A colleague introduced me to roleplaying games (Dungeons and Dragons) when I was going to Uni and working as a trainee. She played regularly with another colleague and three friends near where we lived. Roleplaying turned out to be a lifelong love of mine – and it was where I met Mr. ETT!
My History of Gaming
Back in those halcyon days when we were all still living at home, we paid a token couple of dollars each to a local business that one of our parents worked for, located in a re-purposed house. Here we played into the wee hours of the morning, before rolling into sleeping bags, ex-communicating the snorer to another room, and catching a few hours of sleep. Then it would be up early on Sunday morning to start again and play the day away.
Although life changes, responsibilities come along, and free time disappears, I’ve probably averaged one game a week for the last 25 years. Our original gaming group ended up folding, although we are all still friends. I’ve been with my current group for 15 or so years. Every Friday night we turn up to our friend’s place with paper, pencils, dice and our devices for 4-6 hours of using our imaginations to create a story together.
To this mix, we have also added board-gaming. Between story arcs, or when we change games, or when there isn’t enough of us to run an RPG, we’ll play board or card games. Somehow, someone came up with the suggestion that it would be good to hire a houseboat and play all weekend long, just like we used to. The idea floating around (pun intended) until we decided to make it a reality over the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend in June.
We headed up to Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury River, and hired the “Rafferty” from Holidays Afloat.
Only one of us had been on a houseboat before, but he planned on drinking, so piloting duties fell to the friend that doesn’t drink. He took this duty on gleefully. Apparently all you need is a car driver licence, to watch a 10 minute instructional video, listen to the onboard orientation and you are good to go! Staff piloted us out of the marina and through a channel, then they caught a tinny back and we were on our own.
The weather was very wet, which would have precluded the use of our mostly open top deck. However, one of us had bought along a 9m x 9m tarpaulin, along with some cable ties. A few engineering feats later, we had a protected upper deck that even kept in some warmth.
Electricity is scarce on a houseboat – the only available electrical appliance was a fridge, and this came with a warning not to open it too frequently. Drinks were better off being kept in the icebox outside. Staff warned us to only keep lights on when needed, and only use power to charge electronic devices. Anything heavier would blow the system. They had even removed the starters from the gas stove/oven. We got to play with matches!
There was a shower and a toilet on the boat. Due to the scarcity of water, they recommended that showers were kept to a limit of 2 minutes. We used this as an excuse not to bother. Lucky it was winter, huh? If you do run out of water, all you need to do is head back in. The marina will come and pick you up, then top up the water for you.
Dinner the first night was tacos – easy to cook on the stove, and delicious. There was also a gas BBQ on board – probably for those who like fishing (sorry LadyFIRE, no-one picked up a rod this trip!) We also ended up having a breakfast of bacon, hash browns, sausages, mushrooms and baby spinach. I wasn’t game to bring eggs with me, but there were plenty of requests. I’d like to point out that none of the others had put any thought into it at all – we all bought food so I don’t know why they were asking me. Anyway, so sad, too bad.
As is usual for gamers, we took lots of snacks. There was a built-in pantry with enough room for all of our food. Unfortunately we occasionally got lazy and left jars of coffee on top of the fridge. After a particularly strong wake, they went flying. Lucky we didn’t lose any bottles of wine!
Holidays Afloat supply mattress protectors, quilts and pillows, but you have to bring your own towels and linen (or you can hire them, but BYO is an easy way to save money.) The sleeping quarters were pretty tight, and this means when people snore… there is nowhere to go. Boy, did we have a couple of rip-roaring snorers! The first night I was up reading on my iPad until 3am, listening to the alternating cadence of three very different snores. It must have become rhythmic (and I became so tired) that I eventually fell asleep. The next night, one of our snorers didn’t drink, so that helped a lot. Along with our eyes hanging out of our head, we had a better (although not good) night’s sleep. Luckily we didn’t have anywhere to be!
Aside from sleeping, the 10 berth boat had plenty of room for the introverts among the eight of us to escape when needed. The boat had three levels, with seating or beds on each, so you could be comfortable no matter where you were. I have to note that even though there was enough room to escape from each other, spaces on a houseboat are really small. As in, hit your back and head small. Hitting your head isn’t pleasant at the best of times, but as an adult the indignity seems to make it hurt so much more. I’m pretty sure none of us escaped entirely unscathed.
We tootled along for a couple of hours on Saturday, then moored to a mooring point before letting the games begin!
Unfortunately, we were alongside a major section of the river, so one of us became ill due to the constant wash. We then decided we would look for a free mooring in one of the little branches off the river. This was so much better – you could barely tell we were on water.
Over the rest of the weekend we alternately travelled along the river, then moored and played games. Despite the weather, it was calming to sit and watch the landscape slowly recede behind us. Brown bush, amazingly patterned sandstone rocks and weathered signs for national parks line the banks of the river. The fresh air held a faint fragrance.
I forgot to take my bird book, but later identified that we saw white-bellied sea eagles, shags, and a darter (as well as ducks and the ever-present seagulls.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a darter before. Its muted plumage was beautiful, with its sinewy head darting under the river. We saw it catch some fish.
Finally, to the games we played. We’d taken many more than this, but between driving and cooking and settling in, we didn’t make time to play them all.
Cards Against Humanity
We started with Cards Against Humanity, Red Expansion. This is the most people we’ve ever played with, and the game is a lot more fun the more people you have. It’s called the party game for horrible people, but its success lies in the fact that we are all big kids who like to laugh at poo jokes (OK, it gets a lot more risqué than that… be warned!)
Star Trek Five-Year Mission
Star Trek Five-Year Mission is a collaborative game, where players work together to solve issues as they arise on the Enterprise. You can choose to play as the Star Trek classic crew, or TNG. There are 6 levels of difficulty, so I see a lot of replayability in this. I also suspect that new crews may become available as expansions. Bring on DS9!
Mansions of Madness
It seemed pretty cool, as there was an iPad app component to the game… but I was tired and fell asleep. I can’t tell you anything about it! If you have played, feel free to leave a review in the comments.
Exploding Kittens, a fast card game where your mission is not to explode! They explain it best in their short video, check it out.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
In this game, you find your party locked in a mansion. The game begins in the foyer, then players randomly draw tiles to expand the house layout as you explore. There are three levels to the house. Eventually, a player will discover a haunt, in which case they (mostly) become the eponymous “betrayer”. Various monsters appear and knock down players’ sanity, or strength, etc. Eventually, most of us were turned to vampires and attacked our fellow party members!
Tsuro is another quick game with lots of replayability. I am “directionally-challenged” in that I struggle to manipulate shapes in my mind, either 2D or 3D. I’m definitely one of those people who needs to turn a map to follow it. Despite this, I really enjoy Tsuro. The object is to be the last piece standing on the board. Each round, every player adds a card with tracks to where their piece is standing. Any pieces that appear on the track then have to follow the path to the end. If this is off the game board, or into the path of another player, then you are out.
We finished with Takenoko, a game about a farmer, a panda, and bamboo. I don’t know if it’s the fact the game has a panda, or the pastel colours, but it’s really fun. You need to complete objectives while irrigating plots of land to grow bamboo to feed the panda. Completing your objectives may stymie another player; alternatively, you may think you are just about to win… and another player completes an action that ruins your carefully laid horticultural plans!
Before we left the marina, I brought up the idea that this is something we might like to organise on a yearly basis. One of our friends wisely suggested that we might want to leave that decision until the end of the trip! Now we know how things work, we can fit in more games, and organise the food more equitably. Also, if we had better weather, we would have liked to have gone out in the dinghy.
Despite the sleeplessness, we have all agreed that we will do it again next year. We checked out the largest boat in the marina, which has better defined rooms for sleeping. If we each save $5 a week, we will have enough to pay for the boat, petrol, ice and some food. And until they invent the cone of silence, lots of earplugs!
Oh, and the aftermath? The first night home, I swayed while I was in bed. It lasted right through to the next day at work, where I was sitting in front of my computer, gently rocking…
Have you ever been on a houseboat?