A collection of tabletop games, with the text "tabletop toolbox" in big white letters in the foreground.

Your Game Shelf is a Toolbox

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    Vintage RPG

  • Your game shelf is a monument to years of careful research, of building the the perfect collection to fit any situation. Cultivating this particular assemblage of cardboard has been a labor of love, and it is never truly done. It’s a fluid thing, your game shelf, ever changing and evolving as new games continue to release and old ones fall out of popularity. It can be exhausting to maintain such a well-refined and carefully planned-collection, but it’s all worth it when you have company over and need to entertain them. Pulling out the right game for the group on hand can be a rewarding justification of all your hard work.

    I like to imagine my game shelf as a toolbox, with each game fit to specific situations and tasks. Just like a jigsaw might help a woodworker shape a 2×4, Carcassonne might help introduce a person to the world of designer board games. Lords of Waterdeep has become my socket wrench, a trusty and reliable tool useful in many different situations. Because it’s easy to teach, Lords is an ideal first step into the worker placement genre, and will remain trusty for years to come. It truly has become a go-to for me, a commonly used tool in my toolbox.

    If I plan on being at a casual event with lots of people, I like to be prepared with a couple good games that accommodate higher numbers. Bohnanza is a situational tool that excels at being an ice breaker. Because there is a lot of interaction and trading in the game, Bohnanza makes a good game for people who don’t know each other well, a sort of vice grip that can being disparate individuals together. Codenames is another game that serves a similar purpose when it comes to bringing a group together.

    For a big project such as a planned game night, I have my big guns, my rotary saws and nail guns. Terra Mystica is a behemoth of a game that requires planning and proper time management to use. Here, I would make sure to do the proper research and prep work to ensure the job is done correctly. Power Grid is another game that fits into this category. They may be large and unwieldy, but like any tool, familiarity goes a long way in ensuring smooth execution. For my group, Power Grid has become so familiar that it now feels no more foreign in the hand than a hammer or a screwdriver.

    It feels a bit silly to equate games and tools, but really they’re not that far removed. Each project calls for a different tool in the same way each game group calls for a different game. I would never break out Forbidden Stars for a group that doesn’t play a lot of games. Likewise, Sushi Go! might not be appropriate for a group seeking a heavier experience. It all comes down to the ability to read the situation and pick out the proper tool. Building that toolbox takes time, however, but it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby.