Howdy! My name is Rook Anderson, also known as @theoverboardgamer on Instagram, and @overboardgamr on Twitter. I love board games! I love them both for the social experience that they provide as well as the opportunities to learn and master new and interesting systems. I have a wonderful wife and three amazing kids aged five, three, and zero point four one six repeating. My work in information security brought our family away from our native Texas and to the San Francisco Bay Area about three years ago, where we enjoy the peerless weather, the beach, the mountains, and wonderful friends to play board games with!
How did you get into this world of non-digital games?
I have been playing games fairly steadily since I was a very young child. My family had the usual games when I was growing up, Monopoly, Stratego, Risk, chess, playing cards. I played them as often as I could convince people to play with me and was routinely crushed by my dad. There is a running joke in my family where I get a cheap chess set every year for my birthday, since I would need fresh pieces from losing them throughout the year. We also played games at my grandparents every time we were over there, Rummy, Rack-O, Balderdash, many others. In my early teens (around the late nineties) I had a friend who was into Settlers of Catan and taught me Acquire. I have been playing both somewhat regularly since. I played poker (pretty much every variant) and dominos (pretty much every variant) through high school. I perhaps played games a little to much while in school. I have fond memories of playing Hearts with my statistics teacher (he shot the moon twice in a row. Twice!), and playing a version of poker that you could play with a single deck of cards that eliminated card counting with my chemistry teacher. I once had a teacher take away our deck of cards for being to disruptive. The next day we brought dice. He gave us the cards back in a hurry, and we agreed to try to “tone it down a little”.
Through college I picked up the occasional game that looked interesting, Ticket To Ride, Small World, Munchkin, Killer Bunnies, pretty much as they came out. I played Axis and Allies with roommates, and had one roommate who was a highly rated chess player, whom I played and lost to weekly. The day before he moved out I finally won, and wouldn’t let him have a rematch, told him I was ending on a high note (sorry Norman!). When my wife and I were married, we played games regularly with my family, and with other couples. Games included Puerto Rico (a game without dice and exceedingly low randomness? Interesting!), San Juan, and of course, Catan and Acquire. When our family moved to the Bay Area around 3 years ago, we made new friends that enjoyed playing our game with us, and soon I needed a new game that could play 6. I went researching and found Power Grid. Power Grid’s systems fascinated me, and the research that I did when I was looking into it really kicked off my heavy interest in the latest hobby board games.
How often do you play?
I host a regular game night once a week on Tuesdays. Any game is fair game there, but usually we open with a light game the whole group can play, and then split off into separate groups for smaller games. I usually have an overflow night later in the week for people who can’t make it on game night, smaller in scale, about 3-4 players. Overflow night is less structured, so it’s a good chance to try out new games. I occasionally play games with a friend at work during lunch. This is where I can often get in my two player head to heads, Netrunner, Ashes, Star Realms. My kids will play games pretty much anytime with me they love it (of course kids games). My wife and I often unwind after a busy day and the kids are in bed with a light game or two. Love Letter, Lost Cities, Jaipur all regularly hit the table for this. It is an unusual day that I don’t play any games at all, though it can sometimes happen, depending on how busy life is at the moment.
Can you tell us something about your shelves?
Late last year, I was thinking long and hard about where I would put my games. At the time they were in an extra linen cabinet in our house, but it was getting a little tight. Soon I would be getting a new game table delivered and I wanted to bring my game collection out of the closet and onto some shelves near the table. As is my wont, I dove into research. I really liked the way the Kallax et al looked, but I wanted something more solid. Boy did I find it. I now house my games on a replica early 20th century French library shelving unit. The hardware is all solid iron, and the shelves are thick planks of reclaimed oak. It weighs about a million pounds and I love it. It has a foot step built into it, and a handle to pull yourself up onto that footer for better access to the top shelf. The depth is perfect for housing games, and it has a classic, enduring look.
I have chosen thus far to stack my games horizontally. I have nothing against those who love the look of vertical shelving, but my bagging of components is inconsistent at best. So until such a time as my games are all ready for it, vertical isn’t an option for me.
As to the organization, I organize somewhat according to publisher, weight, and type. E.g. family games by Days of Wonder are all close to each other and fairly close to similar games by Fantasy Flight. Middle-weight strategy games by Cool Mini or Not are grouped together and intersect with the Fantasy Flight group near BattleLore and Rum and Bones. Pleasantly, I have found this also usually allows for boxes of the same size to be close together. It sounds insane to try to group by all of those factors, but it mostly works. The real key is to not worry to much when Zombicide ends up next to Caverna.
The games really range widely from light card games to heavy euros to dice chucking theme festivals to social deduction. I enjoy many aspects of gaming and I feel like I have a pretty diverse range of games. It means that there is a game I have ready for almost any situation.
What is your favorite game at the moment?
My favorite game at the moment is Food Chain Magnate. I want to play it all the time. I suggest it when I shouldn’t. It’s mechanisms feel unique; I have never played a game quite like it. Food Chain Magnate is an economic business route and deck building strategy game designed by Jeroen Doumen and Joris Wiersinga from Splotter Spellen. It plays in about 2-4 hours and handles 2-5 player very comfortably. This is a game about crushing people. That should be explained up front. Sometimes you are the one getting crushed. Sometimes you are doing the crushing. But! When someone has an overwhelming turn, you knew. You saw who they were hiring. You saw that marketing go down the turn before. So the next time you play, maybe you can try that strategy. There are many paths to victory in this game, but it all depends on what your opponents are doing. You ignore them at your peril. If you are smart you use them as a stepping stone to gaining the most money in the Food Chain WORLD! As you laughingly count your money from the massive turn you just had, you can watch the hope fade from their eyes. The shifting abilities, the ways that you can quickly react to what other players are doing, but constantly need to be thinking ahead is perfect ground for an active, interactive gaming experience. All players start the game in the exact same boat, but by the end everyone has such radically different businesses… So far, fascinating to me. I have found over the years that asymmetric gameplay is a huge draw to me, and all my favorite games have at least an aspect of that. Android Netrunner, Cosmic Encounter, Arcadia Quest, and Cthulhu Wars are all top rated games by me and they all have very asymmetric gameplay.
What is your most special or obscure game?
The most special game I have is Android: Netrunner. Android: Netrunner is a Living Card Game (re)released in 2012 by Fantasy Flight, but orginally designed back in the 90’s by superstar designer Richard Garfield [Magic: the Gathering, King of Tokyo, Roborally]. It is a two player, asymmetric card game in which one player plays a super powered corporation in a cyberpunk future. This corporation player wins by advancing their various agendas. The other player plays a hacker or *runner* in game parlance. This player wins by stealing the information and agendas of the corporation. Neither side shares cards, and each plays the game in a very unique way.
We can agree right off that this game is not obscure. What makes this game very special is that it hits all the right notes for me. First, the theme. That amazingly detailed, well realized cyberpunk theme. I am an old disciple of the cyberpunk genre. When I travel for work I usually watch *Blade Runner* on my laptop. I spend my days breaking into large corporations computer systems and looking for their secrets. Of course, I do this with the consent (and payment, it is my job after all!) of the company I am targeting. So you can see that the theme is a fantastic fit for me. Of course, there are cyberpunk games that could be awful to play. Thankfully, this is not. I love the pre game deck construction because when I don’t have people around to play games, I can be building decks! The depth of the game system and the numerous cards available ensures endless combinations of cards to play with. Of course, all of this is build on the game’s excellent mechanics. Bluffs and counter bluffs, hidden information, an excellent action point allocation system, great agonizing decision points throughout all in a well balanced, beautiful thematic bundle.
Thank you so much for sharing your story! Something you would like to add?
The world can be a terrible, cynical, stressful, brutal, overwhelming place. Everybody in life has their own problems that they are dealing with. Playing board games together, when we join up for fun, laughter, challenge, and positive social engagement, can be a refuge and a bright point. Some of my fondest memories about the people I care most about occurred when we were sitting down together to play games. The fastest way for me to get to know someone new is to sit down and play a game with them. It is a hobby that builds friendships, love, fun, and happiness. I love board gaming for that. And maybe sometime we can sit and play a game together sometime. I hope so.
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