This week has seen my biggest ever splurge of spurious gaming purchases, running into hundreds of pounds. I'm stopping for a second and taking a moment to confess and assess my problem: I have acquisition disorder.
Let's be clear; this has been brewing for a number of years, even before I met the world of boardgaming. As a juvenile delinquent with nothing but a paper round income I was introduced to Magic: The Gathering by a friend. I was severely restricted by the cost of booster packs, so my collection essentially consisted of a couple of cheap decks. That was enough to have a few games with mates, but I always looked on longingly at the booster box down at my local store. Ultimately, the same old stuff got boring and the cards found their way to the loft to gather some dust.
Fast forward to 2013 and I got wind that a new Core Set was coming out. I also had a proper job with a few spare reddies in my pocket...
I ordered all 5 introductory decks and an entire box of boosters. I wanted something I hadn't had since the original Pokemon Trading Card Game: a complete collection! The box of goodies arrived and I sat there like a kid again, opening booster after booster and revelling in the sheer awesomeness of the art and abilities. That evening felt GOOD. Soon though, I'd opened the last pack, and naturally, I had a tonne of dupes and an incomplete collection. No worries - I was still on the high, and I spent a lot of time building decks out of the new mound of cards and first ever Planeswalker I'd had.
A few months went by and the new cards suffered the same fate as the old; consigned to the spiders in the loft. The crucial point of that whole saga was that although I spent a tonne of money on the stuff, I did get the enjoyment payback and what's more, the incomplete collection didn't bother me. That was a time before acquisition disorder kicked in, but all the ingredients were there: disposable income, a lust for things I couldn't previously have, and arguably (in the case of the intro decks) purchase of something just for the sake of it.
The reason why that tale is important is that it was 100% the precursor to development of my AD. It was the first moment as a working adult that I realised that I had disposable income that could be used frivolously, frittered away on "nice to haves" rather than "needs". All this coincided with my introduction to the boardgame hobby, and things kicked up a notch.
Like most new boardgamers, I rode into the hobby on the back of The Dice Tower and Watch It Played Youtube channels. I would watch Rodney Smith and his family playing the games and having a great time and whatever the game was, I'd want it. Literally, he could have sold me chocolate teapots.
One of the first games I picked up as a result of those videos was Summoner Wars. For those not in the know, the base set has more than enough to keep casual gamers happy for a long time, with 6 factions to play with. I picked that up and played a few games with my wife, and it was abundantly clear I was much more enthused about it than she was, but, she humoured me nevertheless. That should have been it, I should have chalked it up as "OK" and moved on to other things - but I didn't.
Next came the 2 standalone Summoner Wars expansions, then the 6 single deck expansions, then the Plaid Hat promos, then Summoer Wars Alliances... all that even though I knew full well my regular gaming partner wasn't that interested. And it wasn't just Summoner Wars. So why did I carry on?
Although partially because I have a completionist streak, I realise now it was because I was chasing the idealistic gaming experience that Rodney Smith has with his family, and Rahdo has with his wife. They all love to play games and they have a great time! Who wouldn't want that?
Whilst I had that moment of realisation long ago that my wifes' tastes should also be taken into account when choosing games, I haven't yet come to terms with the fact that she just doesn't like boardgames as much as I do. Not only that, she doesn't like the same styles of games that I do. Those are big things, and they stick two fingers up to the rose-tinted visions of having a great time gaming with family.
I think that's been the single biggest reason for my shift to solo gaming. If I can't persuade my wife to play a few games a couple of times a week then I'm on my own. The trouble is, the desire for the family experience persists. I've bought a lot of solo games recently and backed even more on Kickstarter, all trying to scratch the unscratchable itch: I've found no solo game (yet?) that replace the experience of gaming with others.
So here's my plan of attack for combating this affliction: getting more involved in both this blog and the BGG 1 Player Guild. Firstly, the blog gives me a reason to dive further into solo gaming. It turns an insular activity into one that allows expression and encourages wider thought. Secondly, the 1 Player Guild has a tagline of "Together, We Game Alone" that sounds exactly what I'm looking for: camaraderie.
Solitaire gaming doesn't have to be a lonely experience, perhaps that's the key lesson to learn here.