Board Games

The Groundhog Project

Groundhog-Project--WhiteFirst things first, this has nothing to do with the movie or our grand tradition of checking if the little fella sees his shadow as a predictor for the amount of Winter left (is he accounting for global warming?). Really, it’s just a starting date and I think the name has a ring to it. The idea initially sprouted back in December, when I posted about an annual music activity, The Thanksgiving Project (Why Jazz Might Make Me a Better Gamer). In short, I select an artist or music style to focus on between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I kicked off the Roll and Groove blog in early November and response was really positive from the outset (THANK YOU!), things were rolling along, and my annual delve into a music style or artist was in full force when I posted the article on Jazz.  It was in response to the epiphany I had around how gaming and music, two things I have continually enjoyed in some form or another, and how they have intertwined as a companion experience for me. I started thinking about the reasons I enjoy my music project and whether the same thing could be applied to gaming.

I eagerly seek out opportunities to learn and explore things that spark my interest, sometimes to a fault (I have a history of hoarding hobbies). Decidedly curious by nature, I love the rabbit hole that investigation exposes; welcoming you to muddle around in all the information, leading you further into its depth. That passion continues to draw me further into both music and gaming. Both of these hobbies brim with nooks and crannies that contain bits of history, art, interpretation, and reinvention of all those inputs.

You can trace the lines and influences that run through the work; whether it be the music created, or the game with which you interact.

If you choose, you can learn about the influences of the artist or designer, and then explore those influences, opening up further tunnels that lead to new tunnels. It continues to feel fresh and new and exciting.

For these reasons, I have decided to kick off the Groundhog Project, where I will annually select and focus on a game genre (e.g. Euro games, Trick-taking, dice based, etc.) or specific game designer. For the inaugural endeavor, I have selected game designer Ignacy Trzewiczek. Ignacy’s list of games includes Stronghold (Soon to be reprinted), 51st State, Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island, and most recently, Imperial Settlers. I will focus almost exclusively on his games between today, February 2nd (Groundhog Day) through St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th. Through the development of solo mechanics, gaming can be enjoyed unaccompanied and some of Ignacy’s games have solo playability, but for the most part it’s a different beat than music in that you have some reliance on others’ willingness to play what you have brought to game night. As such, I will exclude the requirement of any sort of pseudo-scientific (completely made-up) percentage of my time devoted to my choice, as I do with my music project, and instead make a personal commitment and concentrated effort to focus the majority of gaming time on his games, inspirations, and theory. As with most schemes I come up with, it’s not entirely well sorted out, so the rest of it will be made up as I go along.

I must disclose, for some odd reason, it feels a bit creepy selecting an individual game designer and I don’t know entirely why that is. Maybe because with music, there is a storied history, better documented and accepted by the masses? While gaming has a history as aged, it’s documentation and acceptance may not be quite there yet.

Also, I don’t think attention and credit has been given to the designers and artists that produce the games that we consume. At least not until that last five to ten years.

The reality though, is that they are quite similar to each other. Both musicians and game designers use their skills to take inspiration and mold it into something that their audience can engage with and in turn, the audience takes their own experiences and overlays that against what was created, forming a new experience and interpretation altogether.

I chose Ignacy for a couple of reasons. One, I have only played one of his games. This gives me an opportunity to discover new games and experiences instead of revisiting previously played titles. It also gives me good reason to pick up a couple more games (In the name of research, mind you). The other reason resulted from the experience I had while playing that game.  Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island is a game that I have only played twice, but enjoyed so thoroughly it inspired me to create a piece of fiction from my second gaming session, which ended up as a post on this blog (Story Board: Robinson Crusoe). The game is so soaked in thematic elements, it felt like I was creating the story as I played; something I found really intriguing. The game impelled me to read his book, Board Games That Tell Stories, and it really showed the passion in which he approaches games and game design.

I am looking forward to digging into his games, exploring further the games that I have played, as well as experiencing games I have not. I will be posting some of my thoughts and opinions throughout the project. I am also curious to see if this undertaking will be as rewarding as my music endeavor. I have no set goal or outcome, which is arguably a poor way to kick off a project, but as I think about it, this feels more like a journey than anything. An exploration of concepts, themes, mechanics, interpretation, and design.

Into the rabbit hole…

I invite you to adapt and adopt the Groundhog Project as your own. Select a genre or designer and dig in. Post your thoughts, revelations, and what you’ve learned in the comments below. I hope you do. Roll well and groove on.


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