The Acquisition Imperative

Periodically, I get a yen to buy a board game or role-playing game. It’s a strong enough yen that I’ll fixate on it for some time. A couple years ago, for reasons I still can’t fathom, it was a general impulse to buy HERO System books. I gave in to that one and wound up with two or three feet of shelf space given over to books pushing a system I wasn’t entirely sold on. I think I’ve run precisely one session of role-playing using HERO, the sole session of an ersatz Spelljammer campaign I called Known Spheres. That game actually died for scheduling reasons rather than a dislike for HERO, just for the record.

Anyway, I get on these “want it all” or “I want that so much” kicks. For the most part, I keep on top of them, mostly by waiting myself out. Sometimes I will actually get to try the game without buying, usually discovering it’s not something I want. And there are the times I make mistakes.

Lately, the game I’ve fixed on is Talisman, the old fantasy adventure offering from Games Workshop. I will admit that Talisman is not a good game by any means. You roll a die, move your character and, most often, draw at least one card. Even the direction you move along the board doesn’t always matter, as you’ll draw the same card regardless of whether you go right or left. Nevertheless, I do find the game entertaining. The art evokes a simple, parochial sort of fantasy world that’s miles closer to how I envisioned The Hobbit on first reading than the design of Middle-earth in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films or the dungeonpunk aesthete that’s percolated through role-playing games since the launch of Dungeons & Dragons‘ third edition.

Right now, I get to play Talisman once every couple of months whenever Nonny happens to bring it to Tuesday night at Quarterstaff Games, which is probably just enough to keep me from getting tired of the game. But I do find myself thinking “I could easily pick up Fantasy Flight’s new edition of the game, which is widely available and has a steady stream of new content coming out.” (This sets aside the question of whether I need a steady stream of new content; being disappointed by weak Arkham Horror expansions contributed to the lessening of my ardor for that game.)

Recently, the promotion of the new Gamma World happening on Twitter has gotten to me. I really would like to try this, because it sounds like a goofy good time, which is about the only way I want to deal with the premise of “after the Mega-Whoops.” It’d also be a chance to take a good, long look at the rules underlying Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, on which this iteration of Gamma World is based.

Here’s my conundrum: I’ve always — more often than, fairly frequently, a bit, when it suits me — said it’s better to use the stuff you’ve got than buy yet another set of rules for role-playing that are ultimately only slightly different from the dozens one already owns. But the point of trying the new Gamma World is one’s trying the new Gamma World, not mimicking it with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or whatever else. So the usual tactic of “use what you’ve got” doesn’t work, partly for the system involved, but also because I don’t have any role-playing materials about a wacky post-apocalypse.

My first tactic is to mitigate the risk of a non-utilized purchase. If I actually play this one, unlike the many, shamefully unplayed role-playing games on my shelves, I can better rationalize the purchase — which is probably still a logical fallacy given past behavior and the extent by which similar decisions have changed notably in their outcomes. To this end, I’m trying to find some people to commit to playing Gamma World at Winter Weirdness on January 8th.

At what point does a $40 box set become worth it? One play? Two? Six? A dozen? In dollars per hour, if we play a four hour session at Winter Weirdness, that’s $10 per hour of play, not counting tax. If one considers preparation time entertaining and it takes ten hours to absorb everything in the box, it’s less than $3 per hour, but I don’t really hold with that perspective.

Again, though, I think this is an expression of my recurring “Ooh, new. Want!” impulse. I could just ignore it, stick with Ghostbusters and Fiasco for Winter Weirdness and go on my way. That honestly makes the most sense and saying “We’ll have Gamma World to play!” isn’t really going to make a difference in who turns out, will it?

What would you do?

5 thoughts on “The Acquisition Imperative

  1. I suffer from the exact same impulses. The current way I handle it is to wait a week or two. If I am still just as excited about a product after a cooling-off period, then I will give in and buy it. Even if I never play the game, my justification is two-fold: First, even if I don’t use the actual game, some of the content will at least serve as information and inspiration for future gaming sessions. Second, I have a bookshelf full of RPG products and a closet full of table-top games, so at this point I am a collector. As a collector, some games are just worth owning.

    I just recently became fixated on Gamma World as well. I knew about its release and didn’t think much of it. I have a good amount of 4ed D&D books, so the system itself was not new and exciting to me. My fixation occurred when I was out Christmas shopping at my local game store and picked the box up to have a look at it. Something about all those bright colors, the nice-looking game components pictured on the back, and the fact that it is a boxed set made me salivate. I’m waiting until January to give in to my urge. If Gamma World is still exciting after Christmas gifts, I will likely buy.

    • I caved on this one, but I think it’s going to pay off. It’s certainly given me the time to recognize that I like the tone and feel of this version of the game, as prepare to run it at the local January game day. Depending on how that goes, I can easily envision game day Gamma World adventures becoming a regular thing.

  2. Not too long ago we played a one-shot of Gamma World at Brian and Becky Leet’s place. In terms of a game for one-shots GW seems to fit really well. Character creation is really simple, along the lines of old D&D in that there is little actual player choice, the character is more or less “rolled” into being. Then during the game things switch up with new mutations happening for each encounter. So you get the variety of play from a boardgame, but still framed within an RPG.

    My only issue I had with it is that it is, as others have said, “gonzo” in its approach. I’m sure it could be spun into a more coherent and gritty game atmosphere, but this pushes more towards Toon in its over the top premise. That does work for one-shots. I’m not sure I’d want to play a whole campaign that was that was just so chaotic and silly. I don’t remember the original Gamma World being this nuts, but it might have just been how that GM was spinning things.

    • Yes, I got the impression as well this is designed for one-offs and short runs. Which is good, because most games under the sun embrace slow character advancement, coherency and grittiness. I appreciate the opportunity to go over the top now and again.

  3. Pingback: Betrayal at House on the Hill Warpgate Continues: Is the End in Sight? « Held Action

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