As happens from time to time in our life, The Spouse was out of town for the weekend on business. Whenever this happens The Child and I fill our days with rambunctious activities, and I fill my nights with cleaning up the aftermath of our rambunctious activities. Late at night, once the house is put to rights, I’ll indulge in some unspeakably nerdy secret passion; playing old video games, refurbishing woodworking hand tools, soldering things, etc. I once overclocked my CPU. Oh man, that was a good day. On the most recent of such weekends, I invited Youngest Brother over to play games.
Youngest Brother and I share a particular type of geeky nostalgia. For example, neither of us ever progressed past a need for more than 8 bits in our video games. Also, we fondly cling to some of our more cherished childhood memories, one of which was the board game Battlemasters.
Our parents, with little or no knowledge of what we liked, what was cool, or what was fun, and often as if in a shamen-esqe shopping trance, produced some spectacularly amazing gifts that ended up shaping the lives of me and my three brothers. An NES, Transformers, G.I. Joe, awesome art projects, chemistry sets, children’s versions of H.G. Wells collected works, choose your own adventure books, Nerf Fencing swords, a radio controlled hovercraft, and board games. The boardgames! The Grape Escape, Guess Who, Pizza Party, Battlemasters, The Omega Virus, UpWords… the list goes on.
Battlemasters, as the box claims, is “The Epic Game of Fantasy Battles”. This might be the earliest example of a box lying to me. The only thing that was truly epic about it was its huge 4 foot square vinyl world map and the amount of easily broken plastic warriors. If I could make the game sound interesting, I would. I’ve heard it described as Dungeons and Dragons meets Risk. I can assure you that Battlemasters has never been acquainted with either game. Nor did it go to board game high school with them, or see one of them one time at a board game party, or have some common board game friends. They may have lived in the same board game town, but meet? I don’t think so.
You play as The Empire (good) or the Chaos Army (not good). The game has these awesome little plastic figurines that you maneuver around the hexagonal game space in order to meet and do battle with your opponent. Well, you don’t personally maneuver them, a stack of cards determines who moves when, and a pile of dice determines who dies how quickly. To the uninitiated, this may seem like a pointless endeavor; playing out a fairly simple statistical problem in a dance of plastic figurines with little or no strategy involved. It is, but what I like about this is how the game turns the player into the spectator. Or more likely into the color commentator. For example, we made up back stories about the Men At Arms of Grunberg and their legendary fortitude as they withstood repeated charges from the Champions of Chaos as if this were a televised national sport. Youngest Brother did a sort of Gregorian chant whenever it was The Mighty Cannon’s turn to fire/misfire.
We’re nerds, I fully admit it. But from time to time we need to walk among the normal people of the world (“normies” we call you) and we can’t help but pick up some of your customs. For me, playing Battlemasters is a chance to have one foot in the world of fantasy, and one foot in the world of making snarky comments about the world of fantasy.
Proof of our Nerdery
Youngest Brother targeting my Ogre Champion with his Mighty Cannon in an attempt to save his Imperial Knights from a savage clubbing (not the dancing type of clubbing, the Emperor forbids dancing in his retainers).
The Mighty Cannon misfires and explodes, leaving my Ogre Champion free to ravage the lands of The Empire, frightening women and children, destroying farms and soiling the usually clean streets of Grunburg with his foul leavings ( he rolls +2 dice when pooping).