Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Introducing Game Night

Recently I've begun implementing a new organization strategy for board game sessions. In the past the process went something like this:

  1. Decide what variety of game I'd like to play. Type will determine the number and type of players I'll invite to participate. Heavy Strategy vs. Light Strategy will often involve a different set of people, and if Party Games are the thing a larger group will need to be summoned.
  2. Invite friends and await response. Actual turnout is critical to implementation of the Gaming Plan. If the appropriate type and number of players can attend, The Plan goes as intended. If condolences are extended, however, the session will either have to be postponed or the content adjusted to those that do show.

This is clearly the top-down approach to game session planning, and though it does often lead to an enjoyable time, there are many instances where guest lists have to be adjusted or different games need to be selected to fit the group.

My new strategy is to plan a game night to which I invite essentially everyone I know that 1) has shown any interest in board games and 2) lives within reasonable proximity of my house, and then commence to play whichever games happen to fit the needs and desires of those that can attend. Advantages to this method are legion:

  • I don't have to limit those invited due to particular gaming plans. The plans are made after people show up and we can determine exactly which titles will be best. 3-4 players probably means a strategy game, 5-8 may mean a party game or splitting up for a couple of strategy games, 9-12 could entail a big game or two of something that handles large numbers of people, like werewolf, followed by some smaller groups playing smaller games.
  • It doesn't put pressure on anyone in particular to attend to have a successful outing. If I invite 3 people to a game night and 2 can't make it, obviously this will derail plans. The basically limitless invite list means that for any given game night a number of people may be busy or out of town and the event itself goes on without missing a beat.
  • It is virtually impossible for me to involve everyone I know who may be interested to regular micro gaming sessions. Game night allows me to invite people who are not in 'the inner circle' (wait...there is no inner circle!) and keep them involved and interested in the hobby. One of my gaming goals is to meet and develop a local group that has a life of its own--ultimately other people independently interested in games, with their own collections, and hosting their own game sessions. I'm still a long way from that Utopian dream, however!
  • Finally, (though I'm sure there are many other nuances that I cannot, or will not, fully enumerate here) game night will hopefully become a regular occurrence that anchors my gaming life. Good company, lots of games hitting the table, and new players being introduced to the joys of board games will hopefully be a hallmark of game nights far into the future.

The Mrs. still doesn't fully understand why I like the concept of a big meet up for board games, but perhaps this brief discussion can better illuminate my motivations. Well, that's all for this time out--happy gaming!


Hollis said...

I think it's a great idea, and I enjoy your top-down approach. If I can make a suggestion, I think it might be worthwhile to compile a printed list of your games, annotated with their number of players, approximate play time, category (heavy strategy, sumo strategy, Corona Light strategy, party), and any notes that are relevant for selecting games. That last grouping might include whether they're easy to teach quickly to new people, in your opinion.

I noticed that the last couple of times we had Game Nights, we spent a lot of time on the selection of the games, even though nobody had particularly strong opinions. My hypothesis is that those of us who aren't Todd Residence Residents are uncertain about your game collection and therefore can't offer much suggestion.

So, you make your spreadsheet. You print out two copies of it for the game shelf: one sorted by number of players, the other sorted by play time. Put the lists on the table when it's game time, and have the person to the left of the list dealer (who was most recently sick on an island) make the first suggestion about what game to play.

Nathaniel Todd said...

Thanks for the thoughtful and most likely useful comments. One question--is 'sumo strategy' a figurative grouping or a literal one? Are these games that are best selected for hefty players? The corona light grouping is interesting, but I feel like there may be a lot of overlap with my already selected bud light with lime category, so I may discard that one.

This is intriguing and I'll give it a go. I'm not fully convinced that it will result in significantly more efficient game selection, as I envision players staring blankly at a spreadsheet rather than staring blankly at the wall of games. Further organization of my games certainly wouldn't be a bad thing, of course, as my current organizational chart is my collection page on board game geek.

Hollis said...

A worthy question! I was thinking of "sumo strategy" as the distal end of "heavy strategy", like maybe the Diplomacy kinds of games... ones where you need multiple meals to play, perhaps? Alternatively, sumo strategy could be games where the box weighs more than a certain number of pounds, such that they may not be safely accessed by children until they are x inches tall.

Bud light with lime, huh? What games go in there? Checkers? Sorry? Tic Tac Toe? (sorry, for real).

Your point about players having trouble with a spreadsheet is fair and relevant. However, you could at least consider my method as useful training for Link and Abby, since staring blankly at spreadsheets is a highly relevant job skill in this digital age.

Third option: get an iPad, mount it on the wall next to the game shelf, make BoardGameGeek its permanent home page.