Pub-based, public board game nights come and go, but Brighton Pub Boardgamers has continued to grow with events almost every day. They also have a separate RPG group and an annual summer camp! With the effective use of meetup.com, Simon Appleton and his fellow organisers have created more than just a games night. They have seeded a large community and network of gamers, venues and events in and around Brighton.
I caught up with Simon to ask about Brighton Pub Boardgamers and find out the secret to their success.
1) Can you tell me a little about yourself and the other organisers, and what made you decide to put on a games night?
Our games night actually grew out of a fortnightly Werewolf meetup about six years ago. I hadn't played board games for years and I thought it might be fun to get a few werewolf players together on our off week. It really took off and grew surprisingly fast. We've now nearly 3,000 members (thankfully not all active, I'm don't think the pub could cope...).
2) What is Brighton Pub Boardgamers, and what makes it unique?
Probably the thing that makes us different is our scale: The only days we don't have regular weekly meets are Friday and Saturday! We welcome any regular games meets to list with us, so we've got a wide range of groups with different interests. Some are more 'long Euro games', some are lighter fillers plus whatever people bring along.
We also run several sister groups: Role-playing, werewolf, mega-games and an annual summer gaming camp (more below!) We aim to be truly welcoming and inclusive - We love new players. ~It doesn't matter who you are, or how long you've played (if at all), you'll come along and want to come again!
3) What are the venues like and, on average, how many people usually attend?
We've got lots of venues, but our main event is Wednesday nights. We meet at the Craft Beer Co in their upstairs rooms, which gives us a range of tables, including a big 10-person table for party/social deduction games. There is a massive range of craft beers (funnily enough) and good food. We usually get between 15 and 30 people attending, playing anything from Love Letter to Pandemic Legacy.
4) What are the best and worst parts of running a games night?
The best part is (honest!) the good feeling of having brought a diverse range of people together to have a great time. And getting to try lots of new games. The worst part is venue problems (though hats off to Craft Beer Co for giving us a great home), and the inevitable, but rare, 'problem' person to be dealt with.
5) What do you think is the secret to the success of what you are doing in Brighton? Events every day seems like a lot of work. I’ve seen attempts to even do weekly events fail in other cities because it spreads the numbers attending too thinly. I’ve seen the less is more approach work well, so I’m interested in how you have made almost daily events a success.
That's an interesting question. I think Meetup is key. The service itself is not that great, and the developers seem hellbent on making it worse. BUT, it's probably the best way to get new members to the group. Less is more, is spot on; I've made sure that the group pretty much runs itself - each weekly event has it's own organiser. The events tend to be in different venues, and with different interests.
There probably is some degree of spreading thinly, but in my experience, many people choose the event purely based on what night they're free. Some go to several.
5) What can a new person expect if they come along?
We start from 6pm, and play till close. We always try to spot and greet new faces, say hello, and get them straight into a game. Early on, we play some short filler games, so as people turn up there is always something to join. We've usually got five or six tables of games in play, so there is plenty to choose from.
6) What are the most popular games at the nights, and why do you think that is?
Social deduction games are very popular. We almost always have a big one towards the end of the night, could be Secret Hitler, Tortuga, One Night Ultimate Werewolf or The Resistance. There aren't many opportunities outside a games night to play 10-player games like that.
In contrast, Azul seems to come out every week - it's a modern classic. Once someone's played one game, they can see what they might try differently next game, so it's rare to just play one round of Azul.
7) When and where does the event happen and where can people find you on the internet.
8) I notice you also organise an event called Strange Games festival. Can you tell me more about that and your plan for the next one?
I've been running Strange Games Festival for about five years. We take over a whole campsite for a long July weekend, and about 130 gamers from all over the country come along and have an amazing time. We have a marquee for board games, Werewolf late at night around campfires, role-playing, food vans, big party games, it's a blast. It always sells out quick. You can find out more on Meetup, or search for us on Facebook.
If you are in the area why not check out the events Simon puts on. We thank Simon for taking the time to answer our questions about Brighton Pub Boardgamers.