So, you're starting a hobby of board gaming, or you already enjoy gaming. Chances are that if you are single, you play them with some friends or a significant other. If you are married, you probably include the family. But, something is missing … the community element. Sure, your spouse likes a good game every so often, but would not it be fun to have a group of new friends that either looks forward to the same games you like or brings new ones to the table, so you do not have To buy them. Today, with everything costing more, even entertainment, it is quite a prudent move to develop a group of friends that get together and share their games.
Three Fundamentals of a Game Group
So where do you start? A good game group needs at least three things:
1. A Host
2. A Place to play
The host is the person "in charge" of the group. This can either be a rotating position – You work on it one month, Joe works on it next month, and Sally handles it the month after that … and so on.
Regarding the place to play, this can rotate also. A restaurant, a library, a YMCA, or simply someone's home will usually do the trick. Like the host, this location can rotate each month also.
Obviously, to have a game group, you need games. If you start with a few generic titles, such as Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, and Puerto Rico, you will have a good starting base to work from. After a few rounds with each game, you will see a pattern in what people like to play and you can even introduce other games to the mix.
Let's break this down to more of the specifics.
The Gaming Group Host
The function of this role is to coordinate the communication and location of the gaming event each time. The Host determines the when, where, and what gaming group. This is the reason you may want to have this being a rotating position.
Expect that the host will devote a good amount of time to running the group.
Your group's host should have a few important hits:
- Good Communication Skills
- Ability to work with diverse people
- Be a good sport and promote fair play
The reason patience is listed as a trait is because you can not expect to start a game group and have a bunch of people show up immediately. You have to build it over time – possibly months. There are examples of gaming groups taking years before they get just ten regular attendees. It can go the other way as well – start off with everyone bringing a friend and it grows from there.
Choosing a Good Location
The size of your group will determine the requirements for your group's location choices. Funding may also play a role – some places may want to charge you a fee for your time. For example, if you are in a room at the local YMCA, they may have a small fee for the room rental. If you choose a restaurant to sponsor your group, they may require you spend a certain amount of money on food and drinks.
Another option for a gaming location that may work great is someone's home. The only things to consider here are space and other family. If it is a small apartment, that may not work so well. If the family hosting the event has small children (under the age of about 6 or 7) they may create an unwanted distraction. When playing strategic games, it is hard for others to think while there are small children running laps around the house.
You need to have enough space to have one or two tables and enough chairs for everyone.
One of the most important requirements for a location is a restroom – gamers like to drink and eat.
Making a Gaming Location a Success
Supplies, supplies, supplies! Many games need an extra bit of scorekeeping or organization. The host needs to make sure these are available. Here is a short list:
- Paper – notebook or pad is fine
- Pens or Pencils
- Dice – in case someone lost their
- Sandwich baggies (to organize game pieces) – you may also want to use the smaller snack-sized baggies
Like I mentioned earlier, gamers love to eat and drink. Here are some suggestions to serve that need:
- Soft drinks – diet and non-diet
- Fruit – not fruits that makes a mess, like oranges
Do not forget the things that go with these items, like cups, ice, plates, and napkins.
If you wanted, you could go as far as having a full meal, such as pizza or burgers and fries.
All of these items have a cost involved, which can be an issue for the host. I have seen some friends that have groups do one of several things to offset some of the costs:
- Charge dues – this could be a monthly fee that covers the cost of food / snacks / location
- Use a "tips jar" system. Most people understand that someone paid for the snacks and such and are willing to tip generously, when a price is not identified.
- Go to Costco, or some large buying club like that, and buy your snacks and drinks on the cheap. Then, offer them for sale at your gaming party. You can even use the profits to buy the snacks for the next party if there is enough.
- Consider is a potluck type of party. The price of admission is to bring some type of food or beverage.
Finding the Location for Your Group
The first and obvious choice is your home. You need to make sure you have the space and no distractions for this to work. The obvious benefit here is that you have no cost and you control the coordination of the location. The other useful benefit is that you do not have to lug your games to a separate location – you already have them. You can even set them up before everyone arrives. This eliminates the set up time while everyone is socializing at the beginning.
But, what if you have an apartment or are not sure you want a bunch of people coming to your house all the time.
Here are some options for you:
- Independently owned restaurants
- Community Centers
- Recreation Centers or your local YMCA
- Churches and Synagogues
- Schools (including colleges)
- Game Stores
Typically, game stores are a really good option – you are providing them a set of new customers.
Picking the Right Board Games
This will depend on the type of gaming group you want, and what the people in the group are expecting. For the purposes of this article, I am going to assume you are setting up a board game group.
If you want to introduce the group to European games, you might consider variants of Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket To Ride, and Puerto Rico.
Another option might be to bring in some war games. If so, take a look at Memoir '44 and Tides of Iron.
If you have a youngger crowd (college level and slightly older) with a lot of time to spend, you may want to hold a full-on gaming day on a Saturday. Then, you can include board games that take more time, like World of Warcraft, Starcraft, or Twilight Imperium.
Another way to increase the variety of games your gaming group plays is to have everyone bring one game – like with the snacks and beverages.
If you are new to board gaming groups, I think it would be wise to start with the simpler games to introduce to a group – that would be the European board games. Then, grow it from there.
Places to Promote Your Group
There are three web sites you should take advantage of if you want to start a gaming group:
- Www.boardgamegeek.com – they have listings of gaming groups you can join or advertise your own
- Www.meetup.com – you can find others in your local area that may already have a group or you can set up your own.
- Www.craigslist.com – this is a great place to promote your budding game group.
Remember, having a board game group that shares your hobby can be a lot of work. But, do not forget the overall goal – to have fun and make new friends! This is a hobby.
So, good luck, enjoy yourself, and share your hobby with others.