add it to your collection (if you can afford the splurge!) The board game market hasn’t come to India in quite the way we would like it. The issue with the games that are available in the market is that they are really expensive. Sometimes the cost is two to three times the cost that one would pay in USA. This means that you have to have really deep pockets to buy board games and you have to compromise a lot. Some of the few games that we managed to lay our hands on (and were overpriced) were Splendor, Ticket To Ride and Mysterium. This is after Hamley’s and Toys R Us introduced a few of these games into the Indian market.
Honestly, I believe that access to board games is a problem that isn’t talked about enough and I really wish that it was. The issue lies largely with the shipping costs of said games and the customs costs levied on the games as they enter the country for commercial use. At least, that is how I see it. It may not be entirely true. Whenever I mentioned that access to board games was a problem that we faced, I noticed that a few people also mentioned the same thing was prevalent in other countries.
The reason why this was so frustrating was because we got addicted to board games. Really addicted! When you get addicted to board games you start wanting games of your own. You can’t always knock on someone’s door and say you want to play with their games. Not practical and even though our friend did not mind, we really wanted to start our own collection.
GETTING AROUND THE ISSUE OF LIMITED ACCESS TO BOARD GAMES
We found a couple of ways to get around the issue of access to board games. One was to buy the board games at a premium. That was probably the easiest solution. But how long can you continue to buy games at that cost? Would you really buy one game for the cost of three even if it is really good? Plus a decided downside is that we did not really have a large selection to choose from. We were often lucky if one new game stumbled out into the market.
As time went on, our friends gifted us some games and our collection grew by tiny steps. Really tiny steps. The next way to get more games was to ask someone to be our mule. Order a game and request a friend to carry it when they were coming back from a country they were visiting. While this option does give us access to board games, you don’t want to burden your friends with large heavy boxes. Imagine asking someone to carry Gloomhaven!
Traveling ourselves was our best shot. Our trips however have taken us to just two countries where board games are relatively popular. I say this because we travelled largely in South East Asia. The countries that I am talking about are Malaysia and Singapore.
ACCESS TO BOARD GAMES AT LAST!
That expression when you know you are taking more than one game home!
Our first experience inside a board game store was in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. To say that we were overwhelmed is probably an understatement. Rows of games to choose from. It was like being in paradise. Unfortunately, we couldn’t buy everything. Price wasn’t the only constraint. Space, weight and all the downsides of shopping in another country were also on the list. Shawn and I shared a single suitcase as we travelled to Sabah. There was space for a game or two but not more. Our solution to the problem? We bought another extra-large suitcase! Duh!
Being overwhelmed by board games when you are shopping in a board game store for the first time is not something everyone will remember. The reason is because you probably can go back to the store and buy more games whenever you want to. Finding board games that were a perfect match to us wasn’t as easy as we expected because there were a couple of games that looked awesome on Boardgamegeek but we hadn’t played them before. We were just a year into our new-found obsession. With the help of our friend (who stayed online to help) we narrowed down on a few.
The second time round in Singapore, we were more mature. We carried an empty suitcase just so we wouldn’t have to buy a new one!
SPREADING LIKE A PANDEMIC
I guess that the only other issue we have is finding people to play with. Our friends moved back to Netherlands and we miss them a lot. Luckily for us, we now have our own tiny collection of games. What are board games if there is no one to play with. Luckily that problem is more easily solved. We’ve begun introducing people to board games slowly. Calling people over. We’ve learned to start with simpler games and are still learning how to teach people the games without boring them to death with the rules. To our surprise we’ve found that we have multiple groups of people who want to come over and play. We wish there were more days to play! It’s amazing how many people have been introduced to board games thanks to one passionate individual. Thanks Sander! The pandemic continues as part of your legacy here in Bangalore.