All this week we’ll be looking at the booming world of hobby board games, kicking off today with a few reasons why you should join a local board game group if you haven’t already done so.
These ain’t your grandma’s games
It’s a cliché among gamers that if you mention the hobby to a non-fan they’ll ask “What, like Monopoly or Risk?” And like most clichés it’s got a lot of truth to it. If you aren’t familiar with modern board games, then the simplest way to explain them is that whatever you dislike about mass market games, you’ll find something among the thousands of hobby titles that puts it right.
Whether you are looking for more creative or immersive themes, less luck, more social interaction, more intellectual challenge, less sitting around bored because you’ve been eliminated, or just more downright silliness, there’s a game for you. And while hobby gaming may be a niche, it’s a huge one: this year’s instalment of the GenCon gaming convention in Indianapolis attracted more than 60,000 different people.
Try before you buy
A gaming group is the easiest way to try new games without having to buy them. That’s important because there’s no denying hobby games are expensive and you’ll often need a good few plays to get your money’s worth. While some groups stick to their favorites, many prefer to try as many as possible, so you’ll soon come to learn which types of game are to your taste.
Board game groups are a great way to make new friends without the pressure of more formal socializing activities. That’s because of their beautiful balance: the emphasis isn’t on the socializing, so you don’t have the pressure that comes with networking and other formal relationship-building events, but at the same time games inherently get people talking and learning about each other’s personalities. It’s particularly good for people who prefer to have a little structure and rules (even if it’s for the games themselves) rather than be thrown straight into open-ended small talk. Another benefit is that while you’ll often meet people from a wide variety of ages and backgrounds at a gaming group, you may well find you’re more likely to share some personality traits and attitudes than you do with other social groupings such as work colleagues or neighbors.
Get your money’s worth
If and when you get into hobby gaming, you’ll often think twice before buying a game if you are relying on friends and family to play it. Join a group however, and you’ll be more likely to persuade people to give it a go, particularly for games which work best with a larger group of players. Don’t expect to be able to play your new game every week (unless that’s the vibe at your chosen group), but knowing it’s an option will expand the range of games you consider splashing out on.
While board games are generally competitive (some are co-operative, with the players teaming up ‘against the game’) they don’t have to be cut-throat. Ruthlessly aggressive players have spoiled many a family game, and some hobby games lend themselves to serious competitive tournaments for hardcore gamers, but a good game group will often be more relaxed. Certainly you’ll encounter some players who avidly keep track of their wins and losses, but most folk will be more concerned with having fun and experiencing the game than they are the final score.
Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the sometimes-confusing terminology in hobby gaming.