This topic came up recently on a forum that I’m on, football related but in the general random talk section, how to find people to play a game with you. The person has The Thing board game, and wants to get it to the table, but is having issues finding people to play it with them. I responded to them quickly there, but I realized that’s a good topic to write about on a Friday.
I’m blessed with a lot of friends who like to play board games. When I was starting playing Gloomhaven, we didn’t end up with a fourth player because the person I asked was too busy playing other board games to commit. We host a board game night and get 8-10 different people showing up most times. The Risk Legacy group and the Gloomhaven group have no overlap. So clearly I have a lot of friends who like to play board games like I do. But what if you aren’t as blessed or you’re working against bad board gaming experiences?
Let’s start by talking about places where you can meet new people. This might be outside of your comfort zone, but it’s a good possibility for meeting new gamers to start playing with.
Look for meet-up groups online. There are a lot of meet up groups that plan events at breweries, game shops, and other places to hang out and play games. Obviously, this is going to be all strangers unless you can grab a friend to come along, but it would be a solid way to find people you know will be interested in board games. It’s also low commitment since you don’t need to show up at all of them, but going to a few in a row would be good to build up relationships.
Local gaming stores are another good option. Again, this is going to be more random people that you are meeting up with, but keep an eye out for board game events. International Table Top Day which happens in April of each year (most likely) is a great option. A lot of stores have sales, promo cards, and other events. Depending on the shop, they might have limited events otherwise, so they are going to be less likely to get you randomly connected with more gamers than a meet-up would be.
Local conventions are also a great option. Nerdy conventions often have gaming rooms and planned events and games that you can sign up for. If you have one that is for gaming in particular, that’s going to be your best option to get connected with people. Even conventions that aren’t focused on gaming often have gaming rooms. CONvergence, the one that Kristen has written about, has multiple gaming rooms even though that is not the focus of the convention. So even if the convention on the surface doesn’t look like it’s focused on gaming, check out the details and you might find that they have some gaming that you can take part in. I will point out that this is the most likely to be a one off, but who knows, you might make some great connections, or get connected to a group that way.
If all of that seems too intimidating, you can try and recruit from within your friend group. You might find out that there are people who actually like board games that just assume when someone asks if people want to play board games, that they mean Monopoly or some other game that they don’t like. So be specific when asking people to play board games with you.
That is going to be the case sometimes, but more likely, you’re going to have to introduce people to the hobby or break down the perception of the hobby. What am I talking about when I say break down the perception of the hobby?
A lot of people have the idea of board games of rage quitting Monopoly, or a game of Risk that lasts five hours. There isn’t fun with their memories of board games, and that is something that is tricky to work against. Or they have an idea of gaming as a bunch of overweight guys with acne sitting in of their parents basements playing a massively complicated game. It takes time and patience to change peoples opinions, especially from negative to positive. So what can you do to change minds?
Start with easy to grasp games. Games that have lighter rules and a heavier theme or at least a nice look to them are going to get people more apt to play. Sushi Go! is a good example of this. The game is pretty simple and straight forward, you try and get points by picking cards. It’s something that people can understand, and then you add in the graphics. The sushi and various foods are drawn in a very cute way, so it’s fun to look at while you play it. Once they’ve enjoyed a simpler game like Sushi Go! start them on more challenging games like 7 Wonders, which is a similar concept, but more moving pieces.
Also, start with games that are faster. To keep on Sushi Go!, it’s a fast game as well. There are a couple of areas that you can keep a game faster. One is how long it takes to play the complete game, but the other is how long it takes between turns. Now, gaming is often a social event, but you want people to stay involved in the game. So while in Sushi Go! there can certainly be talking, it also moves forward and keeps everyone busy with the game, so you’re less likely to forget what is going on. It doesn’t have to be a game where everyone is always taking their turn, but as long as they stay involved throughout the game that’s good.
Sometimes you also run into people who just think that they won’t be good at a board game because board games are too logical and they aren’t that logical. This has a nice solution to it, and that’s cooperative board games. A good cooperative board game means that they don’t have to do all of the thinking and planning themselves. As they are learning the game and the strategy behind it, try not to run their character for them. Give them time to come up with ideas, give suggestions when asked, but let them learn to play their character. Pandemic is a good game for this, especially with giving them a more straight forward role like the medic where they are going to be removing disease cubes, let them figure out where they want to go and what they want to do, and then suggest something if you see a better/different option. Cooperative games also has a lot of theme or an interesting theme a lot of times, so it might be easier to grab someones attention.
Speaking of theme, that’s one final way to get more people to play board games. Find your friends who really love The Thing, those are the people who even as non-board gamers might be interested in playing. Or find the theme that people might be interested in, your Lord of the Rings friends might want to play a Lord of the Rings themed game or even a fantasy game as compared to playing a Sci-Fi themed game to start. If you really like Euro games and trading the Mediterranean, you might have to find one that has a theme pasted onto it that people might like better. For example, there are some Euro games with a Vikings theme, that might be easier to get people to play. So look through your collection and figure out who you know who might like some theme in particular.
Now that we’ve gotten some ideas out there, go find your gaming group or make some new fans of board games. Have you tried any of these before, if so, let me know how it went in the comments below…
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