Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Play Board Games in Public: The Wednesday Game Group at Work

Carcassonne Big Box #3My wife and I have accumulated a lot of board games over the years. After college, we stumbled across some hobby board games like Wise and Otherwise,  Carcassonne and the Cheap Ass Games version of Kill Doctor Lucky in a gaming store and became instant fans. We had always played games like Taboo and Uno together with friends and family, but the theme and play mechanics of hobby games struck a chord with us and became a regular fixture in our lives.

Fast forward over a decade and a half of marriage and we have a pretty big collection that is constantly growing and being pruned. The only problem is that we don't have as much time to play as often as we would like anymore. I was lamenting this fact to Adrienne, my wife, last year sometime and she told me to start gaming with colleagues at work over our lunch hour. I gave her every lame reason that I could think of why it wouldn't work and let it drop.

A month or so ago, my daughter arrived earlier than her planned delivery date and I ended up missing my office Christmas party. Everywhere I have worked, I have generally become one of the people that helps provide entertainment for these sorts of gatherings. When the planning group starts wondering what we should do at one of these get-togethers, I generally offer to provide some gaming entertainment. After the first event, I'm generally expected to help out from then on.

When I returned to work after taking some time off with the baby, my co-workers made a point of telling me that they missed playing my games at the party. When I relayed this to Adrienne, she brought up her old suggestion of starting up a lunch time gaming group again. Thanks to her gentle re-encouragement, I decided to give it a go.

I sent out a general email to my department (I work in IT at a small university), inviting them to join a Wednesday Game Group email list that I would maintain. I relayed that each week, I'd propose a game to the list members to be played that Wednesday and the first responders would be signed up to play.  In the email, I'd list the number of players that I would need, a blurb from the game box, estimated game times and other pertinent information that would hopefully entice people to sign up.

So far I have about 10 people on my list and others that say they'll stop by on the Wednesdays that they are free. At about the same time that I talked to Adrienne about all this, I found the suggestion from the Seize Your Turn blog that more hobby board gamers should play their games in public in order to keep the hobby alive and viable. The Play in Public Campaign encourages gamers to play their board games in cafes, bars, restaurants, and other public spaces in order to expose the general public to games that they may never hear of in any other venue.

Inspired by this idea, I decided that the Wednesday Game Group would play its games on the tables in the snack area for our building instead of an office or conference room. This way we'd have more of a chance of getting passers by (and as I work at a university, hopefully they will include students and faculty) to get interested in our activity. Hopefully we can turn that passing interest into engagement, perhaps gain more players, and (hopefully) introduce new fans to a hobby that I love very much. You can follow other people's play in public activity by joining the Play in Public Campaign's Facebook Fan page or by following the Twitter hashtag #PiPCampaign (you'll probably see some of my activity there).

Forbidden IslandOur first game two weeks ago was Forbidden Island and I had three players other than myself. The cooperative game offered an interesting conceptual challenge to the players. None of them had heard of a game where all the players won or lost together and where they worked together to beat the game board itself. Still, they caught on quickly and we just barely won on the Novice setting with some quick thinking and a little luck. It was a close enough ending (on essentially easy mode) that it definitely piqued the interest of at least two of the players.

DixitWe took a week off, so this week we got back into it with our second game, the 2010 Spiel des Jahres winner Dixit. This time, we only had three players so we played the modified rules for the smaller group. Despite the smaller size, it was still fun and we actually got some interest from a passing student whom we invited to play (she couldn't at the moment) and encouraged to sign up for the mailing list (she said she would). We'll see how that turns out, but I am definitely encouraged to keep this up. Besides, the group may be small now, but the players are having fun and so am I.

This post should be the first of many documenting my lunch time gaming (another fun twitter hash tag to follow is #lunchgames) with the Wednesday Game Group. I'll include links to the games that were played and general session impressions. Maybe I'll sprinkle in some reviews here and there. So, watch this space, or one suspiciously like it, for more.

** Storied Adventures is another attempt to document some guy's gaming habits. That guy just happens to be me. Though, your mileage may vary. I have no ongoing financial relationship with any of the games listed. I am, however, attached to my wife's Amazon affiliate account, so purchases made through any Amazon links support the ongoing blogging efforts of Storied Adventures (many thanks!)


  1. Awesome write-up of an idea I am tempted to, yet "scared" to start at my work.

    Looks like its been two months since the post. Do you have an update to share?

  2. My daughter is still stealing most of the sleep that I need to write something coherent on the topic, but I am starting to get a little more lately and plan to start finishing and posting my session reports.

    The Seize Your Turn blog, originator of the Play in Public Campaign, has offered me a quest post and I should be able to write that up and get that posted soon.

    I just posted some updated notes on the Board Game Geek Play in Public Guild forum.

    Also, I post a lot of stuff related to my Play in Public activities on my Twitter account @morlockhq. You should follow me.