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Sailing Away

Life is an exploration, always pushing forward into the unknown up ahead - or so it is in Oceania. Crucially, the game does not reward you for your riches, for trade, or for efficiency, but for the discoveries you made, for the lands you contributed to charting.



Just as in life, the game constantly plays on the edge, on the thin border between the familiar territory of the past, and the blank of the future, yet to be filled with whatever looms ahead. Each round, you draw a tile, never knowing what you will be handed. If you are in luck, it aligns with your momentum, it allows you to move along the path you were unto; sometimes it offers a patch of land to behold, but the way is closed and you need to move on another front. Or it may be a missed opportunity, unfitted to your current trajectory, to the constraints set in place by your past choices and experiences - you have to set the tile aside, to renounce the promises it may have held.



Quite often, you feel like there is no choice, that the game only offers a random and meaningless sequence of outcomes, on which you have no grip. It feels weirdly deserved and rewarding when you suddenly get just what you wanted, but o so unfair and frustrating when the path you had planned to take is repeatedly denied to you - what are mere inadequacies between your current course and the shape of a fleeting world weigh in like bitter failures, all the more so as they persist, as you draw tile after tile, hoping for the best, only to be set back, time and again.



But if you go past the veil, Oceania tells you otherwise. The meager leeway you are given may appear worthless and insignificant, but in their subtle and innocuous way, they radically alter where you may end up. It is up to you to know which seas to navigate, which straits to pass through, where to insist, when to give up. Oceania teaches you to stay open for another path, to agree on taking detours, to favor freedom over stubborness. And the more difficult the navigation, the more tortuous the channel, the better chance there is to discover an exciting territory, something more than a mere patch of land lost in the open sea, a whole new world perhaps.



And in a fascinating way, in Oceania, you never set foot on the islands and continents you so painstakingly reveal. All you do is travel around, drawing their shape on the emerging landscape. They are forbidden territories, alluring mysteries, that you can only glimpse and never touch, yet they are all that matters in the end. In our frail, uncertain, often blind existences, the experiences that count the most are those we had navigated around the longest, that we have tried to approach and that we have circled in full; nevertheless, we can never cling to them, for we are in motion always. We can embrace the shore bends and cambers for as long as we can, but we cannot make these our possessions; and still it is these territories we have passed by that give things meaning and beauty in the end. We dream at times of being settlers, but our station in this world is forever impermanent.



Then all the tiles dry up. There is nothing left to venture further. There are paths going beyond, but they are not for us to take. Sometimes there are gaps left to fill, voids we leave behind; sometimes the landscape is fully blossomed, a patchwork of wonders we only got a glimpse of, but significant nonetheless, and we feel fulfilled. But either way, no matter which territories small and large we discover, no matter which archipelagos we turn our final smile on, in the end, we sail away.


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The Hank
The Hank
Apr 06, 2023

Essen 2018: a massive Catan booth with a well-dressed gentleman sitting at one of the high desks, overlooking the crowd with a humble smile on his face. I had never seen him before, but I realized immediately this must be him, this must be the guy who got me back into the hobby, and who has created a game that I played so often with my kids - I even created a home-made soft board template to hold all the tiles in place - that I had to tell him. He turned out to be very accessible and we had a nice short conversation. Just one of those moments you will remember for the rest of your life. RIP Herr…

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Wouter Cordewiner
Wouter Cordewiner
Apr 06, 2023

Wonderful post Z.


My fondest gaming memory is of Hoity Toity (in dutch Adel Verplicht) where with a group of 6 players we had the best time.

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JW
JW
Apr 06, 2023

Thanks for this in memoriam, Z. Incidentally, the predecessor of Oceania, Entdecker got us into gaming, and soon after - of course - Catan. The popularity of those games caused the regular production and distribution of Dutch versions of board games. Suddenly we were able to buy and play all kinds of interesting games. And even though it's old, and a bit random, Entdecker still gets to the table once in a while.

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