We gather here today to say farewell to our dearly beloved. May the gods of gaming welcome you into their embrace, and may you rest eternally in peace. The world will never see your likes again.
This is how it feels every time I hear a game series I like is ending. I felt an overwhelming sense of loss for Android: Netrunner. I feel saddened by the end of Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn. I mean, honestly, it’s a bit pathetic how beside myself I get when it comes to an end. There is some sort of mental block which makes me feel like I’ll never play them again.
This is all despite the fact they’re on the shelf behind me as I type this.
Unlike a dearly departed friend, or even a videogame such as an MMO which ends and all servers being switched off – it is still possible to play. Where I think this mentality for me comes in is the meta game and the player base. Basically unless you’re playing competitively these are two things you probably won’t care about.
When a game series ends the meta game freezes. The top tier decks will forever be the top tier decks. And any cards which were currently in play remain with the ban list never changing. It means any fresh combinations are gone. And without new cards and new combinations, players will slowly trickle off until only a handful, if any, remain. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I’ve seen a few different ideas surface around the place, particularly in the Android: Netrunner community. Formats such as the “corebox plus one big box expansion plus one datapack” limitations to deck creation. I’ve organised and managed a corebox cards-only tournament awhile back. It was really fun to see some of those old cards make the rounds again. And this is exactly the point – there are usually so many cards in these games by the time they come to an end. People will often mistake larger card pools for more choices. This just isn’t accurate in reality. Because given the choice between a good option and a bad option – well the word “choice” there seems misleading at best.
Limitations are often what make things more interesting. Think of tournament organising as a resource management game – banning or limiting certain cards, making players choose between two or three viable and good options. The old saying “variety is the spice of life” is applicable here, because the right amount of spice is delicious. But if you pour too much spice into your dinner then it’s going to be a shit-show.
When Lachlan and I would prepare for Android: Netrunner tournaments, we’d play on Jinteki.net on the weeks leading up to it. In order to learn different combinations, different styles of decks, and different elements of the game (plus just to shake things up) we would often give each other an ID or a certain card or whatever and we had to put together a deck within fifteen minutes then play it.
With Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn – drafting from a box was always my favourite way to play. This meant everyone was on the same starting level. And drafting is still an option for many of these games. I like the drafting system in Ashes and it can pretty easily be expanded to other games – you put a single copy of all cards in the pool into a draft deck. Then when drafting is done, you collect the other copies of the cards you’ve drafted up to a full playset. This enables you to still make decks which work really effectively.
I’ve played hundreds of board games over the last few years (at a conservative guess), and the ways to play I’ve mentioned above still stick out for me because they were a different take on games I adore.
I am curious to see what happens to the aftermarket with these games once some time has passed. Sometimes popular games skyrocket in value, depending on rarity etc., whereas other times cards become dirt cheap to pick up a whole set (I’d love to get my hands on the cards I’m missing for A:N and A:RotP). Having a quick look around it doesn’t seem this has occurred around the end of May 2019. But it was a bit of wishful thinking to assume it would have given Ashes hasn’t officially ended at time of writing (though they’ve announced the final products).
My point in this article isn’t to say it’s not sad when a game goes away. It undoubtedly is. And it’s inevitable for the player base to decrease drastically. But as much as we dub them “dead” games, it’s really the wrong mindset to have about them. They’ve transitioned into something else. They’re more akin to the other board games we’ve got on our shelves. Something where all the pieces are in there and you’ve just got to set it up to play.
So when a game ends, we need to think more about shifting our perspectives on it. We can still play. Nobody is coming to your house and taking the cards from your shelves.
So instead of holding a funeral for the games, we should treat it like an upbeat Wake.
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