Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Game Activity during the Pandemic

For two months the covid-19 pandemic has altered how we live our lives, including our gaming habits. Most world governments imposed limitations on their population (followed more stringently in some places than others). In less than two months more Americans have died than in all the years of fighting in Vietnam. Depending on how soon scientists can develop more effective testing and tracking, vaccines, and treatments/cures, we may never really return to a semblance of “normal” we experienced before. In the face of this deadly pandemic most everyone’s trying to adapt to the new situation: businesses, conventions, individual gamers. No doubt we’ll continue adjusting as conditions change for better or worse. We just have to sit back and see how our efforts affect the pandemic...and until then, we can distract ourselves and find some respite from this grim reality through our modified adventure gaming hobby activities.

Our family is practicing self isolation out of an abundance of caution and because I’m in the at-risk “overweight old codger” category. Most places we’d normally frequent are closed; game stores are no exception. The one in town – which carries comics and some board and collectible card games – closed when its distributor stopped shipments. The one I usually frequent about an hour away has gone to curbside delivery on phone or e-mail orders only. Another one a bit closer which I rarely get to remained open while practicing social distancing, but closed after an employee was exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus; it’s opening for retail operations in May, though the gaming area remains closed. I’m looking forward to returning to them when restrictions ease to a reasonable degree, even if I’m wearing one of the neat face masks my wife made (with appropriate themes of “space babes,” pulp airplanes, and ancient Egyptians); but until then I can remain patient with plenty of gaming at home.

I’m lucky we managed to attend our usual February convention, Williamsburg Muster (which I discussed in a past post, “Father-Son History-Wargaming Weekend”) before the pandemic hit in force. My purchases there satisfied most of my hobby driven urges and my need to share my games with others. Nonetheless, I’ve supported adventure gaming businesses online with a few purchases, including the Fighting Sail naval rules from Osprey and a deal on desert terrain from Battlefront (granted, it’s “red planet” desert terrain, but a few layers of dry-brushing can transform it into “earth” desert). No doubt I’ll make a few more orders in the future to support businesses and boost my pandemic-battered morale (hit more by watching the news and the numbers and not as much by self-isolation, which, for an introvert like me, isn’t so bad). I’ve also started a shopping list for at least one of the regional game stores I hope to visit when things calm down.

Despite our self isolation efforts I actually seem to have less time to myself than before – while my wife was away at work and my son at school – now that everyone’s doing their normal daytime activities at home. My day is primarily consumed by spending time with them and on household needs: riding point on my son’s distance learning classroom activities; getting pulled off task because someone found something interesting they must share or a chore they feel requires immediate attention; trying to ignore (unsuccessfully) all news sources other than The Onion; working in the garden and yard; and baking (primarily rolls and crackers, but occasionally cookies and a specialty bread).

Giving the Wings of Glory
WWII AI app a try.
I have managed, however, to carve out time to satisfy my own gaming needs, beyond my much-reduced writing for Hobby Games Recce and other projects in development for Griffon Publishing Studio. Some gaming pursuits I’ve done on my own, while others involve family members. I’m catching up on my reading: enjoying S. John Ross’ free Risus adventure Slimes in Blossom Grove, working my way through The Expanse novel series; absorbing Bob Cordery’s latest release, The Portable Colonial Wargame (and scheming on ways to bring it to the table). I’m gluing, cutting, and assembling some of Peter Dennis’ Revolutionary War forces to fight out the Battle of Ridgefield on the wargaming tabletop. I’ve tested Wings of Glory World War II app using artificial intelligence to run enemy aircraft (something I mentioned in a previous feature on cooperative wargaming experiences suitable for newcomers). Numerous miscellaneous projects littering my painting table also vie for attention: painting S-boots for some Cruel Seas action; finishing some Napoleonic cavalry to use in my Portable Napoleonic Wargame battles; painting my son’s acquisitions from the most recent, pre-pandemic wargaming convention; not to mention the rest of the “pile of lead” requiring attention. It all represents the preparatory potential for future games, solo or against a live, 10 year-old opponent.

Some of Peter Dennis' wonderful
paper soldiers on the work table.
We occasionally engage in some family gaming when our chores allow and we aren’t involved in other leisure activities in which we find comfort during the current crisis. As part of our futile attempts to establish any semblance of routine, we’re trying to return family game night to Thursdays after a long hiatus. We gave Sushi Go a try and enjoyed it. Despite what a friend calls the “points salad” at the game’s end, it proved a fun diversion combining the opportunities in the card hands passed around the table with individuals’ strategies for taking advantage of available cards to maximize their points. Of course I have a huge menu of new family friendly games to try along with our stable of old favorites...plus some historical gaming to engage my son in lieu of actual history class when I can pry him away from his electronic device.

Who knows how long the pandemic will continue with its closed businesses, social distancing, and lack of group activities like gaming conventions? Many doubt life will return to the “normal” state as we enjoyed it before, especially given the various issues with tracking the virus, developing a vaccine, finding more effective treatments, and the ever-present danger the pandemic could experience a resurgence in months to come. We may have to alter the way we pursue our adventure gaming hobby activities, particularly in relation to gathering with others around the game table. Whatever lies ahead through all this uncertainty, we know we can rely on our games to relieve the stress and help us cope.

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