Board gamer and East alumnus, Jay Fox, lands a trip to France

Sherin Nassar ('13)/ Opinions Editor

Hobbies and passion can sure lead to some extraordinary things. For example, a girl who picks up a microphone and starts to sing could land herself on the stage of American Idol; a boy who hits a baseball could become the leading pitcher for the Dodgers.  Similarly, a child who has a knack for board games could be crowned board game king.

Jay Fox, a local resident and a Cherry Hill East alumnus from the class of 1982, may not be a singer, a baseball pitcher extraordinaire or a board game king, but his love for board games did land him in France, where he competed in the world Championships for the online game Ticket to Ride. Fox has been playing board games for years, and his traveling to France for a board game would not sound unusual to his family and friends.

The hobby for board games began in elementary school when Fox began to play chess and continued onto high school.

“In terms of gaming, [chess] was his game and he played chess through high school. He was on the chess team and studied books about chess. He would even take me to tournaments and got me involved,” Stephen Fox, Fox’s father, said.

Fox stopped playing board games for a little while after high school; however the passion for games did not stop at chess. When Fox got married, he began a new gaming endeavor: poker. He  invited people over for poker and would do low money gambling, but after a while the game also began to fade.

“He felt after a while that everybody played the same game and everybody learned how others played, and there was no strategy and it wasn’t fun for him,” Janet Fox, Fox’s wife, said.

Fox began to look for different types of games to play and found board games as the perfect fit, because of the strategy, fun and competiveness embodied in it.

Once again, he started to invite people over on Thursdays to play different board games, ranging from games like El Grande to the Age of Empire and Werewolf.  The group of people who attend these game nights varies but the main objective of this traditional night is to have fun.

“The purpose of Thursday night game night is not to be competitive, but the goal of the night is to have fun and socialize, and if we did this than it’s a successful night,” Fox said.

Fox not only plays with his own friends, but also plays competitively. Every summer Fox takes his children, Danielle and Brett, to compete in a gaming Convention in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This trip is not only fun for the whole family, but is also the outlet by which Fox enters some serious competitive challenges. Last August, Fox won first place at the Lancaster gaming convention, which qualified him for the North American Ticket to Ride championships in Ohio. Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players connect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The objective of the game is to score the highest amount of points.

In Ohio, Fox ranked in the top 8 out of 16 players on the first day. The next day, Fox won second place and was awarded the opportunity to travel to France to play the international Championships in June.

“[On the second day], I got in second and I was versing a guy from Canada.  At that point, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm to win, because we knew were both going to the world championship,” Fox said.

Fox was extremely excited to go to France and had his family’s support, but was unable to take his family with him.

“Everyone was excited for me to go to France, but I couldn’t take anyone with me, which was the only down side,” Fox said.

Europe is famous for its fashion, dining and artistic ambience, but Fox learned that the Europeans are also famous for their unique gaming techniques.

“The level of competition is pretty stiff. It was stiff in North America, and it was unbelievably stiff in Europe. The level of competition in Europe was different, [the Europeans] really live, eat and breathe [Ticket to Ride],” Fox said.

Fox watched as the European players turned the game of Ticket to Ride from a game of chance to a strategy game. In the game, one must pick from two piles, cards and tickets. Players can pick extra tickets, and most do. However, the Europeans never picked tickets because tickets added to the game a lot of chance, a component the Europeans sought to eliminate. Fox has applied this philosophy to his own game, and has seen much better results. He also noticed that the Europeans practiced the online game continuously.

“They play the game so much, that it almost becomes second nature to them,” Fox said.

In fact, the winner of the international championships played the game 5000 times a year, playing 13 times a day. He was even heard saying he had to move the computer to the living room, because he was not socializing enough with his family.

Fox didn’t make it to the qualifier game in France, but he finished seven out of eight.

“It was disappointing because I misplayed on my second to last turn. It was a bad mistake that I never do, which was taking a ticket. But it would not have mattered because the guy who won was a dominant force and certainly deserved it,” Fox said.

Overall, Fox’s love for board games brought him an expensive trip to France, but the experience of playing against top notch players was priceless. Fox still has Thursday night game nights and plans to attend the gaming convention in Lancaster, and with his love of board games with him, one may infer that he will go far and have a lot of fun too.