The Tao of Board Gaming I

The Tao of Board GamingI. The Student of Catan

There was once a young student named Bonnelyn who, to every Board Game Night, brought but two games. The first was The Settlers of Catan and the second was Puerto Rico. Whenever she was asked what games she would like to play, she would softly smile and say, “I have brought The Settlers of Catan and Puerto Rico, and they are both games that I enjoy.” Sometimes others would join her in these pursuits, but sometimes they did not. Yet, if another game won out, Bonnelyn would play that alternative with a good heart as well.

There was one day when Bonnelyn came to play Agricola in this manner. She did well, mastering the game with a quiet ease that surprised the other players. And, it was obvious that it touched her as well, for she smiled when she upgraded her house, cheered when she was able to place her last family member on the board, and even wept when she did not bring in enough harvest one year. She won the game handily and everyone who played said that they had never seen her having so much fun.

The next week one of those players said to her, “So, Bonnie, what game would you like to play this week?” From the way the player rested his hand upon his new, shiny Agricola box, it was obvious that he thought he knew the answer to his question.

Bonnelyn smiled softly and said, “I have brought The Settlers of Catan and Puerto Rico, and they are both games that I enjoy.”

The other player said, “But I thought you really enjoyed that Agricola game last week!”

Bonnelyn replied, “I did, but The Settlers of Catan and Puerto Rico have not changed.”

II. The Unlucky Player

There was a player who was unlucky at every game he took part in. When he played Ticket to Ride, the cards that he desired would be snatched up just before his turn, and his preferred routes likewise taken just as he gathered the final cards he needed to build them. When he played The Settlers of Catan, his lands rarely prospered and when they did, they were inevitably being visited by the robber. When he played Kingsburg he rolled all 1s and when he played Yahtzee he couldn’t put together a triplet to save his life. If there was a way for luck to turn against him in a game, it would.

One day this player was halfway through a game of Carcassonne and he was already desperately far behind. All of his knights were stranded on uncloseable cities and all of his farmers had been overtaken by greater majorities in their fields. Each of his opponents had already lapped his scoring meeple. When the unlucky player drew yet another worthless road tile — for this was a game of Carcassonne without Inns or Cathedrals — he simply smiled and said, “Perhaps I can earn a few points in this way” as he placed his final meeple down on the road.

Another player marveled, “How can you stay so positive when you are always losing so badly?”

The unlucky player replied, “This loss has not happened yet.”

III. The Newcomers to Puerto Rico

There was once a student of Puerto Rico who could only play the game at public Board Game Nights. This was not to his liking because it meant that most games involved at least one new player. Seating was usually random, and so sometimes the student would find a new player sitting to the right of one of his opponents rather than to the right of himself.

The Puerto Rico student would always strive to take this with good grace but when he started to fall behind in a game — and in truth, this often happened, for he was at best a fair player — he would begin to point out moves the new player had made with snideness in his voice. “Just give away those goods, why don’t you!” he might shout when the Craftsman was unexpectedly chosen, or “You didn’t have hardly anything to deliver!” when a surprising choice of Captain left his own goods to rot at the dock. As a game of Puerto Rico went on, the student’s anger would usually grow.

But there was one day when a new player to Puerto Rico happened to sit to the student’s right while the student was simultaneously playing at his very best. Thus, he was soon collecting victory-point hexagons with more speed than any of his opponents.

As the game progressed, one opponent said, “You have no complaints about this new player?”

To which the student replied, “Everyone must learn a game sometime.”

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