In a back alley gamer bar, I sit down with a care worn and beleaguered Meeple. Yes, a Meeple. We swap stories about epic gaming sessions, argue about the best edition of Pandemic and celebrate the Oxford English Dictionary’s addition of Meeple to the official vernacular. During the interview, the Meeple shares a few stories about the early days of his brood and the future of this increasingly integral game piece.
Barrett | Are you comfortable sharing a little about yourself?
Meeple |My life is an open game manual. Nothing to Nerf, here. But if you want a few highlights then I was born in a small Medieval French village – Carcassonne. It was austere, lush and all the other adjectives you’d use to describe a fine wine and a nice neighborhood. That didn’t last too long, though. It only took a few years and suddenly all the cities had inns and all the churches were being converted to cathedrals. Expansion – the bane of my formative years! Pretty soon, a Meeple couldn’t score a field without bumping into a princess or a dragon. The family packed our things and headed for greener pastures and broader horizons.
We tried setting up shop in Waterdeep but those guys are a bunch of squares. We even went native on the Island of Atlantis for a while but barely escaped before a freak volcano. I think about that place a lot. My first girlfriend was a red six from the southwest part of the island. Hope she made it out before the sea monster got her.
(There is a long pause as the Meeple empties a bottle of Imported Puerto Rican beer)
Another Dutch Roller for table six! Keep ‘em coming!
Where was I? Oh, yeah, after Atlantis I drifted around for a while. In a way, I still haven’t settled down. There’s no shortage of work for an itinerant Meeple, especially if you can lay tile with Arabic and Roman numerals.
Barrett | It sounds like you’ve had a hard run. I’ll bet you were ecstatic when the word “Meeple” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary?
Meeple |Yeah, sure, right next to “Butthurt” and “Brain Fart.” What a time to be alive (sips fresh drink) I guess you could say Meeples have come a long way in the last couple of decades but we’ve still got a long road ahead of us. Miles to go before we sleep and all that. It’ll be a warm day in Magic the Gathering: Ice Age before we glom the kind of respect dice, pawns and even Scrabble tiles take for granted. We’re more than just a game piece. We’re a mechanic. And for some, we’re a way of life. But tell that to Scott Alden and the rest of the tightwads at BGG who can’t even see fit to give us our own category! Honestly, we show up in the Top 100 more than J.R.R. Tolkien and not even a Mechanic designation!
Maybe we’re a victim of our own versatility. Meeples are some of the most hardworking board game pieces in this crazy business.
I guess invisibility is the cost of ubiquity. All I know is that metal thimble in Monopoly must have a great agent.
Barrett | Can you tell us about a typical day in the life of a Meeple?
Meeple |Meeples do it all. So we have to know it all; our calculations have to be precise enough to keep score in one of Knizia’s glorified calculus exams; our tiny wooden bodies have to hoof it from one side of Cartagena to another in the recommended playing time. That’s no small feat when you don’t have knees! Today, you’re a hero trying to put out fires in a promotional copy of Flash Point. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe you’re a virus in a global pandemic or worse, a Lannister knight in Game of Thrones.
We pride ourselves on being at once abstract enough to represent any time, any place and anyone. But in the same breath, a Meeple is its own icon. Nothing looks like us and yet we have the impossible job of having to look like everything else. Not even Johnny Depp performs so many roles. Well, maybe Johnny Depp. Even still, we don’t have a wardrobe or makeup crew. Take that, Edward Pirate Hands!
Barrett | So, what’s the biggest problem facing the modern Meeple?
Meeple |You mean besides Fantasy Flight Games’ storage? Kidding! I kid, though we are in the middle of a class action with FFG over some bent up real estate in Westeros. A couple of siege engines really took it in the onager spoke. Not really at liberty to talk about that until after the settlement. Moving on.
Most people think that because Meeples are an abstraction that we’re somehow the second class citizens of the miniature world. “You don’t look like a real cave man,” they bluster! “Why can’t they have little pirate hats,” say the naysayers. Everyone’s a critic when you’re an amorphous wooden emblem.
But that doesn’t stop them from putting us on T-Shirts or turning us into plush dolls. We’re this generation’s good will ambassador for the industry and people would still rather buy a digitally manufactured 28mm miniature than heft a hand painted, hardworking member of the venerable Meeple brotherhood.
And do you think we get to wet our beaks from those T-Shirt sales? No, sir!
Barrett | Sounds rough.
Meeple |Don’t get me started. Some Fatbeard from Poughkeepsie makes a bonehead play and it’s us that wind up on the floor knee deep in Mountain Dew when the table flips and the game pieces start flying! None of the credit, all of the blame. That’s the life of a Meeple. Occasionally you join up with an intellectual property line that caters to mellow, contemplative Euro gamers. And those are the times that give you the strength to dress up like a sheep for marathon Agricola sessions. You gotta take the sweet with the sour I guess.
Barrett | So, what has been the “sweetest” moment of your career?
Meeple | So there I was, Sherriff of Carson City, about to stake a claim and build a homestead for me and my posse. Out of nowhere comes an opposing piece with bonuses falling out of his saddlebags like you read about on the BGG forums. He rolls and bumps his duel to an eleven and I’m all out of hired hands! The dice roll, then I draw and WHAM! double sixes. Forget hard eight, brother. Some days you just gotta roll box cars.
(He smiles, I realize, for the first time all night)
I wish every Meeple could have at least one turn like that. If folks would pull us out of the box more often it just might happen.