I like board games. I’ve talked about it once before, but I recently experienced something worth sharing.
With board games, usually you find out about new games by going to a friend’s house. They ask if you’ve played such-and-such game, and they offer to teach you how to play. Now maybe you want it for yourself, so you buy a copy, and the cycle continues.
These days, there aren’t many game shops around. Target has family friendly games, so does Toys R Us, and there are comic book stores which sell role-playing and strategy games. Most games are between $20-70. So it can seem like a gamble if you happen to see one in a store and read the box. Will I like it? Will I be able to convince my friends to play this with me?
That’s where the internet comes in handy. Several web shows and many websites are devoted to exposing the general public to different types of games. My favorite is Wil Wheaton’s TableTop series. He does a great job of breaking down the game concept and overall rules, and then lets you experience game play as an observer, pausing occasionally to clarify special rules or circumstances. After many episodes, I have gone straight to my Amazon wishlist and added the featured game.
So a few weeks ago, I decided to search Meetup for a game night. As it turns out, a company called The Board of Games meets every weeknight in a different city for a full night of games. For example, Mondays in Fullerton, Thursdays in Rancho Cucamonga, Fridays in Irvine, etc. You are free to bring your own board games, and even purchase some if you’re interested.
I convinced two of my friends to go with me for the Irvine session. We each chose a game to bring, and headed to the IHOP where it’s hosted each week.
Upon arriving, we signed in and were given a name badge. The space was filled with games! There were games lined up along the wall of booths, games in plastic totes, games in bags. Apparently you’re free to rummage through the totes and boxes to choose a game and play with your companions or join a game with complete strangers. Of course, etiquette would dictate that you ask for permission and then put it back where you found it.
The first game we played was Password, like the old tv show. Let me tell you, using one word and one word only as a clue is much more difficult than I thought it would be.
Next, we played one of the games that we brought: Bananagrams. It’s a fast-paced word game where you are trying to use up all your letter tiles in connected words, a la Scrabble.
Then we decided to be brave and find strangers to play with. Over the course of the evening, there were probably 30-40 people playing various games. So there were plenty of game options. My two friends played Dominion and Sheriff of Nottingham with strangers.
In the meantime, I sat down to play a game I’ve heard of but never had a chance to play: Pandemic. Unlike most games, where you are trying to beat the other players, in this game you must work with the other players to beat the game itself.
The TableTop episode on this game should provide a basic understanding.
So, the first time we played, we lost in like 20 minutes. The board pretty much kicked our butts. To be fair, only one person in the group had played the game more than once. With a sort of grim determination, more than one of us said “set it up again.” We wanted redemption. The “expert” at the table relinquished his spot to someone else now that we knew how the game worked, and this time we beat the game with only a turn or two to spare. If we hadn’t had the right cards in that particular turn, we would have lost. It was really intense.
…so I decided to buy that game. The idea behind this group totally works.
Afterward, I needed something a little lighter. I wanted to play Resistance, a game I had played once before, but apparently this group plays the game at the same time each week. So some people informed me if I could wait a couple of hours they would be playing later.
When my friends were done with their games, they joined me and one of the other game-goers for a game of Paperback. This is another fascinating word game. You create words with the letters in your hand, use those points to buy new letters, and add them to your deck. At the end of the game, you want to be the one with the most points in your hand. Here’s a good synopsis of that game.
The thing I loved most about that experience was that these people are open to playing and teaching different board games to anyone who is interested. It’s such a welcoming environment! No one needs an excuse to sit down at your table, and almost no one is snobby about their game (my friends apparently had one sour experience). I definitely plan to return at some point.
Also I can’t wait to play Pandemic with my other friends!
In the words of Wil Wheaton, play more games!