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Subject: Need Advice on Hosting Public Board Game Night at Church rss

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Big Dee
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Hey, I need some help and advice in finalizing my plans to start a board game night at my church. I kind of have some ideas, but I would like some input from others who may have done a similar thing. Hopefully I posted this thread in the right forum - I didn't find a more specific one).

OK, here is the plan so far -
I plan to have a board game night once a month (or is that too infrequent?) at my church open to members and general public alike with the sole purpose of meeting people and hanging out (aka fellowship). I have no idea how many people will show up - the church is about 200 ppl and the town about 6k. I'm guessing about 20-30, with half being from the youth group. I will bring games I think will be appropriate and inoffensive. I plan on having one or two select individuals bring a couple of their games as well, and have them teach them.

Now here are my questions -
When the pastor okayed it, he used the phrase "family game night", and that made my heart skip a beat with anxiety. I don't even let most of my own kids play most of my games (card, meet mouth...) much less other people's kids (who I can't yell and throw things at...especially not in church). So, what is the best way to handle the kid situation? An age limit would probably limit the number of young couples that could come, but having kids there, even with a kid area, always seems to make things more stressful.

now, about time - The only times that would really work would be Friday nights and Saturdays (any time). Does anyone have any experience in know which day/time draws the most people? And how long do they last? which leads me to my next question...

I was thinking about having food there. Either pizza, frozen food, potluck, etc. Does that seem to work OK? My gaming friends all know how to eat and play games without ruining the games, but I'm not sure about the general public...

Is it better to bring the same games every time or mix it up so they learn more games?

And lastly (for now), as mentioned, I was planning on having games taught. Is it best to have it scheduled in, like on the whiteboard: 6:00 teaching love letter, 7:00 teaching Forbidden Island, etc, or just play it by ear?

Thanks for any help you can give. I am sure I will have more questions later.

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Boaty McBoatface
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Buy some games from charity shops to use on the night.
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Carl Frodge
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LeisureHippo wrote:
Hey, I need some help and advice in finalizing my plans to start a board game night at my church. I kind of have some ideas, but I would like some input from others who may have done a similar thing. Hopefully I posted this thread in the right forum - I didn't find a more specific one).

I started hosting a Game Night at my parents church recently, and we've done about 3 or 4 so far, so I can give you my input based on my experience.

Quote:
OK, here is the plan so far -
I plan to have a board game night once a month (or is that too infrequent?) at my church open to members and general public alike with the sole purpose of meeting people and hanging out (aka fellowship). I have no idea how many people will show up - the church is about 200 ppl and the town about 6k. I'm guessing about 20-30, with half being from the youth group. I will bring games I think will be appropriate and inoffensive. I plan on having one or two select individuals bring a couple of their games as well, and have them teach them.

The one I host meets once a month (the third Friday of every month). It's fine, and it's good to start slow.

I wouldn't expect a huge turnout the first few times. Or if you do have a decent turnout the first day, don't expect that many people to show up every time. Our first day was pretty big, but each subsequent day has been significantly smaller.


Quote:
Now here are my questions -
When the pastor okayed it, he used the phrase "family game night", and that made my heart skip a beat with anxiety. I don't even let most of my own kids play most of my games (card, meet mouth...) much less other people's kids (who I can't yell and throw things at...especially not in church). So, what is the best way to handle the kid situation? An age limit would probably limit the number of young couples that could come, but having kids there, even with a kid area, always seems to make things more stressful.

"Family Game Night" is the biggest problem, for my expectations, anyway. See, I quickly realized I hate playing with kids, and guess who shows up to "Family Game Night"?...kids. Pretty much only kids, too, or adults who act like kids. Since at this point, it would be wrong for me to suddenly change the age range, I don't have that option, but you do! And use it!

I honestly don't know how to handle it now, please let me know if you find a solution.


Quote:
now, about time - The only times that would really work would be Friday nights and Saturdays (any time). Does anyone have any experience in know which day/time draws the most people? And how long do they last? which leads me to my next question...

The one I host is Friday night from 6:30 to 10:30. 4 Hours, which is fine, we've actually been finishing early the last few times. I don't know if this is a good time, a lot of people say they can't make it, but I think it's because of other things going on. Saturday nights are probably better and easier for most people. (But Saturday cuts into my own game nights that I host and a lot of meetups I go to).

Quote:
I was thinking about having food there. Either pizza, frozen food, potluck, etc. Does that seem to work OK? My gaming friends all know how to eat and play games without ruining the games, but I'm not sure about the general public...

Pizza is your best friend. We order 6-7 Papa Johns pizzas and we're good for the night. (We charge $3 or $10 for a family, and that's for as much pizza as you want). There haven't been problems so far. We also advertise that no drinks will be available, that you should bring your own, but sometimes we'll have lemondade or iced tea available.
The general public does not know how to be respectful of other peoples games, don't expect them to.

Quote:
Is it better to bring the same games every time or mix it up so they learn more games?

I bring a handful of games every time and maybe 1 gets played. People, it seems, expect to play party games at this type of event, and I've found are less likely to want to learn a strategy game (although to be fair, the kids are more interested than the adults in the more strategic games). So to answer your question, I don't know. If you actually get some decent people showing up, things might be different for you.

Quote:
And lastly (for now), as mentioned, I was planning on having games taught. Is it best to have it scheduled in, like on the whiteboard: 6:00 teaching love letter, 7:00 teaching Forbidden Island, etc, or just play it by ear?

I think yes, it's a good idea to schedule it, and maybe have people sign up (on the white board), that way, it's set in stone, and you don't have more players than it can hold wanting to play, it's just whoever signs up.

Quote:
Thanks for any help you can give. I am sure I will have more questions later.


Here's my own advice:

-ADVERTISE ADVERTISE ADVERTISE! Go to local game stores and ask them if you can put up a flyer for your event. Maybe also go to local community centers or stores and ask if you can put up a flyer. Otherwise you'll basically just get church members or friends who would be coming anyway.

-Impose age restrictions if possible (Playing games with kids is a nightmare from their short attention spans to their sticky fingers. It's not fun).

-Maybe section off a room for Party games. I've noticed it can get very loud, which makes playing strategy games a lot harder. I think I'm gonna do this one at the next meetup.

-Keep it up. You might get discouraged the first few times because of bad attendance or because the people you want there didn't show up. Soldier through it and hope for the best next time.

Hope this helps. And if you find anything that works really well, let me know!
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Bryan Thunkd
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LeisureHippo wrote:
I don't even let most of my own kids play most of my games (card, meet mouth...) much less other people's kids (who I can't yell and throw things at...especially not in church). So, what is the best way to handle the kid situation?
Accept the fact that you cannot control how the games will be handled and that they may end up being damaged. Some of the people who show up will probably equate "family game night" to Monopoly. And they'll probably consider any board game as disposable (and in their minds as easily replaceable) as Monopoly. They're don't sweat it when their kid loses a Monopoly house or crumples a Monopoly bill. And they won't necessarily see your games as any more sacred than their beat up copy of Monopoly or a dollar store deck of cards.

So if you value your games, don't use them for a public game night with people you can't trust.
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Jerry Martin
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If you plan on having anyone that isn't a gamer play your games plan on them being ruined. Not destroyed beyond recognition, but bent cards and lost pieces.

Any type of food is going to become intimately involved with whatever games you are playing. I would avoid Pizza like the plague. In fact I would plan it so that food is NOT a part of your game night.


Also if your congregation has a total of 200 I think 30 is a huge over estimation on how many might show up.

Not trying to discourage you, but it seems like you are being overly optimistic about how things are going to go. I would start with newer readily available games that you know you can replace and then go in with the idea that you will be replacing them for your own collection.

I run an after school game club at my school and I keep totally separate collections. Occasionally, I will bring one of my own games and then make absolutely sure that they are treated with respect. We have gone through many games over the years and I just consider it a part of the deal. Granted these are younger kids, but most adults think of all games on par with Monopoly. Cheap easily replaced games. You should know that is how they will be treated.
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Quantum Jack
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If you have to set aside time to "teach" love letter, you really have no business running a game night. It takes 30 seconds to teach, even to people who never play games.

Food and kids I put in the same piece of advice, either tell them to not touch your pristine works of art with greasy/snotty fingers, or bring games with more robust pieces, card sleeves, tiles (hive), wooden pieces, etc that can take some abuse. Eg: I bought Sputnik and duck! duck! Go! because the pieces wont be wrecked by kids.

As for teaching games, I would start with light, easily explaimed games and party games. Apples to apples, love letter, coup, yinsh, etc. then introduce one new, gamers game to those who want more, each month ading new game to the pool. Families who want to just do the easy ones can do so, but gamers who didnt know it yet can flourish.

Good luck!
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Steve Vondra
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A few bullet point suggestions.

You might want to recruit another veteran gamer or two to help teach games.

If you want to put an age limit (floor) discuss it with the pastor before implementing it. To this end you might want to bring a couple of games with you to exemplify the types of games we play. His idea of boardgames may be stuck in the mass market games he played as a child.

For food, either provide game-friendly snacks, or take a break for pizza and sodas, Do not offer pot luck. inevitably someone will bring an extremely messy, yet tasty, dish that may get all over your game components.

In this setting, be sure to let game-flow proceed at it's own pace. Many non-gamers will show up more for the social aspect of the game night, especially in the early days.

As to game mix, start with easily accessable games (gateways) and slowly mix in meatier titles as the group matures. if a game is still being played each session, it stays in rotation, if it goes three or more meetings with no plays replace it with something else.

Add in a few co-op games for those that don't like competition.

Remember, that it's OK to just hang out and chat for a bit between games.

Friday seems to be preferable to Saturday. people's plans for Friday tend to be only for the evening as work/school tends to fill up the day. Saturday is easily filled up with all-day plans that could hurt attendance.

Don't over-organize. If you are the only game teacher there you may see this as an expedient, but it's much better to let people pick the games they would like to play themselves.
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Carl Frodge
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Here's the flyer I made for my event. Yours doesn't have to be as fancy.
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Bryan Thunkd
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cooler king wrote:
If you want to put an age limit (floor) discuss it with the pastor before implementing it. To this end you might want to bring a couple of games with you to exemplify the types of games we play. His idea of boardgames may be stuck in the mass market games he played as a child.
For a lot of people "board games" and "kid's games" are synonymous. Even if it isn't billed as a "family game night" a lot of people will probably assume that it's primarily a children's event. If you try to sell it as an "grown ups only" event, a lot of people are going to think it's weird. (Obviously this depends on the people and the place, but I think if you just randomly picked out some town in Iowa, it'd probably be the norm.)

I think you'll have better luck starting it as an all ages event, getting the kids hooked and possibly interesting some of adults. It'll be your opportunity to show the parents that board games are not necessarily a kids-only activity. If the "family game night" is a success then I think you have a great jumping off point to start a "game night" that's specifically not billed as a "family" event. Having both a family game night and a regular game night would let you clearly identify that the family event is open to the kiddies, but that the regular night is for more complicated games and not a kid's event.
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Ken Lewis
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I think you might need to reevaluate why you started a board game night in a public place.

I say this because the general public doesn't really know the depth of games available and many of them are going to equate a family game night to the games they frequently see on the store shelf at places like Target, Toys r Us, or Walmart.

You can't expect everyone to "revere" your games the way you do. To many people they are just toys meant to waste some time, not valuable collectibles or expensive hobby pieces.

If you are looking for like minded people to play games with you should have probably started by looking for those individuals first on sites like this one, or by flyers at your local library etc...

Even if your pastor didn't use the term "family game night" most of the people there would have interpreted any kind of "game night" to be similar to a family game night.

You should expect a decent amount of kids, and if you apply an age limit, you probably won't get many people from your church.

I would also suggest having some of the games those types of players expect to see, on hand, otherwise you may lose people just because they don't see anything familiar.
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Tim Park
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I thrifted a library of common Euro games (Settlers, Carcassonne, etc,) and a bunch of mass market games, and I opened up a biweekly game night at my church. I later, at the request of my wife, moved to once a month. We had some semi-homeless teens coming for a while, started feeding them... I either make a very basic salad bar (bin of greens, some beans, dressing) or baked potatoes and tell people to bring a topping or side to share if they want it to be a more interesting meal. I arranged to have the food covered by the church but don't usually remember to submit receipts.

I intentionally set out to have an intergenerational family game night... the first year or two the core of the game night was a group from the game store game night, usually one to two tables of serious modern games running from 6-12 or 1. For that first couple of years, I had a lot of noisy kids coming and playing chess or monopoly or twister or Headbandz or whatever, some of their parents, and several older ladies playing scrabble or mexican train. We had 2-8 teens coming and playing Magic. We also attracted a group of developmentally disabled adults from some independent living apartments next door who come mostly to eat, then play a simple game or two.

Years later, the free food persists. The game night has scaled down to two to four older ladies playing Scrabble, sometimes including my not-so-old wife, the folks from next door, and a larger group of serious gamers. Sometimes we have three, even four tables running. It's quieter now. I don't promote it as much as I used to, I could pull in more.

We average around 15-20 people a night now, at the height when I was really pushing it we would sometimes hit close to 50 over the course of the night. The active church membership is about 100. Early game nights were 30-50% church members, now it's 20%, counting me, thought I'm not officially a member. Or a Christian, for that matter.

My game library had been thrifted previously mostly, I kept a huge library of games to fold into trades, or to ransack for prototyping, and I had a storage problem. Starting the game night gave me a place to put half my collection, though I quickly ended up donating it.

Tim
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Tim Park
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I promoted this thing as a family game night 'featuring card, traditional, party and modern strategy games' I recruited from the beginning from the extant game groups, so I made sure we had a core of strategy gamers at the center of the game night, whose tables were circled around the center of the sanctuary, around the altar, where all the games people brought in were placed (including mine from home.)

The library and food was off to one side of the room, and tables were spaced out around the perimeter of the large, round chamber, with a row of tables cutting up the center of the room, too, where I staged the old ladies and their scrabble games. I wanted those quieter people closer to our strategy games.

The family stuff all died off around 9, the promoted end time, often earlier, leaving the serious gamers with a later game in dead silence.

I created an event for our area guild here on the Geek, and created a Facebook page and a meetup page, and joined other area guilds and meetups, and mentioned our game night there. Just being in other meetups often put ours in their sidebar, anyway. Actually, the meetup is where we got most of our newer members, and I regret letting the meetup page lapse.
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phillip wilson
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We started a game group at our church about 6 months ago. We say it's family friendly, but the kids just run around outside or play video games.

We have been having about 8 to 10 adults mostly. Last month we hit 15. It's been advertised, but most people have come because of personal connection or networking. There are 2 other couples that are gamers. So we already have a base of players. The other regulars are friends or related to us. I would anticipate starting with fewer than 30 people. Probably 4 or 6.

We potluck the food, asking everyone to bring a snack to share. Usually cookies and chips and whatnot. Mostly to keep the kids busy. "It's getting loud, hey kids want to go outside and have an otterpop?"

Game selection has been interesting. Most of those attending havnt played much so don't know what to play. We've been drifting from what we (the gamers) want to play back to more gateway titles. Ticket to ride, pandemic, carcassonne. That's going over well for an intro. Each person is usually only playing 2 games a night (a month) so a slow introduction to new mechanisms seems better. I've been starting by having a few games setup(host at home) and ready to go to get people past the what to play issue."that looks cool, I'll try that"
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Tim Park
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Theme was not a problem at our church, it's a very liberal one. In fact, one of my fellow gamers is our pastor's brother and a pastor himself. I haven't seen anything rejected for theme yet, but we are mostly pretty tasteful anyway.

I would have been more careful at my wife's old church back in Arkansas.

I outlawed screens. It's a tabletop game night, no running around, no playing outside (liability issues,) and no videogames.

I need to start promoting it again... My goal was to grow the serious gamers enough that a couple of us were free to break off and teach games to newbies, and grow our ranks that way. But when I get people coming from neighboring communities, or across a far bridge, I feel obligated to play a game with them.




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James Barnes
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I have held several board game days at our school over the years.
The best age group would be high school age and above.
I have done eighth grade game nights, but the group is pretty young and more things can go wrong.

We have a separate room for food and everyone must eat in that room and must wash their hands before they enter the game playing room.
I usually go over with the students ahead of time things like the washing hands, counting pieces before you put the game away and basically an overall discussion on how these games are from my collection and some could be irreplaceable.

We have had a couple of lost pieces and some 'helpful' students that insist on helping you put games away at the end of the night have crushed some box covers.
This is very frustrating.
Do not take anything to a game night that you cannot bare to see damaged in any way!!!

I mostly take party and abstract strategy.
The gipf series is a hit with people that know Chess, Crokinole and Pitch Car offer big group diversions that can be combined with tournament style prizes.
If you are hoping to get a few medium weight games like Ticket to Ride or Dominion or Pandemic, let me just say I take games like these in hopes every time, but inevitably they never get to be played.
Small games like Love Letter, No Thanks, Kakerlaken Poker, etc. are also really great choices.
Party games are quick to teach and seat many players at one table while you can get another table started with another game.

I always have at least two very trustworthy students or fellow gamer faculty watch that all rules about putting games away and checking them out and washing hands are being observed.

Good luck with your group.
It can be a real challenge to host, but it can be really rewarding too.
Just be sure the rewards out way your game component losses.

Cheers
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Carl Frodge
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Theme hasn't been an issue with the one I host, but that's mainly because it's a public event, not a church event, it just happens to be at a church.
The first day we played Evolution, and the pastor came by and asked what we were playing and we kind of laughed and said "Evolution." It was kinda funny, but he didn't have a problem with it or anything.
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Ernest S
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I've had experience with a number of groups:

I've run a group at our church for years. We bill it as Strategy game Night. This scares certain people away (by design) and the games we play are often highly strategic & in-depth. We have anywhere from 8 to 20 people a night, once a month (on a Saturday). we don't provide food but ask people to bring a snack-to-share. We start at 6pm and go till the last game is done... usually the wee hours of the morning. I'd say about 20% of those that attend, actually go to our church. We have a good core of gamers who keep this going.

We also ran a Family Game Night at our church for a while. It started ok but slowly died off as fewer and fewer people participated.

I also attend another Church-based game night once a month on Fridays. It runs similar to the first one I mentioned but has more kids (teens) participation. The variety of games is greater, ranging from party games to deep, deep games (still no Monopoly, etc). They employ the same "bring a snack to share" approach and often there are games going till past midnight. The kids are mostly children of gamers and respect for games hasn't been a problem.

I personally wouldn't schedule teaching sessions. This is easier (of course) if you have some others there who can teach games.

If found that in general people (even kids) will be respectful of the games, especially if you request it... and gently 'encourage' those who are not.

Also, we've never had an issue with theme. On occasion someone has requested a different game when they found one that was bothersome; and we acquiesce.

Good luck.
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I actually just started hosting a board game night at our church, once a month, started about 3 months ago. We have a small congregation and mostly older folks so that throws a kink in things a bit. Here are some of the challenges I've noticed...

1) Most people only know cards, scrabble, Uno and bananagrams and to them, that is GAME night. They don't have a desire to learn anything new. To those people, you cannot change them. Just have a couple of those lame games on hand...you can't teach people taste and if they are having fun, more power to them.

2) We have some people that are more adventurous and willing to learn a new game. The issue though is that if you are the only "gamer" in your church, you won't be able to have more than one game going at a time because you will have to teach it. So if you have more people than that one game will allow, you gotta have something the others will play.

What has worked so far is that I bring one "new" game a month. I started with Ticket to Ride. Next month I brought Spendor. Last month I brought Jamaica. Now I've got a few people that know how to play those games and can play it with another group in a pinch.

For food, I just pop some fresh popcorn (real deal, no microwave frankenfat junk) and use butter salt. This keeps the game components clean. You can also whip up a list of game night rules to share with the congregation that are basic (take care of components, dont aggressively shuffle cards, etc). If you have a large youth bunch playing, ask the most responsible one at the table to police it and keep things nice and orderly.
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