New to the Table

Tales of a guy who just started gaming--his adventures, misadventures, dicey days, wild solo nights, and confused questions all told with too many words, Oxford commas, and not enough pictures.
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Dicey Discussions #3: Party Planner

Patrick Cox
United States
South Saint Paul
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My gaming groups fall into two categories: I play games with my kids, and I play games solo. (See my name? “Solo Gaming” and “Gaming Dad.” Get it?) I love these groups, but I would like to add some adult game players to my limited circle. I haven’t because I started gaming seriously during COVID and I believe in science.

Even pre-COVID, though, I didn’t know any gamers, so it’s not the case that when we all can be together again I will have a gaming group ready to get back to the table. I get a little jealous when I hear of people whose groups are planning what their first sessions after COVID will be like, what games they’ll play and so forth. I’ll be starting from scratch. (And in the Twin Cities area, all my fellow Minnesotans looking for a new group member!)

I do have non-gaming friends who are aware of my new hobby. When the group texts go around that begin, “What’s everyone up to this weekend?” they respond with what appears to be interest in the pictures I send of whatever I’m currently playing. Had quite a conversation about this guy the other day.
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It led to my friend saying he'd like to try this game, but only if he could be "the Kaiser." I think I'll let him hold on to the inaccurate name, just to get him to play the game.

So I got a little ostentatious, as I do, in late March (that’s what Spring does to me) and figured, “Now that I’ve played games with children for a month or so, I’m capable of planning gaming parties and introducing total newbs to a rich a hobby I’m barely familiar with myself.” What could go wrong?

At the time this brilliant idea came me, I was on a bit of a Small Game bender. I thought my kids would appreciate playing short games so they could get back to their videogames more quickly, and not have to learn so many rules. And as for me, I loved playing huge solo games when I had the house to myself, but when my kids are around I don’t want to immerse myself in three hours of Barrage. Still, I would like to play some solo games even when they are in my house. A parent can’t cease to be themselves and have their own interests and pursuits just because kids are present. I actually think it’s really good for kids to see their parents have hobbies and engage with something besides their kids. And my kids certainly each have time they spend doing “their own thing.” A parent should have that too. But smaller solo games seemed better for those moments.

So the big party that dawned on me was to gather three adult friends who I know very well and play 4-5 of these small games. By small I mean they may take 20 minutes or less to both learn and play. Like I said, I was into small games at the time, but I also liked the possibility of introducing people to several games at once, a nice variety of styles, mechanics, themes… I went so far as to create my very first geeklist, which I invite you to peruse, comment upon and add to: Small Games for Newbies .

Of course I couldn’t be content with just making my own little list that no one would ever see but me. If that were the case, I could’ve done this on a post it note. No, I had to wander into the fora in the Recommendations section. And there I got a couple of pages of ideas, which is great, and some additional advice…which was also great. No one beat up on me! But some folks did make it clear that I might be crazy for a few reasons.

1 4-5 games is still a lot, even if they're short
2 4 people playing each of them will stretch out the time for each game more than I may realize after a lifetime (two months) of playing solo
3 People often appreciate playing a game twice—once as a learning game, once for real
4 The biggest advice was to have an entirely different structure for the party: one or two small games as an opener, then a sort of “main event” game that still wasn’t huge (30-45 minutes). This would give folks something they could sink their teeth into and get more of a gaming experience, but still be manageable, learnable, and bearable, for new gamers. I could be ready with a final small game to end the night if there’s still interest.

This idea of a “main event” totally changed what I was thinking, and I think I like it. Since then I’ve been imagining Deep Sea Adventure and Illusion to warm up with. For the main event I’ve thought about Flash Point: Fire Rescue or The Quacks of Quedlinburg. They both seem learnable, not too heavy, and not too long. Though I worry that Flash Point won't seem "serious" enough somehow, but also not "fun" enough. Or not interesting enough. Quacks feels fun enough that people might actually want to return for more someday, and that's the key I think.

I have since proposed this fun filled activity to my three friends. One responded with an enthusiastic yes! One replied, “Nerdlingames I can try. Focus, memory minutiae are really not my thing so I shall be easy to beat.” I offered to play short games with big pieces. The third friend was silent. So two people on board plus me.

I invite you into my planning processes. What games would you suggest for a tableful of gamers who are new to the table?
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