If you’ve never heard of it, I’ll forgive you. It seems that between Siblings Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and National Cereal Day, International Tabletop Day can easily get lost in the mix between a deluge of countless other made up holidays. However, if you’re a geek like me, then Tabletop Day is a priority. Started in 2012, following the success of Geek & Sundry’s popular video series Tabletop, April 30th was designated as International Tabletop Day in order to promote tabletop gaming and encourage folks like you and me to support retailers or just enjoy a specific day to set aside everything and play games with family and friends.
Even though I had this event earmarked, I only consider myself a casual gamer. However, after working with the folks at GeekDad this past year, I’ve been exposed to far more amazing games than I even knew existed and wanted to get my hands on all of them. One problem I have is that I have a hard time collecting enough people interested in board games, card games, and the like to actually play them. Tabletop Day basically gave me an open pass to access something that seemed just out of reach.
While there were a couple comic book stores celebrating Tabletop day closer to me, I chose to travel to a large new store I recently discovered, Meeple Madness in Braselton, Georgia. Compared to those comic shops that happened to stock games in addition to their comics, Meeple Madness is a veritable gaming paradise. Their walls are literally lined with hundreds and hundreds of hobby games, board games, RPGs, cards, supplies, and the like. I would be participating in Tabletop Day in style!
Upon arrival, I knew I wouldn’t have a hard time finding someone to play games with since the parking lot was packed. Sure enough, when I entered, there were tons of people filling the space. Folks from all walks of life were there including several members of a Boy Scout troop. Tables were obviously at a premium. The lack of space at first gave me the perfect opportunity to take the first part of the day in stride and stroll around to leisurely checking out the variety of games being played. A father and son were playing Pokémon, there was a group of young men playing Warhammer in the back, and a family was embroiled in a fierce competition on some unknown board game. So many choices, but I knew where I would start.
- Cosmic Encounter
Walking around, I was thrilled to see a group just starting this game. I had only previously played this classic late night during Dragon Con and neither my friends nor I had ever played before. We tried to follow the rules directly from the rulebook as best as we could, but although we muddled through the game that first time, it was laborious and I knew we just hadn’t reached the game’s full potential. Fortunately, the group I stumbled upon at Meeple Madness were experienced players for the most part, and they graciously allowed me to watch. (The tried to get me to join, but I politely declined, instead wanting to watch from the sidelines to learn the rules). I was right in my suspicions, the game is much more fun and easier to learn when you have someone already skilled running the show.For those not familiar, Cosmic Encounter is a game where you try to “encounter” other player’s planets with your own alien ships to colonize them. The number of attacking ships you have compared to your opponents, along with different cards in your hand, help you reach the required number of conquered planets to win the game. In addition to some of the more nuanced rules, the aspect of the game my friends from Dragon Con and I missed out on the first time around was negotiation. Relying on your friends to help you attack another player or defend your own planet is really fun, and my new group was really into the fun of negotiating and the subsequent betrayal later in the game. I didn’t pick up a copy that day, but it is definitely on my list for when my own children get a little older.
- Machi Koro
After thanking my new friends, I met up with my friend and Coworker Shannon and his son Jacob to play a game. After I watched them finish their game of Splendor, they suggested we all play a game called Machi Koro. It was hard for me to not roll my eyes when Shannon suggested this. It seems Machi Koro is everywhere I look: Target, Books-A-Million, my Amazon suggestions. Geez, I get it! It’s popular! Leave me alone! However, every time I tried to get on board and read up on the game to see if I would like it, it just sounded very unappealing to me. Oh well, what I won’t do for a friend. The basic idea of this card game is to try and use cards representing resources in a town to earn coins to buy certain businesses. I know, sounds riveting, right? Well, trust me, I had to swallow my own pride and admit it – this game is fun! You start with basic cards (such as a wheat field) that allow you to earn a small amount of coins in the early rounds which you use to purchase other cards (like bakery or forest) to earn different awards later on. The number you roll on the dice determines which card’s payout you collect. Earn enough to construct your shopping mall, train station, radio tower, and amusement park, and you win the game! I have heard this game compared to “easier, faster, Dominion,” and I have to agree. I really enjoyed this one, and will definitely be picking this one up. With some coaching, I think my seven-year-old daughter could easily pick up the rules. Although I have to be careful. This is the type of game where it could move certain personalities to tyranny.
- Terror in Meeple City
After a break for some amazing BBQ, we played a game I have had my eye on for a while now – Terror in Meeple City. Originally titled Rampage, the game publishers changed the name due to pressure from the makers of the popular arcade game that shares many of the same elements. Yep, destroy buildings, throw cars, eat people…a perfectly fun family activity! Honestly, after playing Machi Koro, I was doubtful that any other game I played this Saturday would top it. Terror in Meeple City fittingly destroyed the competition. Terror was unlike any game I had ever played before. There were no dice to determine your moves, everything takes place in a physical world. To play, you use your fingers to flick a marker where you’ll place your dinosaur figure to enact damage to the city. Over the course of the game, you’ll drop your wooden dinosaur token on top of meeple-stacked “buildings,” flick wooden cars off of the top of your token’s head, and place your own chin on your game piece and literally try to blow the competition away. the only cards you have are to assign you character traits, special powers, and a goal. To win the game you add up points for combinations of meeples eaten, loose teeth, and crushed floors from destroyed buildings.As I said, the gameplay was unlike that of anything I had ever played before. I really enjoyed the different strategies involved in not just destroying the city, but outsmarting and defeating the other players. I was also thrilled because I really think that this game will find universal appeal in my family filled with casual gamers and a reluctant spouse. The rules are easy enough that I don’t think I’d have to refer to them after my Tabletop Day initiation. Plus, did I mention you get to smash stuff and “eat” imaginary people? My inner 10-year old could not stop smiling from delight.
Before I left, I did end up playing one more game, but it was one I already owned: Friday the 13th. I actually suggested it so I could teach it to a young lady who was bummed she arrived too late to get in on our Terror in Meeple City action, and she wanted to play something that was 1. Easy to learn and 2. cheap. I’ll save my review for Friday the 13th for another day, but it is really fun as well. The only thing I was bummed that I missed out on during Tabletop Day was that I had to head home just as my group was pulling out Codenames to play. GeekDad voted Codenames the best of 2015, and I have still yet to play it! Otherwise, I had a fantastic time on Tabletop Day.
I spoke to the owner of Meeple Madness and he said that the store had only been in business for fourteen months, so this was only his second Tabletop Day. Attendance, he said, appeared to be double what he experienced last year. When I asked if sales reflected that, he responded that it remained to be seen. Interestingly, he said most sales come at the end of the day. He hypothesizes that many folks wait to purchase to see if they’re lucky enough to win one of the many games given away during the numerous raffles for games provided by manufacturers. Additionally, he thinks most people are probably just waiting to play as many games as they can throughout the day before deciding which one was their favorite one to be worthy of a purchase.
It was great to have an opportunity to see so many people enjoying such a fun day, and I know I’ll be back next year. If you want a chance to have fun and play games with a bunch of your fellow geeks, be sure to join us next month in Atlanta for the GeekDad Tabletop Experience at the Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo June 10-12, 2016 where we’ll have 14,000 square feet of tabletop gaming available (not to mention all the other fun stuff like special guests John Kovalic and Lance Guest and 250+ arcade and pinball games). Wherever and whatever you decide to play, with the increasing popularity and awareness through events like International Tabletop Day, you have plenty of fun ahead of you.