Personally, one of the most nerve racking things I find (regardless of the context!) is meeting new people. So when I came back to London (UK) a few years ago and wanted to play board games… I had to not only meet new people but I had to spend up to 2-3hrs playing a game they or I might not have ever played before. Terrifying!
The idea of a regular games night sounds great – simple food, good friends and great games. However the making of this weekly / monthly ritual can include some pretty big barriers. Start, therefore, at the very beginning. When I came back to London I found two things that helped: (i) the Friendly Local Games Shops (FLGS) and (ii) an online forum or group for Board Games in that area. London has both of these things, so I was lucky. Not everywhere will have a FLGS but an online group for your area is highly likely!
FLGS are the heart of a community – you can buy games there, some let you sit down and play the games there, and the owners and staff will normally know the local forums / communities for getting a game together. Start there if you are stuck. For London, Orc’s Nest and Draughts are great support for new gamers!
The online forums attract the regular gamers who want to go where the gaming is. In London, that was a group called London On Board. They host a game in a pub or bar almost every single night of the week. All you had to do was log in online and find out the venue.
Building a Group
With Step 1 out of the way, we bring our attention to Step 2 – Show up. Seriously, this is a hard step. Commit to going. Set aside an evening a week to start going and be prepared to play games with people you don’t know, and perhaps won’t like. Getting stuck in is key and being a regular helps. There’s also a few bits of good etiquette to gaming with new people you should be mindful of, but that’s a whole different article for the future. Common sense and patience are the most important – let people have time to take their turns, and don’t take a piece from their space when you could ask for it instead.
For some, this is a sufficient scratch for that itch of a regular gaming night. For me though, I wanted to play Legacy games and get a regular group together. There’s something fun about different games with the same people, or evolving a well honed strategy against a group. That time you finally overcame John at a Euro Game, or the in jokes about how Kerry always is the betrayer – you can only really get these moments if you really get to know a group. If this is your ambition as well, then I would recommend a few more steps.
Next identify a group of other regulars who had a similar taste of games. This took me about 3 months of showing up every week. I thought to myself, okay, I keep playing games against certain people and that’s because we all show up and are all interested in those games. So we set up a little Whatsapp between us – after all we all still wanted to come to the games night, enjoy the pub food, but we wanted to try and regularly come to the same evening that week.
The next step was a surprise though – we had twice as many people in that group as we ever got around the table! This is actually really helpful though. If you have 4 players and like playing a 4 player euro (for example), then you need everyone each time or need to hope to find another willing player. If you have 8, then most weeks there will be one night with critical mass! This is also good because it means you can miss a week if you need to and the group will continue.
Finally, the pattern emerges. People are generally available based on their work routine and some regular preferred evenings emerge. You might even be able to play that legacy game with the sub-group who always seem to be around on a Wednesday (and if someone else comes, you switch back to a different game for one night). For me – I now had a group of gamers with a moving venue, but always enough to get a game in. This was the goal.
Taking it to the Next Step
The board game extension to all this is hosting…but that’s another article entirely. If you want to try hosting your own game night here’s a few quick tips:
- the table – you need enough space to play the game with the right number of players
- drinks and snacks – a few dry and solid nibbles are essential. Avoid anything that would fall on the game table and damage the game.
- what to play – play something familiar the first time! Keep it simple and make sure every has a good game
That, however, is all ahead of you. I would start with the very first step and sign up to the online forums or find your FLGS and show up. Think of it like the first turn in a game – you won’t quite know what the end game looks like, but you have to take that first step to get there! Good Luck!