Category Archives: Board Game Night
My friend Jeremy and I have been hosting board game nights for quite a while now and I’ve come to a realization lately that there are two different types of game night. There is the type of board game night where you get a bunch of people together and struggle to decide what to play based on number of players, difficulty to learn, setup time, etc. Let’s call this the “Big” game night. Then there is the type of board game night with only a few people where you choose to play the heavier, deeper, more intense games that typically can’t make a showing at the first type of board game night. Let’s call this the “Level 1″ game night.
Today I’m going to examine the ups and downs of each type! Note: I’ll write about Board Game Days in a separate article.
Big Game Nights
I love big game night. But that’s partially because I love any game night! It’s great to get a bunch of guys (note: I’m not sexist… my group is just all guys) together for some board game awesomeness. But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are some downsides to the Big game night, at least compared with the Level 1 game night. Let’s look at the good things first:
- You’re playing games, perhaps enjoying a nice brew, and escaping all the other junk of life.
- You might even be enjoying some nice refreshments.
- With more gamers you often have more games to choose from.
- Robo Rally. Chaos embodied in a board game can be quite entertaining!
There you go… the upside to the Big game night. What downside could there possibly be?
- You might wreck your budget trying to buy games for 8 or 10 players.
- Nuns on the Run, a hide-and-seek nun game, just doesn’t have the right theme!
- Players might get sick of finishing the night with a lap of Bisikle every time (gasp!).
- Indecision enters the gaming arena. Players struggle to agree on what to play.
- It’s often more difficult to break out new games. It always feels like you’re teaching new people old stuff.
- It’s often more difficult to break out heavy games. Big game night is more open to the casual player.
When our group was getting to 8 regular attenders I really did a search for 8+ player games. At one point I was ready to pull the trigger on Nuns on the Run. I ultimately went with Robo Rally, which ended up being a great choice. I also looked into Formula D, but never bought it. One of the issues with a larger board game night is that it is hard for everyone to play a game together. One 8-player game that I’ve found to be a lot of fun is VivaJava: The Coffee Game by designer TC Petty III and published by DiceHateMe Games.
The problem is that most games are not 8 player games. That means what was a big group of people is now split in two or three. That’s often less fun. You’ve got cross-table banter. People feel left out of the other table’s conversation, and a disconnect forms. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a lot of fun… just not as fun as the “Level 1″ game night!
Level 1 Game Nights
Several of us in our group use the phrase “Level 1″ to refer to each other as awesome, tight, “I got your back” type of friends. On occasion we have an impromptu “Level 1″ game night where it’s just a small group of us getting together. I wanted to refer to these game nights as “Intimate” but that just didn’t feel appropriate with all the finger-bending. These nights include the kind of friends you never hesitate to play any game with. These game nights also have an upside and a downside. This time let’s start with the downside:
- Less beer options to choose from.
- Fewer refreshments.
While those two can be tough to swallow, the Level 1 game night can make up for that in the quality of the games that hit the table. Here’s the upside:
- Heavier games make the table. Enter Uwe Rosenberg and Stefan Feld!
- New games can be played since there is usually a high willingness to learn together.
- Playtesting of prototypes happens more freely.
- You’ve learned what to expect from the other players.
- Inside jokes, Jerks!
- You never have to split into multiple games.
There’s a lot to enjoy with a Level 1 game night! But the bottom line here is that any game night can be fun. Go into them with the right expectations and you’ll have a good time. And remember, playing to win and playing to have fun are not necessarily the same. So get to your local game night and have a great time!
When I get home today I am hoping that my Kickstarter copy of The Great Heartland Hauling Company will be waiting in my mailbox. During GenCon 2012 I was able to sit down and learn this game from the designer, Jason Kotarski. Jason is a great guy that made an awesome game. The Great Heartland Hauling Company was the first game I backed on Kickstarter. The game uses a “pick up and deliver” mechanic in a very nice and simple package. This game is accessible to gamers and non-gamers alike. And the publishing company, Dice Hate Me Games, recently posted a video for how to play the game. I am sharing that video with you:
How to play The Great Heartland Hauling Company, by Dice Hate Me Games
I really hope the game is there, stealthily waiting for me. Filling up my mailbox. Sitting next to the junk mail that goes straight to the trash. This would be no trash. There is no garbage can in the future for The Great Heartland Hauling Co. This will go straight to the table. And then afterward would find a nice cozy spot on the board game shelves, where it would soon make friends with all the other games in my possession.
UPDATE: For shame… my copy did not arrive today.
Last night I had the opportunity to check out House of Brews off of Stoughton road in the Madison area. Brett Myers (twitter: @brettspiel) was hosting a board game night there, so I decided to join him. Brett is a published board game designer, gardener, and hombrewer. You can learn more about his game, Nanuk, at the BoardGameGeek page or the page at the Steven Jackson Games website. He is also a co-designer of the forthcoming Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game by Wizkid Games. So, as an aspiring designer it was great to be able to meet Brett in person.
I arrived around 7pm and the group was finishing up a game of For Sale. This is a really fun filler-type game. The game is broken into two halves. In the first, players use coins to bid for properties valued from 1 to 30. In the second half of the game players use their properties to earn income. Income cards are values from VOID to 15,000, with two of each value. At the end of the game players add any leftover coins from the first half of the game to the value of their income cards. The player with the most money wins.
After they finished we joined the table next to us and a few more people showed up. Brett got out the game Dixit by French publisher Libellud. Dixit is a party game that is very similar to Balderdash, but rather than making a definition you’re telling a story. I’ll review it in a different post, but here is a picture of the game:
With ten people it was a really fun game. I imagine that it could be a lot more fun with people you know. Then you’ve got all those inside jokes with people and could have an easier time getting other people to guess your card.
During the game night I had the privilege to try two different brews. I first had the Snug Oatmeal Stout and then the Standing Stones Scotch Ale. Both of these beers were very delicious. The Oatmeal Stout was perfect for a night where temperatures dropped to about 7 below (F). And the Scotch Ale was a perfect beer for playing Dixit with ten people.
House of Brews has another really cool feature. Many of you are probably familiar with CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Those are where you sign up and get fresh vegetables and fruits. Well, House of Brews has a CSB. Of course the “B” stands for “Brewery.” Customers can subscribe to receive beer by paying up front for either a 6 month or one year term. You can find out more on their CSB Info page. Sounds pretty cool to me. I would consider signing up if I weren’t about to dive into the world of home brewing.
Overall I had a fun night. It was great to meet Brett and learn from him. He and I may try to set up a play-testing night prior to Protospiel-Milwaukee in March. That would be a great opportunity to get some final tuning done based on his feedback prior to the convention. It was also very nice to meet some other people who share an interest in boards and barley! They’ll be having another Board Game Night at House of Brews two Tuesdays from now from 6:30-9:30. You should join them!