Interview with librarian Sean Brady

Orange City Library in NSW has a librarian who happens to be a huge board game fan. Back in July Orange City Library held Eurogames sessions during the school holidays, with the hopes of introducing more people to the joy of modern board gaming. The librarian who came up with the idea is Sean Brady and we interviewed Sean to find out more about his love of tabletop board gaming.

Please Note: Some of this interview references an interest piece on the ABC website. That article is linked to at the bottom of this page, for those wishing to read it also.

Sean Brady librarian Orange City Library NSW AustraliaSean with some library games. [Image Credit – Melanie Pearce – ABC]

Let’s start with possibly the easiest / hardest question. What are your present top 5 tabletop games and why?
Android Netrunner – theme, tension, deckbuilding.
Carcassonne – accessible, tension, mechanics.
Earth Reborn – theme, miniatures, complicated, tension.
Love Letter – fast, light, accessible.
Brass – theme, mechanics, tension.

In your personal opinion, are there any games in particular that lend themselves well to newcomers, that is, people who have never played anything other than perhaps the non German-style games? 
Carcassonne was my gateway game and I still think it is the best. More recently I have played Ticket to Ride and this is brilliant too.

These games are quite easy to learn, are limited to one or two mechanics, and don’t require everyone’s 100% dedicated attention – you can get up from the table to grab a drink or a snack. They are also quite quick. Faster than Monopoly, Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit, so the time investment by a family is achievable.

Earth Reborn board game setupEarth Reborn appears to be a favorite.

Are there any American style (Ameritrash) board games that you think manage the sort of depth that many German-style games offer?
Definitely there are. Earth Reborn is, for me, Ameritrash, even though it is French (by Christophe Boelinger). It is a miniature combat game but it incorporates a range of objectives which do not always rely on combat to achieve. It also includes facets such as traitors or unreliable friends and asymmetric opponents. It incorporates a range of mechanics (bidding, hand management, tile and card drawing) but its combat falls back to dice rolls.

Keeping in with the geographic line of questions, have you played any of the games coming out of Asia that have been repurposed for the english language audience? And have you noticed any stark differences as with those between Ameritrash and German-style.
I haven’t played many Asian games, only Love Letter and a couple of games of Shadow Hunters. I haven’t seen stark differences, but this is likely because the diversity in games and mechanics is so broad now that everything is starkly different to everything else. I didn’t even know these were originally designed in Japan until I looked them up after having played them. They have similarities to each other in that they involve very limited hands of cards making for a very tense and fast game, but I don’t think all Japanese games have the same model. They are as diverse as those from any other country.

Like you, we believe tabletop gaming is a great social opportunity, not just for teens, but for anyone of any age. We also think tabletop gaming transcends age barriers. What mechanisms have you utilised at the library to show board games can be fun for a huge spectrum of people?
So far I have really focussed on school holidays and that is a focus on the youth market. My plan is to broaden that market and next start appealing to whole families. This is going to require an increased investment in time. The only time for families is the early evening and weekends and catching them is hard. There is so much in their lives that they probably don’t have time for games at the library. So, it will be slow and long to build the interest.
My ultimate hope of grabbing the twenty to thirty year old market is probably a pipe dream because that demographic tends not to come to the library. We’re not on their radar.

Carcassonne board game a great gateway tabletop gameCarcassonne, usually always mentioned as a great gateway game by gamers.

The ABC piece states you are a “self-confessed ‘massive board game fan”. With that in mind we have to ask, what 2 (3,4,5!) games of the last decade or so have really turned your head. They don’t need to be favourites, more ‘wow’ moments.
The biggest wow moments have been:
Carcassonne for reawakening the love and revealing the new gaming mechanics;

Bonaparte at Marengo and Napoleon’s Triumph by Rachel Simmons for re-imagining the Napoleonic wargame (a completely groundbreaking set of mechanics);
Earth Reborn, again for the mechanics, but also all the bling – beautiful miniatures, great components, great art;
Troyes for bringing dice into the eurogame but in a way which is so interesting, also the theme;
Pandemic for introducing me to the idea of the cooperative game.

The piece also stated you believe “the rise in popularity of new-style Eurogames over the past decade is driven by Generation X-ers who don’t want to grow up”. Do you think that lends itself to the idea that tabletop gaming is for kids?
Well, no, I suppose I didn’t mean it like that. Play is something that all ages do but it changes I suppose. As an adult you are perhaps traditionally expected to take up more ‘adult’ options like cards (Bridge, 500, Ballot, Poker), Scrabble, backgammon, gambling, chess. They are generally abstract games I suppose. Devoting time to a game with lots of theme is considered a little odd by many. The expectation is to set games with theme behind in adulthood.

Yet, these seemingly childish games with their colourful themes have real depth and require a level of maturity in order to adequately determine and implement a strategy or to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. They also require long attention spans, the ability to comprehend and manage multiple mechanics (Princes of Florence incorporates bidding, hand management, resource management, strategy selection, tile laying) or negotiation and diplomacy skills. These aspects do not put them out of the reach of all children, but they are unattractive for many.

Sticking with the ABC piece, there seemed to be a lack of mention of women / girls playing. Have you found that has been a problem in the library and if so, why do you think that is and how would you combat that problem?
I think there is a gender difference in gaming. Games are seen as a boy activity. That’s true for video gaming, card games (like poker I suppose, though not Bridge), probably chess, most games. But it doesn’t have to be and it really needs not to be. It hasn’t been a problem at the library because I’m not getting a great take-up of games by anyone yet. The whole boardgame thing at Orange Library is really in its infancy.
Probably the best way to build interest for both sexes is to include games that appeal to both and promote them to both. There is a great diversity of themes and mechanics available, so it is about choosing the right ones, not just limiting the range to war, fantasy and combative mechanics. So, games like 7 Wonders and Pandemic fit this bill.
It is also critical for me to promote to families; to get mum and dad to join in.

Wizard Quest board game by Avalon HillWizards Quest was a pre cursor to many great fantasy board games

We noticed one of the titles you’re holding in the accompanying image to the ABC piece is none other than the brilliant Talisman. Do you own any of those games from the 80’s, that really reinvigorated the fantasy style board game?
Well, only Wizard’s Quest which was an Avalon Hill area conquest game a bit like Risk but with fantasy theme. It came out about the same time as Dungeons & Dragons and I started playing them around the same time.

Last question, let’s end on a real downer… Of the new slew of boardgames – of the last decade or so – what ones have made you want to throw pieces at the wall or do a table flip and why? 
Game of Thrones – I just find the intrigue, alliances and backstabbing not a personal preference. Also, I always lose and just find it so irritating to lose so early and so easily. I’m bad at this game and because it is an elimination game, I am out and have nothing to contribute. That’s not gaming for me. I like games that keep me involved to the end with everyone else. I don’t mind losing, as long as I stand a chance, and in GoT I am so hopeless that I will never have a chance. I’d rather just not play it at all. I can lose any other game (I was totally destroyed in Android NetRunner on the weekend by my son and just laughed at how complete was my annihilation and how there was absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent it) but I can’t take a GoT loss well at all.

Game of Thrones Board Game RageWe hear you Sean, we hear you.

We’d like to thank Sean for his time, there’s a lot of insightful stuff in his responses and his love of board gaming really shines through. Spreading the word on board gaming in Australia is really important to us here at Gameapalooza, so we doff our hats to you sir, keep fighting the good fight.

ABC Article can be found HERE.
Image Credit: [Melanie Pearce – ABC]
Image Credit: [Delcampe]