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Scott Hall talks about his passion for classic board games

Scott grew up in Northern Virginia after his family moved from New York when he was 5 years old. After graduating from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, he spent several years living in South Florida prior to moving back to the Washington, DC area. He and has family have resided in the Ellicott City, MD since 2005 and the Baltimore area since 1997. He has spent the majority of his professional career in retail operations, with the last few years spent working in the personal mobility space.

What is your hobby?

I’m into collecting classic board games from the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s – before console games really entered into today’s world.

How did you get started with this hobby? What inspired you?

My parents were both avid board game players and introduced me to them at a very early age. As an only child, it was both a way for them to relate and spend time with me as well as provide my parents with a social endeavour, as we often spent time with other families playing games too. I was inspired by my parents’ not limiting what they played with me by my age – they introduced me to such classics as Risk and Monopoly when I was only 4-5 years old, so I could hold my own against both them and my friends quickly. I quickly learned about the beauty and elegance of classic board games, as they were designed in an era very different from today.

Tell us what you love about it?

The best part about collecting classic games is, in many cases, the craftsmanship and detail that were built into a lot of them. Prior to the 90’s, many games used larger boxes, higher-quality pieces, specialty products and other unique features to set them apart. For example, the game Dark Tower had a 20” tower with lights and motors that would be installed in the middle of a 3’ diameter board. The pieces are amazingly detailed and the instructions robust and colorful. Over time, the cost of producing such games and the competition from other outlets for kids (video games) drove cost reductions and simplification into the business, reducing quality of both the game and gameplay itself. 

What’s almost as fun about collecting these games is how you can see our world through a different lens that what we might see today. There is a game called Landslide made in the mid-70’s whose object is to accrue electoral votes in order to win the game. Those votes are allocated according to how the United States was in 1970, and it’s radically different from today. Yet it still has the sophistication and complexity of some more modern political games. Combat games, such as Risk, were often based much more on luck and dice rolling than strategy or the collection or allocation of resources (popular in today’s games). There were certainly exceptions to this, such as Diplomacy (where one might have one or, at most, two armies with which to battle), but dice rolling was at the core of strategy. Just as our world has gotten more complicated, so have many of our games!

What is your favourite thing about your hobby?

My favorite thing now is two-fold – both playing older versions of games that have been re-released (such as Life, PayDay and Risk) as well as playing games which were clearly ahead of their time and have moved to video games today (Dungeon!, Emergency!).

Life (or, as it’s full title is named, The Game of Life), has changed tremendously since its initial release – it dates back to 1860, but its modern release was in early 60’s. Clearly geared towards the quaint American model of a one-income household, raising lots of children and retiring to a mansion on outdated amounts of wealth, it was still an enjoyable play. Some of the decisions were clearly not to be made, and the newer versions have both adapted more to today’s family dynamic while introducing newer professions, the reality of student debt (much less of an issue back them) and what life’s goals truly are – accumulating wealth is not the end-all.

A game such as Dungeon!, where you rolled dice to kill monsters in rooms and collect treasure, is still a great play, but it has not aged as well given that it’s almost impossible to win with certain characters. It’s very clear that the balance was not done nearly as well as in today’s board games that have similar themes, and the complexity that massive multiplayer gaming and paying to get things has produced a much more robust and enjoyable gaming experience for today’s player.

How would you say your hobby has changed your life?

Being a collector of classic games has helped me appreciate how leisure entertainment has evolved over the years as well as provide my own children a chance to connect with my wife and I and our own childhoods. It’s a great social activity that has helped us make friends and enjoy each other’s company more.

Are there any groups you’re a part of that you attend related to your hobby?

The tough part about collecting classic board games – and playing them – is that the rise of online retail and Amazon, in particular, haven’t been kind to gaming stores. It’s always a challenge to find groups of people that enjoy collecting and gaming as I do, but they’re out there!

What advice do you have for other starting out with this hobby?

Find sets and games that have personal appeal to you – historical games, war games, or games with special themes. Try to collect multiple copies of games as they evolve over time and have special significance. And be careful of purchasing games that were not produced when sellers say they were (it happens a lot) or have lower-quality pieces. Above all, decide whether you want to play the games you collect (for the fun factor) or keep them stored in their boxes (for collectability/value). Either way, you can’t go wrong!

Scott Hall talks about his passion for classic board games Reviewed by JaamZIN on 9:12:00 PM Rating: 5
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