Starting out with a new hobby is never easy. Especially with tabletop games. I have been playing games like Scrabble, Monopoly and Cluedo for years. As far as I was aware, the games stocked in places such as Toys R’Us and WH Smiths were the only board games that were in existence.
Fast forward a few years and I am still playing the same games. Okay the internet wasn’t really a thing back in my childhood, but even still, I am amazed at the amount of games in existence. As someone who joined the board gaming community about 2–3 months ago, making that initial step was full of issues, which could have stopped me from expanding on my gaming experience.
The Sheer volume of Games
The first issue that I experienced was the sheer number of games and game types that are in existence. Bearing in mind that before I joined the community, I had no idea that any of these games even existed. I had no idea where to start, which is arguably something that I am still struggling with now to be honest. I tried reading game reviews and descriptions to try and get an idea and feel of a game, which when you have only just started out is not always helpful.
To be honest, I find that when you read a review, it is hard to get an idea of the person who is writing the review. The reviewer may love a three-hour plus game and loathe shorter games or vice versa. Alternatively, they may have a bias towards a certain type of game which may not be suitable for you. For example, I’ve met a lot of people who rave about Dungeons and Dragons, but personally I have never been able to get in to it. But I’m always willing to give it another try if offered.
I tried joining an American board game Facebook group and asked for a few game recommendations. That was a big mistake. The usual question I got asked was, what type of games do you like? A lot of game names were chucked at me, I think that I had at least 100 notifications on that post, some of which contained up to eight games. Eventually, I was able to settle on Tokaido after much deliberation, which I will be reviewing shortly.
I also picked up Boss Monster, as I have a soft spot for video games (if anyone has any decent board game recommendations it would be appreciated), but this was from my own investigation and gave me a starting point.
Social Media Overload
This led to my second issue, the next step. Shortly after joining said Facebook group, the number of notifications and timeline hogs I was getting meant it was impossible to keep up with important news in my social circle, as all my feeds and notifications were from this large and very active community. It felt like being subscribed to everyone on Twitter some days, and whilst it was a great starting point, there are only so many times that you can read about someone picking up a game for $5, and pictures of people’s board game collections that you can take before you hit the unsubscribe or mute group button.
Admittedly I had added Lanterns to my collection by now, and was able to look at pictures of people who had shared pictures of their game collection and get an idea for potential games to purchase if they had those games in their collection. However, trying to find their post again if something causes you to leave the group page was near on impossible.
Finding a Group
The third and fourth issues are possibly the most challenging things about joining the community - finding people to play with and then factoring in their preferences. I come from a very large social circle, mostly through my time at Uni and old school friends. However, the only problem is that most of these people are not local to me or I very rarely speak to them. I may send them the odd Happy Birthday message or like an occasional post of theirs, but that’s about it.
As a result, I only have a handful of friends who I could potentially play board games with. Some of these friends can be ruled out automatically, as they are not really in to board games and would much prefer to do other things. Of the remaining friends, we are all busy with either jobs, families or both, meaning that there is very little time when we are all free to get together to play. Each person in this group has their own preferences.
For example, one of my groups loves long games like Risk, while the rest of us are not over keen. Another one hates playing games that has too many cards (didn’t find that out until after buying Boss Monster), and buying games that people will not play because of this can become expensive. Personally, I find that it does create a nagging doubt in my mind when going to purchase games.
I found that the best way around this was to send the group the link to the game and ask whether they would play it or not. To counteract the issue of having very few people to play with and games to play, I recently decided to join an extremely friendly and inclusive board game society. Whilst work and family commitments sometimes get in the way, I always strive to go.
Finding the Perfect Genre
From going to the society, I thought I would be able to start narrowing down my possible game choices. However, from this I have found that I have developed a fifth issue, as I haven’t found a game yet that I haven’t enjoyed playing. This is really unhelpful when trying to get to grips with the differing types of games available. I also started looking at board game shop gaming sessions, However, I feel that the majority of them would not cater for me or beginners, as they are army-based games such as Warhammer or card-based games such as Pokémon.
In my mind, there is an expectation that you already understand the rules of the game and that you already have your own army or deck. This to me seems like something that can get expensive really quickly if it is not something that you are fully committed to.
Whilst making a trip home from the east coast, I took a quick diversion in to London and visited the Tabletop Gaming Live event at Alexandra Palace. I had never been to one of these types of events before and the concept was new to me. There were a lot of friendly people (especially the folk at Zatu Games) about and a lot of games available to purchase. However, the best thing about the event for me was the number of playable games there was available and how knowledgeable the staff on hand were with the rules.
There were a lot of games that did not catch my attention, so I was able to rule them off my list as potential buys. However, I was able to try a few of the games that I had heard about, such as Ticket to Ride, and games which had peeked my attention through seeing them to decide whether it was likely that my group of friends outside of the society would play them or not.
Closing Thoughts and Advice
Whilst I am still new to board gaming, I am still struggling to find my feet in relation to what games I would happily purchase. However, I am now much happier to read reviews, as I feel that having experienced more board games, I can get a virtual feel for them and know whether they would be right purchase for my group of friends outside of the society.
I have heard rumours of an app that can advise you on your next purchase based on your game database. However, I feel that my collection of five random games is far too small for this to work effectively. If someone was to ask me what advice I would give to fellow newbies or people looking to become part of the board game community, I would give the following four pieces of advice:
- Attend a couple of board game society meet and plays.
There are plenty of board game societies up and down the country. There should be no expectation that you have to bring a game and there will be at least one person there who is good at explaining rules and can give you an overview. Likewise, if you have a friend who is part of a society, ask to tag along.
- Don’t let a bad experience put you off.
The first few games that you play may not be your cup of tea, but there is a lot of variety out there. Keep persevering and eventually you will find something that you enjoy playing.
- Go to board game conventions.
There are a lot of different board games on offer and you should be able to find something that will interest you.
- Go to a board game café.
Whilst I have not personally had time to try one, I have heard nothing but good things about them. These places offer a huge range of games to play and give people the option to pull up a chair and join in a game with complete strangers, or allow them to join you if there is a game that catches your eye.