What if you threw a game night and nobody came? Hopefully that’s not a situation you’ll have to face. Maybe you’ve got mobs of people showing up to play games and you have to turn some away to keep the fire marshal happy. On the other hand, maybe board games are an uncommon thing among your friends and neighbors, and you need a little help pulling people away from their TVs and computers and iPods and Kindles long enough to get them hooked.
For those of you in the second category, here’s my third and final installment of How to Have a Game Night: Gathering Gamers.
Pick a time
Depending on who you want to show up for your game night, you’ll want to make sure you pick an appropriate time. For instance, since I’ve got young kids with early bedtimes, I often have game nights after they’re asleep. Friends of ours who had older kids would start with kids games earlier in the evening, and then take turns getting the kids to bed while game night went on.
Of course, nobody says that it has to be game night, either. If you think you’ll get more people during the day, go for it! Just keep in mind that you’ll probably have a different crowd on a Wednesday morning compared to a Saturday night.
Pick a place
You can play games just about anywhere, but the key is to find a place with plenty of table space and chairs. Personally, I like having them at home, but that necessitates cleaning up beforehand and afterward. (But then I don’t have to transport my collection anywhere.) Or you can be creative: one gaming group I met in Portland had a regular game night at a pizza joint. Or you might check about getting a room at a community center or school. Just make sure it’s easy for your guests to find, and can accommodate the number of people you’re expecting.
Pick your gamers
In this age of social media, there’s no shortage of ways to contact people. The bigger problem sometimes is finding one quick way to notify everyone: some of my gamers are on Facebook, but some prefer TXT messages on their cell phones. I usually use a combination of e-mail, Facebook, and texting, and then rely on everyone to spread the word. (Out here in small-town Kansas, Twitter isn’t so widespread … yet.)
Jason Jones mentioned Phonevite for robocalling, which could also be a very useful tool for getting in touch with people. A couple other online resources that could be handy depending on where you live are Meetup.com (search for “games”) or BoardGameGeek’s Gamer Finder, which works with Google Maps to find gamers near a particular zip code.
If you’re still short on gamers, pick a few of your friends/relatives/co-workers and beg, wheedle and cajole. If you can get them in the door once, the next time they might be begging and wheedling you.
Snacks and drinks
The promise of food is always attractive, of course. Sometimes if we’re really getting into a game the chips and soda might get ignored for a while, but it’s a good idea to offer something if you can, or ask everyone to bring something to share. My wife often whips up a batch of Moosewood fudge brownies, which always go quick. (See the recipe below.)
If all else fails…
If you just can’t convince anyone to join you for games, then you might just have to settle for playing board games online. For me, it’s just not quite the same as playing face-to-face; part of the fun of board games is the bits and the cards, the physicality of rolling dice and shuffling cards. But online you’ll find a vast pool of players to choose from, and you’ll be able to play games that you don’t own yourself.
Brettspielwelt is a German site with some really great board games, set up for online multiplayer gaming. You can either play in your browser or download the free client software. Xbox Live has also been getting into board games, with Carcassonne and Catan (their version of Settlers of Catan) available. I’m sure as board games continues its revival, digital versions will continue to proliferate.
So, there you have it—now go play some games!
Moosewood Fudge Brownies Recipe
My wife and I got this recipe out of a neighbor’s old cookbook and wrote it down. It’s slightly different from the one in our newer copy of Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook and, in our opinion, comes out quite a bit better, but most of what I’ve found online is the newer version. It’s a little more involved than the dollar-a-box brownie mix but, oh, so much better. Here’s the recipe we use:
½ cup butter
3 one-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
½ cup white flour
Preheat oven to 350.
Butter 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ pan.
In heavy large pot, melt butter and chocolate together, stirring occasionally.
Add brown sugar and vanilla and beat.
Add eggs (if mixing by hand, beat first).
Stir in flour, mix until thoroughly blended and smooth.
Bake 20 minutes until brownies are just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan and are fudgy in the center. For more cakelike brownies, bake additional 5 minutes.