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Subject: Starting a Game Night: Tips and Tricks? rss

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dj sabor
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Greetings, all -

As you can see from my microbadge, I am a professor by vocation. I think that the university program in which I teach could benefit from a games night-type activity and I am willing to volunteer my efforts toward making that happen. Before I fire off the first email about it, however, I thought I'd check in here with others to get some suggestions from those of you who may have had success (or failure!) with trying something similar before. A bit of demographic info: most of our students are in their mid-to-late 20s up to early 30s, with some outliers here and there. They are in a Master's program and so are a bit more mature than the undergrad crowd. They tend to be avid readers and many already have an interest in games already - but not all of them! So I'd like to count on some folks with a built-in interest but also attract new people.

There's the issue of having the event on campus and in one of our buildings vs. elsewhere. Upside: perhaps people will already be on-site. Downside: no beverages; lacking in ambiance.

Finally, what are some games I should be sure to have on-hand? I believe some classics like Catan and maybe Dominion would be good calls. Love Letter? Agricola? Or maybe The Resistance?

Thanks for your stories from the field.
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EGG Head
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Definitely find out the food and drink policies of wherever you are holding your event. If food and drink are allowed set you guidelines in your invite, avoiding greasy messy foods for example, games and grease don't mix too well.

Set you expected behavior policy ie no bad losers, no smoking, no drinking, making sure everyone has good hygiene etc. and if kids will be allowed or not.

Decide what your hours are. If it is late do you want to be the one staying up late every time? If not enlist a responsible helper ahead of time.

Encourage people to bring their own games to share.

Enlist helpers to be game masters or teachers to help teach newbies games.

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Chris Hall
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Hemel Hempstead
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+1 for the resistance, great party game, incredibly easy to teach and play
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Caysi McQuillan
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I recently started a bi-weekly game night with some friends. One thing that was a big hit was to have them bring some of their games. If they brought something i try to get it to the table first before any of my games. Or if they didn't bring anything, i let them choose from my games what they want to play.
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John Peterson
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Start with social games that help break the ice among the attendees. I'd make games like Dominion, Settlers, Ticket to Ride, etc., available but I would encourage you to bring short, easy games to engage people and encourage interaction. Personally, I'd go with some card games - No Thanks, Coloretto, Category 5/6 Nimmt, etc., which are easy to explain and quick to play to hit the ground running. Once you've hit a "critical mass", they you can introduce some of the gateway games you've brought.

Good ice breakers:
- No Thanks
- Coloretto
- Category 5/6 Nimmt
- Snorta
- Wits and Wagers
- Cash 'n' Guns

Standard Gateway Recommendations:
- Settlers of Catan
- Carcassonne
- Ticket to Ride

There's my "two bits"...good luck!
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dj sabor
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I like the idea of bringing on experienced people to demo and teach games. It'd be nice if I could line up a particular game for each of the first few sessions, which people could join or not, if they preferred to adjourn to their own game choice.

Keep the suggestions coming - thank you!
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Joline
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During my time as a student I've played lots of games, also with people that would normally not game. We started with Bohnanza, Set and Munchkin, since they're easy to fit in a break and people can drop in or out (join teams or be replaced). We also had many different groups playing werewolf at parties or companyvisits (the ones where you have to stay the night).
Probably best also to ask around (if you know someone is a gamer) what sometimes gets played.


Oh yes and Bang also was a hit.

From what I've experienced both in my own year and my sisters (4 year later and a different study) most students know Werewolf, Bang and/or Munchkin.

Drinking games are of course out when you're not allowed to have beverages but maybe you could remodel one?
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Eric Folsom
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Very good suggestions so far. I would add to have different types of games too. Have at least one cooperative game like Pandemic and a Euro game like Lords of Waterdeep or Ticket to Ride. Resistance is a great one and so is No Thanks. I've found Saboteur with Saboteur 2 to be a great gateway game as well.
Include a few party games like Say Anything, Balderdash, and perhaps (depending on your comfort level) Cards Against Humanity. I'd probably throw in Apples to Apples and Chess/Checkers so it doesn't seem overwhelming to the non-gamer. Familiarity can be a big deal. Also a deck of normal cards are good.

Good luck, hope this helps!
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Eric Folsom
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mebririth wrote:


Oh yes and Bang also was a hit.

From what I've experienced both in my own year and my sisters (4 year later and a different study) most students know Werewolf, Bang and/or Munchkin.

Bang the Dice Game is even easier and of course Werewolf is amazing.
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Crian
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I would pick one of the Resistance games over Werewolf, for the simple reason that nobody gets fully eliminated in the Resistance.
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EGG Head
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I would recommend One Night Ultimate Werewolf over regular werewolf because it's very short and easy to add or take out players as they drop in. Takes about 10 minutes.
If your group is not a werewolf crowd, something like Splendor would be good.
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Sharon Laubach
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Altadena
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You might find this blog from the League of Game Makers helpful:
An Over-Complicated Approach to Crafting the Perfect Game Night
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Mary U
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These students are likely invested/passionate in their field to choose to do a Masters program. Are these all people from the same field of Masters program or different ones? If they are from the same one, would having a themed game related to the chosen field possibly increase interest from the "non-gamers"?
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Denis Begin
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I'd like to add PLEASE, PLEASE, begin with games that are in print and readily available, nothing squashes a new gamer's hope like this conversation:

-That was awesome, where can i buy this and show all my friends/family?

-Um, nowhere. This was limited to 17 1/2 copies that were only sold by lottery at a gaming convention held in a town that only existed for 12 hours in our universe.

-ummmmm, too bad


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Jacq L
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I think having at least the first session or two at the University is a good idea. It's sort of neutral ground for everyone and doesn't put too much pressure on anyone to "host" or worry about directions or anything.

In my dept, usually once or twice a year we'll have a "game night" in the Phonetics lab, where we play Catan, Telestrations, and other light/party/gateway games. Those that have the most interest will usually start hanging out with one or two of the other groups.

I guess maybe I'm lucky. Even though it's a small department, we have a contingent of hardcore wargamers and a group of tabletop RPG players (who also like other board games). There are lots of interests represented.

Also...
smartturtle wrote:
These students are likely invested/passionate in their field to choose to do a Masters program. Are these all people from the same field of Masters program or different ones? If they are from the same one, would having a themed game related to the chosen field possibly increase interest from the "non-gamers"?
IPA Scrabble is a huuuuuge hit among the undergrads and the "non-gamers" in our department. It's used as a learning tool for the newer students and is also used to play a "multilingual" version (though the scoring goes a bit out the window.
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Rose
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Pair of Dice Paradise with Chaz Marler (or something like that) did a multi-part series on Boardgaming Breakfast about starting a gaming group.
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EGG Head
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anjulka wrote:
Pair of Dice Paradise with Chaz Marler (or something like that) did a multi-part series on Boardgaming Breakfast about starting a gaming group.
He comes to my EGG Con and game days super nice guy
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M. B.
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A good dose of lighter or medium complexity classic Euros is always a good start.

If they are Graduate students, then you definitely also want some meatier "thinky" games on hand for those that desire a challenge with one another, such as Caylus, Brass: Lancashire, Troyes, or Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar.

For something a little cooperative also include Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island. I have not played it yet, but I've been reading the rules. Most of my game group is looking forward to it.

Definitely try to find common themes that the majority might like and sway a bit more toward games that offer those themes. It is ALWAYS more interesting to play a game with a theme that you like (even if it just pasted onto the mechanics) rather than a theme that you do not like.
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dj sabor
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Just thought I'd bring you all up to speed with where things have ended up. Next week is our first club night, to be held at the campus graduate student pub. We've got FIFTY PEOPLE interested and planning to join!! People are volunteering to bring the games they love and will briefly introduce them to the whole group, after which we'll break apart and people can choose which game they want to try. I have many plans afoot for this and am so excited, and thrilled by the interest! GAME ON!
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dj sabor
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Oh, and one other thing, the makeup of the participants (53 as of a few minutes ago) is about 85% FEMALE. Talk about Women and Gaming! Woo! Pretty cool!
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Laurel Stuart
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I'm really interested in seeing how game night goes.

One game that was suggested that I would exclude is Cards Against Humanity. Now, I'm a CAH fan and spent this week throwing together a new custom set with the group I play with. But in a public event, where everyone's sensibilities are going to have a bell curve, it is best to stick to things you'd play with well.. strangers.

50 people is going to be loud and chaotic. You will definitely not only want to plan for refreshments including lots of cold water, but double check that you will have enough tables and chairs to break things up into groups of 4-6 where everyone won't be shouting over each other. You might want to leave the presentations to just 4-5 people and encourage them to divide themselves around the room and put other people and their games in between so people can browse.

Definitely focus on games that generally take 20-30 minutes to play, very easy to learn as your "ice breakers" for session one. As everyone gets to know each other better, the complexity and comfort zone will just add itself in naturally.
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dj sabor
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We actually have the entire large area of a pub reserved for our bi-weekly night, and plenty of water, soft drinks, beer and pizza will be available! I am going to bring:

Istanbul
Citadels
Coup
The Resistance
Love Letter
Boss Monster

and some other stuff I'm forgetting. Other people are bringing their favorites, so we will have tons of options. I am _not_ bringing CAH, for the aforementioned reason. Finally, we have a website for club members with a forum, and a ton more people who can't make our Wednesday meetup are planning for other days and times. I'll report back after Wednesday.

Sometimes when you want to find a community, you just make one yourself.
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dj sabor
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One other thing I'm doing is asking for volunteers for a club steering committee, so I won't have to do things all by myself, and so other good ideas and creativity can be showcased!
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Dmitrijs Zulenkovs
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You may consider using social networks as a forum\source of info. Works pretty well and allows people to invite each other, so they can inform their friends. Our events are very similar to what you describe and actually Facebook works very fine.

P.S. 7 Wonders is also pretty nice for such events since is simple and fast. Kingdom Builder is pretty ok to introduce people to eurogames.
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dj sabor
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Well, Games Night was a _huge_ success. We had probably 25 people come, and although we were scheduled to run from 6-9 PM, we had so much fun that folks stayed until almost 10. A number of interested people couldn't make it this first week, too, so I expect a good number to join up next time.

As we planned, people brought a number of games and volunteered to lead them. I believe that these were the ones that ended up getting played:

1. The Resistance - major heavy rotation. The nice thing about it was that people could join in or leave and get in or out of the game, as needed. Rounds were quick so people didn't have to wait too long to get involved. It was fun and a crowd pleaser!

2. 7 Wonders - A game of 7 Wonders got underway right at the top of the meet, and they had a full complement of players. Looks like they had mostly experienced gamers involved, but a few new folks joined and had a blast!

3. Aye, Dark Overlord! The Red Box - Many of the 7 Wonders players switched over to this one and seemed to enjoy the relative quick play, which they followed up with

4. Love Letter - one that many had suggested!

5. At a certain point, I took a group of three players and myself and taught Istanbul; the group of four experienced gamers was new to Istanbul but really enjoyed it! Gameplay picks up rapidly after the first few rounds and they really enjoyed both theme and mechanics.

6. Meanwhile, the former members of the Resistance! switched to another fun and goofy game, Munchkin Cthulhu, and from the look and sound of things, had a blast.

7. Finally, we had a good old-fashioned Catan game going, as well, that included a number of new gamers.

It was a great and highly successful night! I also was able to draft several folks in to form a steering committee to plan future club events and meets. We'll get together again in two weeks. Can't wait!


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