I attend The Hungry Dragon, a monthly board games club in Chorlton, Manchester, almost every month. I caught up with Tom, one of the organisers, to learn more abut what goes in to running a successful event like this.
What is the Hungry Dragon Games night?
The Hungry Dragon Games Night is a monthly pop-up games night which was set up by me and my Wife, Kate in 2016. At the time, there weren't many other games nights around in the Manchester region and the ones that did exist were focused on a 'bring your own' model.
The Hungry Dragon is different because we supply the games; every month we bring our stash of games (Around 130 at the moment) down to the pub (The Font, in Chorlton) and just let people loose on them. It's an amazing, crazy friendly atmosphere where people come down solo, or in groups and just meet friends or total newcomers to share a brilliant hobby.
Why did you decide to start your own games night?
The initial inspiration came from when we went to a board games café up in Kat's hometown of Preston. We loved the idea of being able to just turn up with no plan, grab a game, some food and a drink; and just go for it.
There was two main reasons we did it. Firstly, all the other games nights at the time felt quite focused on heavier games. There was a few places you could play Magic: The Gathering, Android: Netrunner or Twilight Imperium; but nowhere you could just grab something a bit lighter - just meet up for a game of Catan or Codenames. Don't get me wrong, we have some heavy hitters in the stash, but we wanted to make sure we had games for EVERYONE. Also, to make sure that there were games which could attract new players who think of board games as Monopoly or The Game of Life.
Secondly, though, was that none of the places we knew of felt that welcoming for women. That's nothing against those places, but we wanted to make somewhere which was as open and approachable as possible for everyone, regardless of their level of knowledge, skill or gender. Everywhere else we looked tended to have quite a male heavy weighting on attendance. I think, as a whole though, places have got much better on this recently.
How did you go about getting the night started?
We actually started it up with a Kickstarter campaign. We raised enough money to increase the stash to about 45 games when we first launched; this has grown hugely over time though! People were amazingly generous with our launch. The idea was, you donate x, and we will buy a game of your choice, for up to twice the value of your donation. As with the night in general, it's a great way for people to be able to play a game without spending the £50, £60, or £70 that they tend to cost now!
What's the best and worst thing about running a games night?
The best is definitely the people. We've met some amazing people over the few years we've been doing this; some of us have been with us since the start, coming almost every month. Board Games are really not about gaming, if you ask me. The whole reason they're better than a video game or a movie is that you get to spend time face to face with some amazing people at the same time, chatting, having a drink, rubbing victory in their faces; that kind of thing.
The worst though is definitely the lugging of games around. I know that our night's main thing is that we bring the games, but getting the whole collection from one place to another is a big effort. I think Kat would say that storing them is a pretty big deal too - they take up a huge amount of our house!
What are your most popular games?
I'm going to stick my neck out and say... Magic Maze. It goes out pretty much every time. People love the co-op style, the easy rules and the pure frustration when someone doesn't get why you're waving a red token in their face. Other than that? Probably Bezier's One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Pit, Small World, Sub Terra, Scythe and Hanabi. I could maybe go on...
Let's test your hosting skills. A new face arrives at the night looking a bit lost, what are you going to do to make sure they come back next time?
I think it's about finding the right group and the right games. Everyone who comes down is really friendly, and we always do our best to make sure that people get themselves in to a group if they need some help with introductions. We know the regulars really well now, so they're always happy to help.
We also tend to ask what people have played before; what games they like, or even if they've played at all! We have a great list of gateway games and they work up from there.
Finally, where can people find you in real life and on the internet?
We meet in The Font, Chorlton (M21 9PG) on every third Wednesday of the month at 6pm. Online, the best place to find us is on our Facebook page for the most up to date information, which is, but we also have the website.