Face it, as Gamers, we long for uninterrupted blocks of time dedicated to playing the latest and greatest games. We dream of weekends free from obligations where we can gather and bask in the joy of defeating the Cylons, curing the world of Pandemics, or reaching the paragon tier with our newest heroes. Then life dawns on us and we are back to the work that needs to be done, commitments that have to be kept, and responsibilities that lead us to believe that we will never again have the time we once had to enjoy our hobby. I’m here to tell you that it can be done.
With a little bit of organization, a reality check that life happens and things come up, and someone willing to take on the role of organizer, I promise that you can be back to gaming in no time.
Step 1: Calling All Gamers
So you want to get a group together for regular game nights. Who do you invite? You know that Steve lives down the street, but his work schedule isn't always consistent, Josh and Amanda both have weekends off but you’re not sure they could get time away from their two kids, John has a new girlfriend, Mike is usually free but lives about 30 minutes away, and Bill and Stacy would love to get together as long as they can be home before 10. Sound familiar? One of the easiest ways to get a group going is to begin with a casual game night invitation. Casual gaming creates an atmosphere where no one feels pressure to attend every time. Begin by sending an invitation, whether via email, Facebook, or an online invitation service such as Evite, suggesting to everyone that you would like to get a regular group together to play games. Have them reply with days, times, and spaces that work for them, as well as any major commitments they may have during the month. As the initiator, it is also polite to offer your own space as the first place to meet, assuming you have the capacity to host.
Step 2: They've Replied, So Now What?
You have received replies and just about everyone has expressed interest in attending. The trouble is, not everyone’s availability meshes. Don’t panic! This is going to happen and the object is to find at least 2 times that work for a fair share of the group during any given week. You will not be able to involve everyone every time, but the good news is that you have their schedules and can adjust the game nights to give everyone an opportunity to attend. By planning two gatherings a month you should be able to get just about everyone to attend who wants too and no one feels overloaded, If it works out that you can get together more often, all the better! In all honesty, it is usually better that everyone cannot make it. The best number of people to have for a game night is 4-6 anyway, since most games support this number of players. If you find you have a large group, party games or multiple games going at the same time might be in order. So let’s say, after assessing the days and times your friends have suggested, you discover that the best days would be Wednesdays at 6 and Sundays at 4. Taking into account the wedding Bill and Stacy told you about on the first weekend of the month, you send back the dates for your first two game gatherings.
Step 3: Games Anyone?
The dates have been set, and you are well on your way to your first game night. Your next challenge, what to play? If you have a large collection of your own, send out a list to the group and get some feedback. Let the others chime in with favorites of their own and thoughts on what they enjoy. Not everyone is going to like the same type of game, and getting this clear and in the open from the start will help the group enjoy their time together far more than if someone ends up forced to play games they don’t like. Like any group situation, there needs to be compromise and you can often get past these battles by being proactive. Let’s say Mike is dying to try Keyflower and suggests it to the group. The others don’t know much about it, but Josh and Amanda have seen the game displayed in their friendly neighborhood game store and believe that it will take far too long for them to play. There are a few things they need to consider. First, time. Some games take hours to play and can take far longer the first time through. Second, complexity. Many of the others involved in this particular group have only really played more accessible board games like Apples to Apples and Carcassonne. While they are interested in learning more complex games, this one might be a little too complex for a first get-together. Third, appeal. Keyflower is a game that has a certain feel to it and might not be for everyone. Most people will give games the benefit of the doubt, but if someone has strong feelings against a suggested game, it would be wise to find another time to play with those who are interested. It’s not worth making the whole group miserable just because you want to play a certain game. And the same goes for suffering though a game if you know you can not be happy playing it. The point is to have fun, and if you are not, then you are missing the point of games entirely.
So, after a few more emails back and forth, the group decides on playing Carcassonne and the suggestion of King of New York, a game you just picked up. Keyflower has been put on hold, but it appears that there is a fair share of people interested in trying the game, and a time will be worked out for a future game night. Remember that as the host, you should familiarize yourself with the games you are planning on playing (especially new ones) and be ready to teach it to the group. If you have to spend time reading the rules before you play you will lose out on precious gaming time and possibly not get to all you had hoped to accomplish.
Step 4: Remember the Snacks
The game night is fast approaching and you just realized you forgot something, Food! This is one area that some people tend to overlook. You will most likely be gaming for several hours and snacks, if not a meal, will be welcomed and appreciated. Food can sometimes be tricky, as it needs to be easy to eat while playing (no grease on the cards please!), able to feed a decent number of people, and relatively easy to prepare. As the host you should provide the basics for the meal, but there is nothing wrong with asking others to provide drinks and snacks. Since the host is providing the space, the dishes, and the time to get the group assembled, it is only polite for the guests to bring something to share. Over the next couple weeks, I will be providing you with some great gamer tested recipes for you to try at your next game night. Here's a quick recipe to get you started.
Barbarian "Chick"en Barbecue Chili
1 large Vidallia Onion
1 tsp. Mminced Garlic
1 lb. Ground Chicken
2 cups Chicken Broth
2 28 oz. Cans Stewed Tomatoes
1 cup Water
2 tbs. Dark Brown Sugar
2 tbs. Cider Vinegar
1 tbs. Honey Mustard
1 tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbs. Molasses
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 15 oz. Cans Kidney Beans (rinsed and drained)
Brown chicken in a large pot. Add onions and garlic and saute until onions begin to look transparent. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour. (You can also place it all in the crock pot, set it for 6 hours on low and it will be ready when your guests arrive!) Serves 8.