Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Grab Your Buddies for the First Global TableTop Gaming Day

by Sara N.

Do you have a healthy competitive spirit? Do you enjoy crushing your enemies and seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentation of their women? Or do you simply delight in an afternoon spent with friends engaged in lively interactions that keep your minds sharp and the conversation flowing?

Whatever your taste, I encourage you  to gather 'round the hearth with your nearest and dearest for the first-ever International TableTop Day on Saturday. If you've never been much of a gamer — that's board rather than video, cats and kittens — then this weekend is your chance to pick up a terrific habit.

Keep reading for some background on the event and the 10 rules for throwing a great game day.

Gaming nirvana. 
Inspired by the YouTube channel Geek & Sundry, which features the talents of Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day, International TableTop Day is a day set aside for board gaming. You can visit TableTopDay.com to find a list of local game shops and community centers that are sponsoring gaming on Saturday. You can attend these events to learn a new game or play an old favorite with other aficionados. And if you can't find an event near you, you can always host your own.

You can easily throw a party with the games found in most American homes: Monopoly, Scattegories, Apples to Apples and Trivial Pursuit, to name a few. But let's face it: Monopoly is the worst, and Trivial Pursuit seems awesome until your opponents get a string of embarrassingly easy questions while you're stuck with questions about amateur hockey players of the 1960s.

Rather than suffer that indignity, make Saturday the day you head to a local game shop and learn a new-to-you game, or the day you invite a game-loving friend over to introduce you to the next stage in board gaming: strategy games. These games rely less on random dice rolls and more on the decisions you and your opponents make. Popular starter strategy games include Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan, although the universe of strategy games is vast and beautiful. Ask a game-loving friend to loan you her favorite game, or pick up your own at your local game shop or online. (With Amazon Prime shipping, you can own a shiny new game by Saturday!) And I promise, once you master the conventions of play, you'll be coming back for more next weekend.

Now, here's some advice for throwing a successful game day:

Take your pick.
1. Invite the right people over. You want friends or even acquaintances who enjoy competition, or who like to flex their brains a little bit. Games usually result in winners and losers, so everyone should get along fairly well to avoid bruised feelings boiling over into a powder keg. Sworn enemies generally don't do well when they're facing off over a Risk board.

2. Pick the right games. It's usually best for at least one person to know how to play a game for teaching purposes. If a group is all trying to learn together, anarchy and chaos can ensue. (If you're learning a complicated game on your own, Google around for tutorials; they're a great help.) Of course, you can always play a tried-and-true game, too, if learning new rules seems too daunting. Also, make sure the game you choose will accomodate the number of people you've invited over. There's nothing worse than eight people trying to decide who gets to play a six-player game. (Large groups can always split into two separate games.)

3. Have a variety of games on hand. If one of your players doesn't care for Ticket to Ride or can't tolerate Beyond Balderdash, you can easily switch to a different game that will satisfy everyone. (If you want to bulk up your collection, thrift shops usually have copies of the most popular household games available for cheap.)

4. Make sure you have sufficient room. You need comfortable chairs for everyone, and tables big enough to accommodate the game you want to play. Trivial Pursuit doesn't take up much room; a game with lots of fiddly bits, such as Agricola, can consume a large dining room table.

5. Have food available. But understand that you should take a break from gaming to eat in a separate location. Nobody wants greasy pizza or drippy barbeque sandwiches fouling up a game board.

6. Stock plenty of beverages. Keep the beer cold and the soda on ice. But no drinks should be allowed on the gaming table; floods can be tragic.

Who, me?
7. Have a laptop, smartphone or tablet handy. The more complicated the game, the more complicated the rules. You may need to seek clarification from ye almighty Internet. I've witnessed grown men engaged in screaming matches over the deviously vague rules in Cosmic Encounter. Online game errata can answer a variety of questions.

8. Ban all other cell phone/tablet usage at the game table. Don't be the person texting when it's not your turn. Be courteous, and keep your head in the game.

9. Light trash talking and good-natured ribbing is encourage. Major bashing and nasty name-calling is discouraged. You want your friendships to continue after Saturday.

10. Keep your cat off the table. Trust me, those little demons can destroy an orderly game with just a flick of a tail.

Note: All of these photos are from the game collection in my basement. And if you're in my area, I'd love to have all of you over for some table top gaming; just say the word!

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