I am very lucky to have a group of friends who live nearby and who all love playing tabletop games. We meet once a week, more or less, round each other’s houses, taking turns to make sure nobody is the host all the time, bring snacks and drinks, so it doesn’t get too expensive for anyone, and play a game or two, depending on how we feel and what we play. These games nights are very important to me, but not everyone is blessed with this opportunity, so I want to talk about what other options there are.
One of the things that most people will think of immediately are MeetUps. If you don’t know, there is a website called MeetUp, which people use to set up regular meetings, trying to build a local community of like-minded people. With the recent growth in the tabletop games industry, MeetUps have increased as well. If you live near a large town or city, then you should have no problem finding at least one regular games night group that is open to new people and that is close to you.
There is also the option of joining a Playtest UK group and help budding designers develop their game ideas into full games. Many of these groups often follow a play test session with playing a published game, so you get a chance to play a finished game as well.
If you live somewhere more rural, you may have to accept that you have to travel further, which of course isn’t ideal. You don’t really want to turn up to a games night tired – and you also don’t want to have to travel home after meeting new people, which can be draining for some of us. In fact, finding a games group that fits around your schedule can always be an issue. We all have work, family, social and other commitments, and the small empty time slot you have left is not likely to match with other groups’ available time.
However, there is another potential option – games cafes. They are open during a large chunk of the day, and most days of the week, allowing you to choose when you want to go an play. More and more of these cafes have opened over the last few years, mostly in cities and large towns though, making them less accessible for people living further away. Games cafes also don’t answer the problem of finding people to play with of course, even though some places make an effort of connecting people who don’t know each other, so they can play games together.
Unfortunately, for some of us, it will be a matter of organizing our own groups, so we can set a date and time that suits us – and hopefully we find a schedule that is attractive to other people. If you do decide to set up your own group, definitely consider using MeetUp to advertise it. Also, make sure you either have a large collection of games at home, so you can bring a selection to your meetings, and let people know that they can bring their own games as well, to increase the pool of options.
If you find it exhausting to meet new people, or don’t have the time to try and organize your own group, or you just live too far away from potential meeting places, then consider playing online. There are a number of websites with a large selection of games that you can play online for free. There are sites, such as Yucata.de (see my recent review), as well as Tabletopia, which creates the feeling that you sit at a real table. You can also look at Steam or smartphones, which of course means an extra expense, but at least you can play with other people around the world.
If the online system you use doesn’t support voice, you can easily add a Skype meeting to your online games nights. and get a chance to speak to the people you play with. Feel free to add video, if you’re not camera shy, but bear in mind the bandwidth needed for that. You can create as much or as little interaction as you want.
So the choices are out there to find a group of like-minded people to play games with, but it really depends on what you are after. If you plan to organize your own games night MeetUp, please let me know. I’d love to hear what people are up to, and if I can help advertise what you’re doing, then I will do so. So give it a go and see if you can make something amazing happen.