Last night, I reached a new level of nerdiness. In my defense, I was led to this new level of nerdiness somewhat unwittingly. I’m still going to pretend that I am somewhat less nerdy than the graduate students surrounding me. It’s a self-delusion, but it keeps me sane.
After finishing up my labwork last night, I ended up going out to dinner with my advisor and a few other professors and graduate students. As we were leaving, Chris, another of my advisor’s graduate students, asked what my plans were for the evening. I told him that I was just going to go home to my apartment and do some reading.
“No, you’re not,” Chris informed me.
“I’m not?” I replied.
“No, you’re coming with me.”
“What do you possibly have to do on a Friday night, Chris? Labwork?” another grad student teased.
“Where are you taking her? A wild party?” my advisor joked.
At this point, my advisor and the other graduate students were laughing. Chris is a nice guy, but he’s not the sort to have a crazy social life. Neither am I, honestly.
“Yes, Chris, where are you taking me?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” he replied. “I can’t tell you. Go get your bag.”
I turned to my advisor, saying, “Will you come rescue me if your graduate student abducts me?”
“No,” my advisor answered, still laughing. “You’re on your own!”
Chris and I said goodbye to everyone and then walked to his car. As we were driving, I pestered him.
“Really, Chris, where are we going? What are we doing?”
Finally, he answered, “We’re going to play a board game with some other students.”
A board game. That didn’t sound too bad. I mean, I like a good game of scrabble or monopoly. I could stay and play for an hour or two and then still go home and read my book about meteorites or a paper on Iceland. Clearly, I misinterpreted the definition of the word “boardgame.”
Last night, I spent five– yes, five– hours playing the game Heroscape with some other oceanography graduate students in my program. This game is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Designed for ten-year-olds, this game was played last night by twenty and thirty-something graduate students. Walking into the room, seeing a giant landscape laid out and hundreds of little action figures, I knew I was in for a very nerdy experience. I knew that I was about to descend down (or climb up, depending on your perspective) into a new level of nerdiness.
Basically, one starts the game by constructing a giant, table-sized landscape out of little hexagon-shaped plastic pieces as well as from plastic trees, ice shelves, castle walls, roads, and bridges. The game is played with little figurines called “heroes.” The heroes are a random mixture of fun and very anachronistic characters. Last night, there were vikings, dinosaurs, secret agents, cowboys, samari warriors, ninjas, armored monkey warriors, dragons, exploding robots, giant serpents, World War II style fighters, and many other figures on the board.
The game is somewhat flexible in its structure. At times, I had to break out laughing at some of the conversations and debates in the game. There were questions such as, “So, do you think my dragon warrior can make it to kill the cowboys off before the secret agent encounters the scuba men?” The characters all have real names, but many of them have nicknames, too. Such as “mittens” for a giant serpent/lobster/dragon (I’m not sure what it is, actually!) that looks as if it’s wearing a pair of boxing gloves. Or “chompasuar” for a giant dinosaur that can eat other characters very easily.
The stucture of the game is somewhat flexible. The game is played either individually or in teams. The goal is either to kill off all the other teams’ characters and often some other task, such as moving small disks called “glyphs” back and forth. Even when moving glyphs, however, a primary goal is battling other characters and killing them off. The teams were fairly evenly matched last night, which is why the game took awhile. Three or four hours is not unusual for a game of Heroscape, though, Chris informed me.
I had heard of Heroscape before, actually. Another graduate student friend of mine up in Boston recently acquired the game. I was over at his apartment one day, and he had some landscape pieces as well as some figures out on the countertop in the kitchen. I asked about the game, and he described it. He tried to convince me to play sometime.
“No, thanks,” I had replied. “Sounds far too complex and nerdy for me.”
Now, I think he has a much better chance of convincing me to play. Despite my worries that I am on a nerdy downward spiral from which I can never return, I had a great time playing Heroscape last night. Largely, it was the good company: a bunch of overworked, smart graduate students reverting to childhood, in a way. A bunch of students playing with plastic dragons and ninjas, playing a sort of strange, overglorified game of capture-the-flag. Capture-the-flag played with little figurines that do their best to shoot, beat up, or eat their opponents, that is. All in all, a good time. I have to be sure not to play Heroscape too often. First of all, I need to salvage whatever is left of my image of non-nerdy coolness. Second, if I play too often I’m sure I’ll never obtain my Ph.D.