The Endless March - Campaign Fatigue
One of the most frequently talked about subjects in board gaming forums is the shelf of shame; games laying around unplayed. Often this is the result of kickstarter enthusiasm that died out months before the game even hit your doorstep, or the buzz on the latest hotness that you are just waiting on the right people to play with. While games of all types remain neglected, I noticed a couple recurring themes. These games are often A) Very big, and B) Require a dedicated group.
Oh, and C) (Pursuant to A and B) These games often involve campaigns.
Campaign games, that is to say a game played over many sessions with aspects carrying over from one session to another, are more popular than ever. The rise of Legacy mechanics have contributed to this, but also the ease in which these games can be played cooperatively has led to a new level of accessibility, allowing many more people to involve themselves in lengthy adventures protracted over time. But these grim marches into gaming servitude are popular with publishers, too. Campaigns suggest a lifestyle, a game that has its own ecosystem, where players are enticed to buy expansions and hesitate to trade in games, encouraging more retail purchases. After all, it’s easy to slip into a state where your hobby isn’t board games, it’s Descent, and you might as well fill out that collection because you are a Descent player now.
The thing is that I want that, too. I dream of a fanciful world with unlimited time and the enthusiastic buy-in of all my friends who are just dying to play 80 games of Gloomhaven. But someone this imaginary world provides enough time so that my campaign doesn’t interfere with my Pandemic: Legacy sessions. Oh and I need to make sure that my wife and I’s Near & Far playthrough keeps going… Speaking of, the latest expansion to Scythe is really neat since the content unfolds over eight sessions. Aaaaand I’ve been meaning to dive into some sweet, sweet HeroQuest with my older brother when he comes back to town. Dangit! Rob will kill me if I forget to prepare for our next 5E session…
Forget it, not even in this far-fetched fantasy realm can I imagine a world where I’m able to fit everything I want to play in without succumbing to fatigue and anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not throwing blame at the publishers, I don’t think this is some sinister plot to make gamers miserable because of the abundance of awesome stuff. But the reality is, many gamers are sold on the dream that they could play these games. In truth, for many people a big game like this is much more likely to sit safely on a shelf, because the act of breaking it out requires so much dedication and buy-in from your friends, not to mention playing it may come at the expense of checking out the other games you know and love.
So, what is my point? I just want to call out my own behaviors, and that of my fellow gamers. We have an embarrassment of riches in this hobby, with so many good games, and good campaigns, to choose from. It’s easy to be seduced into buying into the dream that you’ll be able to play it all.
Campaign games in particular are among the most enticing but also the most difficult to get to the table, requiring commitment by enthusiastic players that can be able to show up consistently and wish to plumb the depths of game. That means that for us inhabitants of the real world, with responsibilities and competing interests, who don’t live in this fantasy land of unicorns and infinite time, we’ll have to be selective about which games commit to. So the next time you are about to throw your money at the next big thing, campaign or otherwise, just make sure that you aren’t selling yourself a dream.
Written by Jack Eddy, TCbH Founder & Editor
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