How to find people to play boardgames with
Boardgames are great. But it doesn’t matter how great they are if you don’t have anyone to play them with. Perhaps your friends aren’t interested or you have moved to a new city. Whatever the reason, you wish you could find people to play boardgames with.
In this guide, I’ll share some advice on how to find a games group, how to ask them to play and the necessary etiquette to do so.
WHERE TO LOOK
The easiest way to find game groups is through the internet. You can use Facebook, boardgame forums or apps like Meetup to look for groups. Just searching for “boardgames” and your city’s name is enough to get results.
Look at them closely. Sadly, your search will show groups that are no longer active or that have been taken over by self-promotion. If you can’t find people arranging meetings or comments, chances are the group won’t be of any help to you.
Either way, keep in mind these groups vary. Some are just one person hosting games in his house. Others are large and work more like a posting board where people arrange meets. You’ll probably want to join several of these groups and look around. Introduce yourself, don’t jump into a game right away.
You might also find groups affiliated to a shop. While they can be a great choice, I haven’t found them as reliable as personal groups. Most stores do not put much effort into their game nights and may not even have a hand in their organization. I recommend checking first. Give them a visit in person and see if people actually meet.
EVENTS & CLUBS
Geek events can also be a good way of meeting people, but I don’t recommend them as a tool to find a group. Most don’t go to conventions looking to recruit, but to play new games or enjoy the atmosphere. Their true value lies in all the associations, clubs and informal groups that use it as a meeting point.
Like with Facebook, it’s a good idea to look around first. Check the list of planned activities and join those that pique your interest. Walking about and hoping for the best is not a good plan and you’ll end up tired before the morning is over.
Keep in mind that others are no more required to play with you in a convention than they would be elsewhere. Most simply aren’t interested in playing with a stranger and, sadly, bad experiences are common. Many of us have welcomed others with open arms only to see them lick the cards, make bigoted comments or get upset and no longer wish to take the risk again.
Lastly, a board game club can be the end-all of all your gaming needs. Joining one has done more for my gaming last week than all my Facebook meetups, conventions and game nights put together. But they also require more than a normal group would. You are no longer a guest, but a full member with both rights and responsibilities.
As a member, you’ll be expected to participate in the club’s activities and help keep it running. For example, you might be required to clean or lend a hand organizing events. You should be willing to help if something needs to be done. Lastly, you might need to pay a fee, as renting a space is not free.
Thankfully, they are all more than willing to show newbies around and explain what they do. There are clubs dedicated to Magic: The Gathering, RPGs, wargames or simply boardgames as a whole. Before joining my current club, I went around through a variety of them and played with them for an evening. I finally chose one based on the games they played and the time it took me to get there.
Regardless of how you find a group, try to contact them in advance. Showing up without warning, even if an invitation isn’t required, is a recipe for failure. You do not know if someone will be there, what plans they have or if they’ll be going early.
I’ve often taken a long train trip only to realize the place was empty or that everyone was busy already. Even if I ended up playing, staring around for a whole hour was an awkward experience. Calling them beforehand and arriving early would have been better.
Keep in mind most look forward to meeting new people, but not when they are already playing a game. They might already have plans. Perhaps they agreed to play a certain game or just wanted to hang out as friends. Nobody likes being put on the spot.
I’ve never had a bad experience talking with people on the phone or presenting myself through Facebook. In fact, most have appreciated the gesture and asked me about the games I like to play. People are more welcoming if they already know a bit about you.
Lastly, give the people you meet the same respect you would give everyone else. Even if it’s an informal meeting, don’t treat the people you meet as a mere tool to play games. Don’t attend if you are under the effects of alcohol or another drug. And, for the love of God, take a shower.
If you are meeting an established group, don’t bring a game to your first meetup. Your goal should be to get to know the group, who they are and how they play. As a newcomer, being willing to play what the group has in mind signals that you are there for them first and foremost.
However, online meetups are a perfect way of playing those heavy, difficult games you can’t normally play. Most of my plays of The Republic of Rome, Twilight Imperium and 18XX were done with strangers I met online. Often, even people who have regular groups meet this way because these games are notoriously hard to get to the table.
Don’t be afraid of making your own listing and seeing if someone is interested. While I don’t recommend your first contact with others to be done this way, it’s a good way to start exploring options. Try to meet in a public place, like a boardgame shop, instead of your own home.
Still, the same principles apply: The goal is to meet new people, not to clear your shelf of shame. If you get along with the rest of the group and have fun, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to play the games you like again.
In the end, finding people to play games is the same as making new friends. It’s not just a matter of sharing hobbies but being able to build a relationship. That’s the hard part. The games come later.