Friday, 28 June 2013

General Ramblings: The Limits of My Attention Span

How many games can one person play?

It's a question that has been bugging me from the backseat of my mind for a while. Is there in fact an upper limit to how many separate games a single person can play before the total enjoyment starts dipping?

I'm going to be starting this off on a somewhat arrogant note: I'm a pretty smart guy.

It's hard to find a good non-political picture for 'arrogance'. This'll do... Humility is overrated.

I have semi-eidetic memory, I read very quickly with good retention, and I have a knack for language that means that even though the games I play are in English (which is my second language) I have absolutely no problems understanding the rules (for that particular reason, at least). I also have considerable university-level lingustic education in English, so there's that...

What this adds up to is that I am better at reading, understanding and learning rules than many people.

And still, I am finding it a bit tricky to keep on top of more than four or five (miniatures) games at a time. When I start digging into Warmachine, 40k suffers, and when Malifaux is the thing, Warmachine takes the backseat.

One reason for this is of course that a proper understanding of the rules for any miniatures game is never only theoretical. It takes actual playing to truly get to know a system.

Another reason is that the rules for most games are constantly evolving: there are new armies, new editions, new FAQs and Erratas, new expansions. The only game I consider myself a player of that is not evolving is Blood Bowl, and even that game has had a new team added in the last year, if only in the computer game version (which is the version I've been playing lately).

How long does it take to learn any new addition to a game?

Of course, this depends on the nature of the addition. A new set of rulings might be a matter of minutes ('Oh, so that's how they meant for that to work'). Often, I've already thought about the issue. Other times, it's a simple matter being clarified, or a frankly stupid question that I never even considered could be resolved any other way. At the other end of the scale, properly learning a new edition, especially one that entails many fundamental changes, can take hours of reading time, plus weeks of time on the table.

Ah, I think I recognize the Big Red Book of Warhammer Fantasy...

This is all a long-winded way of saying it's a lot of work keeping up with the rules of even one game. If you're a slow reader, have trouble learning details, or just can't be bothered, you might settle for learning one game well, rather than struggle to learn several badly. If you're me, you might settle for learning three or four games well, rather than a dozen badly (there's that arrogance again).

Then there's the fact that our games are high-threshold. Even the most forgiving skirmish-type games require at least half a dozen minis (a new Warhammer Fantasy army often requires a hundred or more) that need to be bought and paid for, and assembled at least some of the way, and really should be painted. If you want to move beyond a single build for your crew/team/army this increases further.

Let's not beat around the possibly flesh-eating bush here (let's beat at it, instead, just in case it is flesh-eating): building an army takes time and money. Sometime a lot of time and money, sometimes more of one than the other. It's much easier, and cheaper, to stay within one army, or at least one system (especially if you can reuse models through some form of Allies or Mercenaries) than it is to start something new.

eEyriss. 'Nuff said.

Lastly (on this list) is the matter of the table itself.

Firstly, different games need different-sized playing areas, and while it's a simple matter to move from a 6' by 4' foot table to a 3' by 3' one simply by cordoning parts off, moving the other way will require an entirely new board.

Then there's the matter of terrain. Yes, if you're staying more or less at the same scale, some things will carry (woods, rivers, lakes and other natural features will work in Malifaux or the Grim Darkness of the Far Future as well as they will in a historical 28 mm wargame). Other things will be awkward (what's that Aquila-infested temple doing in Infinity?) or downright unsuitable (I guess you could have a Fortess of Redemption in Malifaux, but is it really the best way to immerse yourself in the game?).

You might in fact have to build at least parts of an entirely new set of terrain. If you're changing scale you'll likely have to actually build a lot of new terrain. Which means time you could have spent painstakingly painting your fifty Plague Bearers is spent gluing buildings and carving Polystyrene rocks.

So, there might be an upper limit to the number of games you can play.

I was going to end this whole thing with a list of my weaknesses, you know, to outweigh the arrogance, but decided not to. It's not that I don't have them. I just don't want to write them out.

Oh, well, just the one then, since you already know about it.

I occasionally have all the attentiveness and verbal acuity of a highly caffeinated squirrel.


1 comment:

  1. And so, you clearly need to start some 35mm 1870 nukepunk shenanigans, right?