Meet the first Magician of the Esoteric Order of Gamers!
Recently, a very special thing happened – the EOG inducted its first Magician! The excellent and most generous Joseph Bromley saw fit to increase his supporter pledge to this elevated level, and of course I wanted to find out more about him. In fact, I’ve decided that a Patron Spotlight will go to every Magician and Master level backer from now on, so this article is a first for the EOG. Take it away Joseph!
Ahoy-hoy! My name’s Joseph and I hail from Central Victoria, Australia. Neil Finn wrote Four Seasons in One Day about our State Capital, and it certainly captures the insanity provoking nature of the weather around here. I’ve been teaching Performing Arts in several Primary Schools for the last decade or so, travelling the region with a van load of marimbas, ukuleles and recorders and other instruments of musical mayhem.
I’m an avid cinephile, with a particular interest in silent and International cinema, and if forced I’d likely name Terrence Malick, Satyajit Ray and Michael Powell as the directors whose work has touched me most deeply. My favourite literary genre is late 19th/early 20th Century ‘weird fiction’—an umbrella term used to describe the fusion of horror, mysticism, proto science-fiction and existentialism best exemplified by the dread-soaked works of Lovecraft, Machen and M.R James. Musically, my tastes lie all over the place, but primarily in 1960’s pop, psychedelia and early progressive rock (Donovan’s A Gift from a Flower to a Garden is drifting through the wall as I type this).
EOG: I was pretty amazed at the similarities in our tastes at this point—I love weird fiction and early prog too!
Board gaming played a relatively minor role in my early life, though I remember heated sessions of Backgammon, Uno, Squatter (a kind of Australian sheep-trading Monopoly), and an imaginatively titled roll and move dinosaur-themed game by Waddingtons named Dinosaurs! I was long disturbed by the uncanny resemblance one of the hideous gargoyles in the Goosebumps: Terror in the Graveyard game bore to one of my Aunts. Generally though, I was too consumed by Lucasarts adventure games and Myth: The Fallen Lords to pay much serious attention to board gaming.
It wasn’t until five or so years ago when I found an unopened copy of Pandemic (revised edition) for $2 in a local op shop that I inadvertently stumbled into the world of modern board gaming, and what a joy it’s been to discover! Arkham Horror soon followed, and trying to learn that hell beast of a game (of which I am still immeasurably fond) from the manual before finding the Universal Head summary was a living nightmare—I still wake up screaming. I own roughly 150 games at this point, I don’t even know how it happened! My favourites at the moment range from the strategic auctioning elegance of Cyclades, the Arkham Horror LCG (that Carcosa campaign was mind-bendingly brilliant), Nemo’s War, Odin’s Ravens and Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. Between gatherings of friends, family and local game groups I manage to get quite a bit of play in.
EOG: A great bunch of games. I’ve been meaning to get Nemo’s War, and now I must buy up the Carcosa campaign for the Arkham Horror LCG…
Peter and Will’s hilarious battle reports … finest YouTube playthroughs this side of the River Anduin!
The crown jewel in my collection must be War of the Ring. It was one of my early purchases, but it took my sister and I a year (on and off) to paint all 215 miniatures before ever having played the game. Thank goodness we enjoyed it from the first, which we probably wouldn’t have done without having first printed the Universal Head summary sheets! How anybody can possibly play that game without them, I’ll never know! The game lets you plot out broad strategies, but leaves you feeling constantly undermined by the tactical nightmare of the cards and events available to you. War of the Ring remains the finest game I’ve ever played, and my favourite aspect is reliving those epic highs and lows with Peter and Will’s hilarious battle reports. Finest YouTube playthroughs this side of the River Anduin! Recently we introduced my dear friend Paul to the madness, his curiosity had been piqued by the Shut Up and Sit Down review, and being an art teacher of renown, he made delightful Mouth of Sauron and Witch King masks for the Shadow players (it didn’t help their fortunes though, Frodo still dunked that ring).
I generally need to be interested in a game’s theme to want to play it, but thankfully, I find most themes interesting. Dodgy mechanics I can generally forgive if the mood is right. Board gaming, like cinema, strikes me as a shared cultural experience, and I’ve found that ambience is crucial to crafting a memorable gaming event. The act of play is only enhanced with the addition of creative lighting, appropriate soundtracks, costuming and even food! Ghost Stories cries out for Lalo Schifrin’s Enter the Dragon score, Fury of Dracula for garlic bread, capes and Wojcieh Kilar, and Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space has its nail-biting tension shot into the stratosphere with the addition of Jerry Goldsmith, ambient space sounds and torchlight.
EOG: All this really puts Joseph smack-dab in the EOG target audience! Preparing the environment for a game with friends is something I used to a lot more, but with the number of games I play these days, it rarely happens these days – though I do often pick an appropriate soundtrack. It really makes an evening of gaming with friends especially memorable if you go to a bit of effort to set the thematic mood.
Even playing a relatively themeless abstract like Azul, for all its simple mechanical brilliance, can be improved with some blaring Portuguese Fado and some well-positioned candles. Loopin’ Louie is a daft dexterity game that leaps off the table with a medley of Ride of the Valkyries and Yakety Sax. While many gamers would no doubt find these additions distracting, I feel a deadening weight when trying to play games under fluorescent lighting with a keen absence of music and atmosphere.
EOG: So do I Joseph. As much as I enjoying meeting other gamers, game sessions at the national conventions I’ve been to—usually held in school halls or convention centres—really suffer from that lack of atmosphere.
My favourite gaming moment was probably a two person game of Arkham Horror with the Innsmouth expansion. Just when things were looking up for our plucky investigators, Ashcan Pete discovered the horrifying truth about his fishman ancestry and waddled off to the Harbour to join his relatives, and moments later the orphan Wendy Adams was swallowed whole by a Moon Beast. Ahh, the torments of outrageous fortune.
I’m pledging at Magician level on the Esoteric Order of Gamers Patreon page because I couldn’t conceive of learning, re-learning or teaching a huge number of my favourite games without those beautifully refined and rendered rules summaries and player aids. They’ve helped provide hours of joy and entertainment for my friends, and helped a pretty stubborn introvert to see his friends more often, and generally to simply BE a better friend. For me, that’s worth at least $25 a month in gratitude!
EOG: And I can’t thank you enough Joseph. Your contribution makes a huge difference to the level of support this site receives, which keeps the EOG running for everyone!
I love the painting videos (the Call of the Wild series taught me how to paint minis!), the Battle Reports, and watching the popularity of the channel slowly growing. It’s a truly remarkable service to the gaming community, and it’s an honour to pledge to support. If I could request anything, it would simply be for more War of the Ring content… four battle reports, painting guides, unboxings, and summary sheets simply aren’t enough!
So, more War of the Ring is it? I’ll do my best! In the meantime, can I ask everybody to please join with me in congratulating Joseph on his appointment as the first Magician of the Esoteric Order of Gamers, and thanking him for this wonderful article. Along with the usual rewards, every 4 months he’ll be picking the topic for a video or article on the EOG. What will it be I wonder …?