Geek Economy – The Board Game Cafe Experience: Draughts & Board-in-the-City

Hello and welcome to one of them updates where we discuss how being a geek affects our domestic economy. Today I am going to discuss with you guys my personal experience from two board-game cafes that have opened in the last couple of years in the UK and that I have now frequented enough times to have a formed opinion on the subject. These are Draughts (London), and Board-in-the-City (Southampton). First of all though, let me give you the background to what have been the parameters I have used to make up my opinion. As a board-gamer I have been brought up and developed in a space that was friendly and cosy: home. Mum and Dad always happy to give you a run for your money at any game we own. So, for me, cracking some board games and having fun is not just about being sociable with my friends, but also about being comfortable whilst having a good time. Some of you may relate to this: having being bullied for years for being “weird” and liking games, comfortable is important. What other things have influenced my thoughts? Well, the games, of course. This is again something I have inherited with my genes I suppose: back at home, my parents have cartloads of games. From the classical Cathedral which I fondly remember playing as a child in the 90s with my dad, to the most recent releases in the market – I would say it is thousands but that is an exaggeration. You get the just nonetheless. With such an extensive collection, you cannot help but develop the following characteristics: you care for your games (particularly when you have friends coming over), and a healthy diversity of length, themes, number of players, dynamics and formats. And now, on to the practical stuff. Gamers of the world, you sure must agree with me, when you are playing you require the following: space and food. Why? Because board games take up space, and you may be playing something as sweet and simple as Story Cubes, then the next thing you know, you are halfway through an X-Wing party. Therefore, you need a decent sized surface to be able to get around and spread yourselves. But also, you need food – snacks and a drink mostly, and these take up space too. When we have games nights, we usually order lunch/dinner as well, and for sure you cannot have always space for the game and your meal at the same time – plus what kind of heathen wants pizza grease on their tiles?! Sure you stop for a sec, right…?. I am more concerned about the snacking factor in any case. You know: we want crisps, little nibbles to share, that sort of stuff you can yell at your best friend with your mouth full for closing your own train track whilst in the middle of a Ticket to Ride; that sorta thing. These are, in my opinion, indispensable. So, let’s see how this battle comes across.

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Probando Juegos para Dos en Board in the City (Southampton)

Este lunes Adie y yo nos pasamos parte de la tarde en un café de juegos de mesa en la ciudad de Southampton (Reino Unido), llamada Board in the City. Ya lo conocíamos de otra escapadilla que hicimos este verano, cuando estuvimos jugando con un grupo de amigos a cosas múltiples. El sitio es muy acogedor: antes era un pub de vecindario, hay muchas mesas, muchos juegos, el personal es súper friki (de hecho, nos pasamos como media hora antes de ponernos a jugar hablando de superhéroes y warhammer con uno de los empleados), y lo mejor de todo es que transmite una sensación muy hogareña. Y los batidos están riquísimos 😉

Total, ya que esta vez solo éramos nosotros dos, decidimos aprovechar la situación y probar juegos que fuesen solo para 2 o con buena jugabilidad con el numero mínimo de jugadores. Cogimos Seven Wonders Duel, pero como los dos ya estábamos familiarizados con la dinámica del juego tras haberlo probado en grupo, nos inclinamos por otras cajas. Como tampoco teníamos todo el tiempo del mundo a nuestra disposición nos decidimos por dos juegos con duración máxima de una hora cada uno. Así que aquí vengo a dejaros esta breve reseña y comentario:

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Geek Economy – BoardGame Wisely

So far we have covered many aspects of geek economy, but we had not discussed the elephant in the room which: board games. They are a double edge sword. They take space, time, lots of money, and usually they require other people to play with. You do not want to go wasting any of your resources on any kind of board game to end up with a bad outcome. I know lots of people who are put off-board games because the invested wrongly their time/money/space into them and they got so annoyed with the subject they just left it all together. We obviously do not want this to happen to you, so here are some things you can do to ensure you are building your games collection in a wise way. And the first point to begin with is being up to date and in tune with the current times. Technology, sociocultural changes and economy are actually making gaming life easier, and this is having a positive effect for those wanting to hoard cardboard boxes full of fun and joy.

As usual I would say the golden rule of board games is do some research: there is literally a game for everyone, about anything. The possibilities are truly endless. Diversity of player number, genre, game purpose and dynamic, game time, etc. Even if you think board games aren’t for you, I assure you there is one with your name out there. But you need to give them a chance. The best way to approach the subject is thinking what do you want from the game, do some little research, read about the game, find some reviews, and then you will be in a much better position to decide whether it is for you or not. Do NOT make the mistake of just looking at the box and thinking “this looks cool”. I mean, you can, and I am sure everyone has done that once in a while, but boxing is just another aspect of marketing, and I have played some pretty terrible and dull games that had some awesome packaging. Now, if you have decided you want a game, you may encounter the problem many of us have: games can cost a lot of money! And if you want to have a few for a games evening, you could easily spend a minimum of 20-50 pounds (I know, that can be A LOT of comics…and MTG boosters, and…). So here are some tips as to how to game wisely, and spend your money in the games you want with a bit of logic:

-Print and play: in this day and age, every game that has made big bucks is available through print and play. All you need is an account, a printer, paper, perhaps glue or cellotape, but most importantly a lot of time and patience. It does not require a terrible amount of skill to just make the basic components of a game as they usually come designed for you, but you will have to either print them, build them, or both, and that can be an arduous task. But it could save you a lot of money if you are up for the challenge. This also gives you the perfect opportunity to try games you are not sure if you wanna buy or not. Then you can see if you like them, or if they are worth the monetary investment. One of my friends is very good with this p&p business, and that is how I have played Puerto Rico (which is an awesome game, btw), as well as a few expansions for other games such as Seven Wonders or Colt Express.

-Tabletop Simulator: we live in the age of technology. Not only wonderful companies such as Days of Wonder have online versions of their tabletop games that you can play for free, but there are video games that have been designed to enable you to play tabletop games. Tabletop simulator is truly handy for this: not only you have access to several thousands of mods that allow you to play the same game you would on a table but on your computer, they also allow you to play with friends how may be far away. This way you can run proper and thorough game tests, and then this will allow you to decide if you want to buy the actual game because, let’s face it, as lovely as it is to not spend money, it’s not the same placing cards on a table or physically moving meeples than clicking on things. And some games are just great because of how tactile they are.

-Board game cafes: these are becoming more and more popular, so it is likely there is one near you. Their collections are usually varied, so for the price of a drink or maybe some food, you could try few games in a social environment. It is also a great way of finding people to play with if you feel stuck or your group of friends do not share your interest in board games. I have been to  few, particularly Draughts (London) and Board In the City (Southampton) and found them nice places where to spend a good evening. The staff is always friendly – they have to be gamers too in order to show you how to play! Just don’t be shy.

-Buy & Sell groups: got a game you didn’t like? or you got a game you didn’t get to use or you do not play any more and need to make some space? Why not sell it as a second-hand game? By getting the same game, but used and a better price you will be making another gamer happy, the game will be recycled, and you will get part of your investment back and some space to fill in with, obviously, more games. Many independent local stores will have their own buy & sell events, so go ask. Otherwise, there is plenty of forums and Facebook groups as well as places such as eBay and Gumtree where you can sort out these kind of transaction.

-Group game wisely by performing team effort: if you have a group of friends with whom you game frequently, you could all pitch in for games to make the expenditure affordable. Or you can take turns: there’s no point 4 people having the same game if they play it together all the time (unless you all really like it I guess). Perhaps friend#1 can buy one game, and friend #2 another, etc, and when you all get together you have a plethora of games to choose from without you all spending a fortune on them or having to carry thousands of boxes to your gaming den all at the same time. The gamers that stick and stay together, play forever. Keep this in mind.

Hopefully this has given you a few ideas as to how to make your board and card game collection more manageable without wasting many resources, and making sure you do things with precision and through calculated decision-making for the sake of your wallet and your gaming experience.