How It All Began
Do you remember the first time you really played a “modern” board game? I sure do. I remember someone bringing over a copy of this strange game about collecting sheep, ore, iron, and wood for a game night. I looked at the dull box which displayed a family of farmers staring off into the distance and thought, “What the heck are we about to play?” Little did I know this game would change my life. If you haven’t guessed it by now, my first gaming experience was with one of the most influential modern board games of all time, The Settlers of Catan.
I know many people that have had a similar experience. Almost everyone I’ve met in this hobby has been able to directly relate to that story.
I played a lot of Settlers throughout college and many of my fondest gaming memories come from that time of gaming innocence. Still, eventually I discovered that there is so much more to the world of modern board games than just this one classic.
I remember one Christmas Eve I was sitting with my family and expressed that I wished I had a copy of Catan to show them. My mom decided that we’d go exploring to see if we could find it so we could play it together as a family. Of course, the night of Christmas eve wasn’t the most optimal time to go board game shopping… Luckily, I remembered that Target sold the game and so we took a the 30 minute trip into Nashville in search of our holiday bonding experience. I remember searching through the store to no avail… I did see this game that I’d heard was pretty good though. That night we came home with a copy of Ticket to Ride.
We had such a blast learning and playing our first game of this unique train game! Great memories, yet again.
After this adventure, my board game spark was ignited. I remember looking at games online and finally building up the confidence to buy Agricola (which became one of my favorites). I remember my first math trade where I recieved my favorite game of all time, Terra Mystica. I remember sitting around the table playing these strange games over and over again with my closest friends.
So here I am, five years later, writing for a board game site. There’s no way I’d have seen that coming! A lot of things have changed since that first session of Settlers, though. Somehow I managed to get from just owning a couple games to managing this behemoth.
The Awkward Transition
There are a lot of things that I didn’t know about this hobby when I first started. Though it hosts a beautiful community, there sure is a lot to overwhelm a newcomer… Now that I’d consider myself an “experienced gamer” there are a few things that I’d like to share to those who are just getting started.
Get Connected With Other Gamers
The thing about board gaming is that it’s a hard hobby to sustain by yourself. Sure, there is a great solo gaming community as well, but most gamers don’t jump right into that. The way that board games connect people together is one of my favorite parts of the hobby. Still, it can be intimidating to figure out how to go about finding these people at first. If you are lucky enough to already have friends who play games, great! Take advantage of their knowledge and play as many games as you can get your hands on! If you don’t have this option available to you, don’t fret! There are still some great ways to get connected!
Find a local game store
If you have a friendly local game store, head over and check it out! These are a go to resource for many of us for finding other players and learning about new games. Most game stores are friendly and really want to help you out! Many even host gaming nights and other events that are open to everyone. I know jumping into a new community can be challenging, but these guys and gals are there to help! (If you happen to be in or around Nashville, check out our Nashville Board Gaming page for a list of the local stores and events!)
Check for meetups and game groups on social media
Places like Meetup.com and facebook are great resources in finding other players. Just here in Nashville, there are multiple open Meetup groups and each pocket of Middle TN has their own facebook groups. I actually found out about my first local game group through Board Game Geek (which i’ll touch on later) and found some of my best gaming friends through that group!
Try out a convention or two
Board game conventions are usually the highlights of my year. You don’t have to jump into the 70k person behemoth that is Gen Con to give a convention a shot! If you do some searching, there are many smaller, local gaming conventions that take place all over the country. There’s a pretty good shot that you are at least within a couple hours of one. One of my personal favorites is our local Tennessee Game Days which takes place every March. Once you give one of these a shot, you’ll find that you’ll make friends from all over the country that will get you excited about seeing them again next year!
Do some research
With thousands of new games being released every year, how in the world are you supposed to keep up?! Don’t worry too much, the more you’re around games, the more you’ll begin to recognize more and more games. That part just takes time. Luckily, there are some great resources online to help you in your excitement and eagerness to learn!
Undoubtedly, the biggest online resource for the hobby is Boardgamegeek.com. This is your go to destination for information on games. Not only is there a comprehensive record of pretty much every game in existence, but there are also great forums where you can connect with others in the hobby! Unfortunately, the website can be a bit hard to learn at first, but there are tons of people who are more than happy to help out with that. Luckily, there are some great redesigns slowly being rolled out that are making it even more user friendly for new users!
Outside of BGG (Board Game Geek) there are a plethora of other communities to jump into. I learned a lot about the hobby by keeping my eye on the Board Games subreddit. Later on in my gaming career I found that Twitter has a phenomenal board game community! I’ve been able to connect with so many other gamers and have even been able to interact with some of my favorite designers and publishers through twitter! Not sure who to follow? Feel free to take a look at who we follow on Twitter!
The last major resource that I would recommend is Youtube. I have spent countless hours watching the endless stream of content provide by top notch content creators like Shut Up & Sit Down, The Dice Tower, and Watch It Played (just to name a few of my favorites). Most of these channels have corresponding blogs and gaming websites as well. (Don’t forget about all the websites like us as well!)
Play with variety, buy with intentionality
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started gaming was buying everything that looked even remotely interesting. Just like anything else with such a wide variety, it can be hard to find out what you really like until you’ve had some experience with a large amount of games. There are so many different types of games out there and sooner or later you will find out exactly what your tastes are. I’m at a point now where I can look at a game and usually guage if I will actually enjoy it or not, but I bought a lot of games early on that I really regretted. It’s important to understand that just because a game is considered good, that doesn’t mean that you will necessarily like it.
When you’re first starting out, play as many games as you can get your hands on. If you have the opportunity to play a new game, play it! If you see something that looks interesting to you, find someone who has it and see if they will teach it to you! Check out your FLGS (friendly local game store) and try some of the games in their open library! Sometimes these options may not be possible, but when they are, take advantage of them. After you’ve played a games for a while you’ll start to realize what your personal tastes are. Once you have an understanding of those tastes that you’ve developed, you will be able to choose games that you know you like instead of spending time on games that aren’t quite for you.
Keep track of your board game stats
This one may sound silly, especially starting out, but I regret not starting it sooner. Keeping track of the games you play helps you to see which games you favor and what kinds of games you tend to play more often. Personally, I also love seeing all of the statistics on how many games i’ve played/won/etc., but just keeping track for the pure ability to gauge your interests in invaluable. The best way that i’ve found to do this is through the iOS and Android app Board Game Stats. (We recently touched on one of it’s more interesting features, the H-Index, here.) The app makes it quick and easy, but also adds lots of interesting charts and graphs. If you don’t have an iOS device, you can still record your plays directly to Board Game Geek., Tbut the developers of BG Stats has been gauging interest in an android version recently, so hopefully you’ll be able to join in soon!
It’s just the beginning
Your journey may have just begun, but hopefully these tips and tricks will help you grow more through your gaming career. This is such a big and amazing hobby, so there is so much more to learn. I’m still learning something new about board games every day, but having some knowledge up front will definitely help you sift through all the information that you’ll come across in the future!
Do you have any other tips or tricks that I may have missed? What was your introduction to board gaming look like? Let us know in the comments below!