Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Burnout: Taken Down Edition

I've been debating writing this for the past several weeks or so. First of all, why should you care? Secondly, is this what the blog is about?

But then again...we've been posting here for six months, and most of us have babbled about whatever seemed important to us at the moment, and you guys (and gals) have kept reading. goes.

What do you do with boardgame burnout?

Right now, I've got it wickedly bad. Not to the degree where I don't want to play, but to the point where I do feel like I'm going through the motions. A few weeks ago we had a get-together to game; we ended up playing half a game of Original Trilogy Star Wars Risk before abandoning it to watch football and play Bioshock.

I thought that maybe it was just a bad session, but a couple of weeks later we tried Siege of the Citadel one of my favorite games. The energy just wasn't there. Somehow one of the best shoot-em-up boardgames ever designed didn't even inspire the type of excitement it should have.

Maybe it was to be expected. For the past two-and-a-half years I've done nothing but eat, breathe, and sleep boardgames. Time not spent playing them was spent reading about them. Time not spend buying them was planning on what I was going to buy. Time not spend trading them was spent meticulously figuring out what and when I could trade.

Problem #1 is that I'm one of the primary enablers of my boardgaming friends. For the most part, if it is going to get played, I have to buy it. I have to teach it. I have to help schedule it. Rules pile up in my brain like a freeway crash as I try to keep rulesets for a 100 games in my head. This of course fails miserably and our sessions grind to a halt as pages are flipped, rules are consulted, and the pace of our games slow to a crawl.

Problem #2 is the inertia of a larger board game collection. This poses a problem on many levels. First, you start to look at your collection as having certain areas "covered". You think, "I already have a game based on global conquest, one based on dungeoneering/adventuring, one on sci-fi shoot-em-ups, etc."

Also, and this is more maddening, you end up with the backlog. Gaming time just can't keep up with the acquisitions so you end up with a laundry list of games you were excited to get but just can't seem to get table time with all the heavy competition. Getting burned like that makes you hesitant to look into getting new games. You start to see them as "One more to add to the backlog."

Problem #3 is the demon temptress of video games. Like most board gamers, I'm a multi-hobby geek. I may own 170+ boardgames and CCGs but I own 13 consoles and nearly 350 games for them. In years past I'd always cycle between my hobbies; I'd be heavily into video games for a few months before drifting back into CCGs and after that it'd be back to buying movies and DVDs. Somehow I managed to avoid that during the past two+ years, even though I'd dabble again in dead CCGs or more games my primary interest was boardgaming. We'd game at lunch, we'd game at work, we'd plan monthly gaming sessions, we'd excitedly list off 10-20 games we'd like to squeeze in "sometime soon", the list goes on and on and on.

This has been reflected by the fact that I don't own a next generation console yet. Since having an Atari 2600 as a child, I have owned a new console that I wanted within a year of its release. Now, I'm starting to feel that as I play my brother's new Nintendo Wii or my cousin's XBox 360. If I took the money from the last few boardgames I'd purchased, I'd have one of these systems already.

Some of you have noticed that my contributions have diminished, and have rightfully called me out on having lower quality posts than in the past. The bit I wrote on theme vs. mechanics wasn't terribly inspired and something I cobbled together so I could contribute something. I was invited to write for to bring some Ameritrash flavor to the place, and what have I done with that? Nothing. I just...can't...think of what to write about that's of any interest.

(Unless they want a review of Bioshock. That's a hell of a game.)

The scariest part of all was looking at my closet last night and thinking what else I could be doing with all that space. And the sudden urge to flag half the games I have for trade on BGG (though what would I trade them for? More games?)

I'm hoping things will pass, and I think they will. There have truly been some great Ameritrash stuff released this year. Whereas Euro games seem to be stuck in even more of a rut than I do, a lot of energy is going into bringing us better Ameritrash games with clean rules (though still complex enough for flavor!), insane production values, and great themes. Look at Last Night on Earth--a game I do need to get, as it might be just the ticket to light the fire again.

Anyway, I just thought I'd put that out there. What do you guys do when you experience burnout? Can this gamer be saved? And are boobies on Boardgamegeek a bad thing?


Dan Daly said...

Speaking for myself, I'm a fellow multi-hobby geek: board games, rpgs, books, fantasy sports, and real life sports.

My interest in one will wax and interest in another wanes. It's all cyclical.

I've gone through some severe bouts of board game burnout in the past. How to get over it?

-Do something else.
-Stay away from BBG for a month, after the first couple days you'll miss it much less than you think.
-take a hard look at that big pile of games you have and get rid of the stuff that you never really play or play but don't have much fun when you do.

Board games have lots of advantages over video games and other hobbies. On big DISadvantage is they take up LOTS of space. The last 2-3 years have seen my collection grow from 20 or so up to 90ish. I enjoy a lot of the games I've picked up, but others not so much. So get rid of them- sell them, trade them, or donate those without any street value to a thrift store.

Right now I'm not so much burned out on board games, as I am at peace with my collection. As a relatively young guy with limited space and a growing family I've reached the dramatic decision to cap my boardgame collection. I've got a number of games earmarked for trade/sale. I'll be picking up StarCraft when it comes out and adding Combat Commander: Europe to the same order. After that....I'm done. At least for a year is my goal. I'll play the games I have and spend my money on other things. (note there is a loophole in my moratorium that allows me to buy expansions for games I already have and enjoy, this is mainly targeted at the upcoming Combat Commander stuff).

Another great thing is to try and find some other "hardcore" game geeks in your area. Guys like you who actually buy the games and read the rules. Playing some of your old favorites with new people can make them interesting again, plus you'll get to play new games without buying them as you peruse their collections. BGG is great for this. Unless you live in Timbuktu, posting on the group forums over there or using the user search functions should turn up some people pretty close to you.

You enjoy games. You enjoy other stuff too. Nothing wrong with that.

bob_the_goon said...

I'm getting there myself. I still enjoy my bi-weekly game night, but attendence is down lately as life intervenes for too may people and I keep turning down invites for weekend gaming because I'd rather be disc golfing (my newest obsession). Even at game nights, it's been a going through the motions thing and video games are creeping back (I can dwarf Ken's collection on sheer number of games). I too don't have any of thhe current gen systems because video game burnout hit two years ago. . .

Still, certain things in the hobby still excite me. I would never say not to Talisman or TI3 for example. I'm hoping the cutting back to just game nights will help ease the burnout and when my group comes back to full swing, hopefully so will my excitment.

Thaadd said...

To me, it all comes down to the people you play with. Not to be catty about people I have not met, but you should look for some other people who are willing to put forth effort.

I like teaching new people to play, but I also acutely miss that rare thing of a bunch of spot on, interested, attentive players. My favorite boardgaming buddy just moved off to East coast. I'm a bit spoiled with the work crew now, but gaming at work is not as much fun as kicking back at ones house on the weekends.

I lack a table atm, which is also enforcing a pause in home gaming. :P So I spend way more time at the computer. I'm too old to sit crosslegged on the floor these days :P

Ken B. said...

No, I've got a great group of friends who really dig the same types of games I do.

But the energy is lagging. Like...this time last year, we scheduled a game day for TI3. We had so many show up we had to break into several different games instead.

I can't tell if it's my lack of enthusiasm that's rubbing off or vice versa.

StephenAvery said...

Hiya Ken, May I suggest a trip to ATL to hang with a fresh crowd. You can drift in and out of games without having to be up on the rules or have an agenda. Being the main organizer can be wearying. I've had the same experience with RPGs.

If that doesn't work, I'd try two weeks cold turkey. No posting/surfing games or boardgaming during that. Arrange a game session right before you do so that after the short hiatus it will be a welcome revival.

disclaimer:SteveAvery is not liscened psychologist and in no way are his veiws or opinions endorsed by this website. We do not accept any partial or complete resposiblity for any damage accrued from the reading of his posts. Readers may suffer the following symptoms,insomnia, mental paralysis, nausea, Black outs,hallucinations, anxiety and attacks, and incontinence.

Ken B. said...

Like...I'm thinking I pushed them too hard, they got burned out, and it's rubbing off on me.

Michael Barnes said...

I kind of have problem #1...most of the games my folks play tend to be mine so I wind up doing the rules and everything so like Ken says, the rules just kind of start to blend together and people (like Robert Martin, prime offender) get ill if you have to spend a minute with the's refreshing to play someone else's game, but I usually get really irritated being taught rules and wind up reading the rulebook between turns.

We've been kind of having a little burnout spell here lately, but a weird one...every game we play lately collapses into mayhem/disarray/incompletion...I dunno, we get in these goofy modes where we wind up talking about things like how to design a LADYHAWKE CCG or what the hell happened in that Atari 2600 Raiders of the Lost Ark game. It's not a bad thing, but I think when we start getting burned out, we tend to focus more on socializing and having a good time with friends than the games.

I'll tell you one thing that kicks it for me...playing a fucking hardcore-ass wargame, one on one with somebody like my pal Billy Motion.

Of course, TALISMAN is here so suddenly I've got that "wanna play now" itch again...

ubarose said...

Hobbies should enrich your life, not consume it.

Does your hobby feel like and obligation?

Do you feel that your life is interfering with your hobby?

Does your hobby feel like work?

If you answer yes to any of these it is time to take a step back. Go do something else.

Shellhead said...

My current gaming group has been kind of taking a break lately. Last summer, we had a few sessions that I found unsatisfactory, where people wanted to bail in the middle of a two-hour game and quickly move on to something else. I'm used to old-school marathon gaming, where we would happily play one really long game like Divine Right instead of a half-dozen partial games.

But before I hit any actual burnout, I got pulled into a side project. One of my gamers and I have just about wrapped up the design of an AmeriTrash filler game, hopefully to be published by a specific game company that published my previous game just one year ago. Even if they don't we think that we've actually got a really good game, so we can shop it around or maybe even self-publish.

So with all that time away from boardgaming, I'm really looking forward to getting back to the table for some AmeriTrash slugfest action. And even then, I probably won't get enough boardgaming in, because I've been talked into running an Orpheus campaign. Killing all the characters just isn't enough if I want to end that campaign early.

mtlawson said...

I'm pretty much in Dan's camp, where I'm a multi-hobby geek. Things go in cycles for me: right now the big thing is stargazing with an old reflector I got for Christmas as a kid some ::mumble mumble:: years ago.

If you keep your horizons broad enough, the gaming will come back into focus. In my case, my wife and I get together with another guy for gaming once every couple of weeks or so, and that keeps things fresh.

--Mike L.

Ken B. said...

I thought the plot of the 2600 Raiders game was pretty coherent:

1. Indy materializes in the middle of nowhere. There are snakes.

2. Indy wanders south and immediately finds a market. There are still snakes. He finds some gold in a basket as well as a gun, and a grenade. No one seems to mind.

3. He blows up the wall with the grenade. If he's in the area the blast will kill him, but 10 more feet south into the market and he's okay. Again, no one seems to mind.

4. He walks through his new tunnel, he randomly ends up in a jail cell. His whip proves amazing at destroying concrete.

5. He finds a hidden temple room. He wanders in and out to find all sorts of weird treasure, like a magic ankh. (Aren't they all)?

6. He takes the random treasure that looks like a vaguely triangular grouping of pixels to the black merchant in the market. This somehow teleports him to the black market halfway around the country, or at least two or three screens away. He has to bribe a lunatic with one of his precious bags of gold; trying to walk around him causes death by lasers of some sort.

7. He buys a thing from the black market. Time has not been kind to my memories. The shovel, is it?

8. Luckily not far away from the black market is the room to find the location of the ark. This is convenient. You just have to wander through a pitch-black room full of thieves who have restless leg syndrome and can't sit still.

9. You put the thingamawhat in the ballyhoo and find the location of the ark. Hope you brought a parachute.

10. Use your suddenly magical rotating whip to leap from mesa to mesa. If you fall, you will be in a swamp with a thief hanging out. The thief will make you angry because he is a magical thief who is impervious to bullets. This will be the last time you bother picking up the gun.

11. Anwyay, find the right mesa, and parachute down. A lone branch might snag your chute. Fortunately it is in the same place on EVERY MESA and can be avoided.

12. You're suddenly in a room with more thieves with ADD. At this point, you are convinced the whole country is populated by merchants, a laser-wielding lunatic, and thieves. This is as bad an advertisement for tourism as Hostel ever was.

13. Dig a hole by running back and forth over a spot in the ground. Voila, you've found the ark!

14. Then apparently Indy dies and is lowered on a pedastal in a dark room; here he re-enacts the plot from "Lathe of Heaven" in his mind.

The end.

What the hell is so hard to understand about that? It's just like the movie.

NEXT WEEK: A review of E.T., the best movie-to-game of all time.

Frank Branham said...

Mostly burned out myself.

The thing is, I would now much rather be playing (or running) an RPG. (Something I haven't done in 10-12 years, but am getting back into.) That or living that florious Gordon Freeman scientist with a gun life.

And that means the games I really want are all RPG-ish....things like the Prophecy expansions, and the Road to Legend expansion for Descent. ( I like Descent. I would adore a Descent that can be played in short doses. )

Or of course find folks who like the purely dry and puzzle-like abstract games that I'm inordinately fond of. I could probably alternate playing Black Vienna and Code 777 for days.

MrZir said...

I have yet to have boardgame burn-out, but I have played boardgames while thinking how much more fun it would be to be doing something else. Even during a good session of my favorite games. Ususally this occures when I get much-lusted after new equipment for any of my other hobbies.

Michael Barnes said...

But Ken, what about the BEES, man? Weren't there bees in it? Or Tsetse flies or something?

My god, imagine if those guys who did the Raiders 2600 game tried to adapt something like INLAND EMPIRE or MULHOLLAND DRIVE to a game...aggh!

Ken B. said...

The Tsetse flies are non-canonical.

Shellhead said...


I saw Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom with a friend who was also a physics major. When they bailed out of the plane in that inflatable life raft and managed to land safely, he stood up and shouted profanity and physics terms at the screen. Fortunately, it was a weekday matinee showing, so the only other people in the theater were teenagers and/or stoners.

neonpeon said...

lol - I remember Raiders and ET. They sure don't make 'em like that anymore.

ubarose said...

michael barnes said...
every game we play lately collapses into mayhem/disarray/incompletion...I dunno, we get in these goofy modes where we wind up talking about things like how to design a LADYHAWKE CCG or what the hell happened in that Atari 2600 Raiders of the Lost Ark game. It's not a bad thing, but I think when we start getting burned out, we tend to focus more on socializing and having a good time with friends than the games.

Isn't that what games like Talisman are for? And if a game grinds to a halt because everyone finds themselves more engaged with each other than they are with the game, isn't that a good thing?

I often come back from a game night and realize that I only spent a third of the evening with a game in front of me. The rest of the time I spent socializing with people who were "between" games. I've been in the middle of some long, butt numbing game, when someone has looked up and said, "Look, he sun's come out." And then we've decided to screw the game and go to the beach.

mtlawson said...


Didn't the Mythbusters guys finally drive a stake into the "jump out of an airplane and use a raft to slow your descent" trick?

Nice to see your Physics buddy was on his toes and ready to let it fly. At least he could get away with it there; when my wife and I watched National Treasure a couple of years ago, she thanked me for holding my tongue on how it butchered the U.S. history so she could enjoy the escapism. It hurt -a lot- to keep my mouth shut on that one.

--Mike L.

notbillysparkles said...

I think that uba hit the nail on the head.

When burnout starts setting in play something mind-numbingly simple like talisman, or Bang or-- you get the idea.

BG'ing, for me, has always been about the socialising first and foremost. Nothing beats getting together with a group of people whose company I happen to enjoy and talking some shit.

Old Dwarf said...

It happens-I just move on to something else hobby wise.Painting
& converting figs or planning
homebrew campaings or rules usually
fills the bill until the "playing bug"again bites.

Shellhead said...

Stephen Avery is right, play with different players if you get the chance. Nothing wrong with playing with your closest friends or your most reliable gamer acquaintances. But different players will come up with different strategies, and different groups will have different social dynamics happening during the more interactive games.

My loyal band of local AT players loves to play Mall of Horror, but the game is a little stale if it's just our usual group, as we have all played it enough to know who will try to do what. So every time we get even one new player at the table we bring out Mall of Horror again, knowing that new player will throw off our usual metagame.

(For experienced MoH players... our metagame devolves into the 3 players who usually try to control the parking lot plus the 2 players who usually try to control the Security room. It's kind of like the upstairs versus basement debate from Night of the Living Dead. That white guy was a jerk, but he was right about the basement.)

Last night, I showed up at the Local Game Store, where a small but fanatical group of players is keeping Jyhad still alive in the metro area. I wanted to play, and I also wanted them to playtest my new game. To my shock, the local group had tripled in size in recent months. I had a great time playing a 4-player game of Jyhad with a store employee and two rookies, then we roped in another guy for my playtest. It was great fun, and when the store closed at 9:00, we all stood in the cold parking lot for a while, talking excitedly about setting up a boardgame day on the weekend before Halloween.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that a LadyHawke CCG sounds pretty damn awesome...

Michael Barnes said...

Doesn't it? Imagine "tilting" your "Tangerine Dream Score" card to make Rutger Hauer kiss the bird...

Mr Skeletor said...

Just stop playing for a while and the itch will come back.
I'm the opposite - I have been so busy lately that my gaming time has been cut to next to nothing, and I'm antsy for some more gaming!

Thaadd said...

and when the store closed at 9:00, we all stood in the cold parking lot for a while, talking excitedly about setting up a boardgame day on the weekend before Halloween.

Damnit, one of these days, you're going to have to have a game night that I can actually make :P Or maybe if I can ever find a freaking table big enough to be worth bothering, I'll start throwing my own again.

Working as film crew that weekend...

Mark said...

I'm hitting the two year wall as well. It's a combination of nice but dry eurogaming members of my group, no time, a satisfying albeit small collection and spousal friction. I just got a complete set of wizard king maps and armies however. But thinking of the tension caused by trying to keep a longer game set up while my wife finds excuses to try and take it down or complains about the time makes me nauseous. Also I have been craving a high quality airsoft pistol lately. I need the forced meditation of target shooting.