Monday, January 3, 2011

Call it Lumber! *angryface*

While most American games have resources in the form of currency, many games on the euro scene go for something a little more creative - treasure, coins, minerals, etc.  This allows for a bit more creative art, as well as various implementations of strategy when a variety of resources are needed.  This you probably already know.

Me, I often come  up with short-form 'nicknames' so to speak for what to call things.  Android has "bus passes," Dominion has "money" and Catan has Logs, Rocks, Bricks, and Sheep, as well as Super Secret Cards.  Admittedly, I occassionally choose a confusing word (I sometimes catch myself calling any Treasure card in dominion "Gold" because of the card color, regardless of the card value... which is not very good) but for the most part, I keep my [own made-up] terminology straight.

I attended Gencon this past year for the first time, which was quite an exciting event for me, an event that inspired me further and deeper into gaming with some side-effects that include starting this blog.  However, there is one small, unimportant, yet still memorable moment from Gencon that was somewhat unpleasant.

I had finally managed to jump in a game of Catan on Microsoft's Surface - an expensive coffee-table-turned-computer, loaded with Mayfair's crown game.  The game itself wasn't the best experience I've had with Catan - personally, I prefer the actual, tactile pieces, but as a tech guy on top of a board game guy, it was a novel experience, and the technology was pretty cool  (Best part: rolling actual dice that the computer could interpret).

Anyways, as I jumped in to fill another player's spot (finding myself with only 3 points to most of the other players' 6's and 7's) I immediately launched my strategy of trading and building up.  "Anyone got Logs?" I asked when my turn came around and I had some cards to trade.

"Call it lumber!" another player demanded, and it was not quite friendly.  It was sort of a grumpy growl, actually, and quite off-putting.  See, I thought games were played for fun. I didn't realize the terminology of the game was so strict.  Lumber, Wood, Logs - to me, it wasn't like there was anything to confuse that word with.  Is it Sheep or Wool?  Well considering the other options are a far cry from anything fabric-like, it shouldn't be that confusing.

I guess my point is this: lighten up, people. It's a board game.  A game.   If the rules call it a "development card" and I toss my resources in for a "super-secret card," it's not a game-breaker.  There's only one kind of card in the game that might give a player abilities beyond the norm, which is kept hidden until played.  It's okay.  If you have nicknames for cards, words that you find easier or more fun to say, then do it - as long as it's not confusing.  If you catch me calling Treasure in Dominion "Gold" then call me on it (unless i'm actually playing or buying a Gold card) - but if I call it "the monies" or something silly like that, I think we'll all make it through the game just fine.  After all, it is a board game - it's about using your imagination. Oh, and having fun.

Do you  use your own "slang" when playing board games?  Do you hate it when other people do that?  Leave a comment!


  1. You called it logs? I don't know if we can even be friends anymore...

  2. We call it wood, because then, of course, you can say "Anyone got wood for sheep?". And if they don't find *that* amusing, they are taking things too seriously.

  3. It's funny to play games with someone that regularly plays with a different group for the first time and see how they approach elements of the game differently than you and your group. My sister and brother-in-law actually learned the French version of my favorite game, Race For The Galaxy, and when we played it together for the first time they used different words for the actions in the game as a result of the translation. There are lots of fun nuances that you can discover when playing with someone new and hopefully you're in a group of people that will accept and enjoy those things.

    On the topic of slang in games I've found that it's common to generalize terms so that similar elements are referred to the same way across different games. The example of calling coins in Dominion "Gold" at first is an example of this as we generally call coins gold regardless of what they actually are. Another example are points (or victory points) which could be called all sorts of things by a game (prestige, honor, etc.) but are usually referred to as points instead just to keep things simple.


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