So you are here. Maybe you’ve played a few board games and wanted to learn more. Maybe you’re an avid one-gamer. Whatever brought you here, you are looking into how to get into board games and the board game community.
Let me share my story. When I was a kid, I used to play all the time all kinds of games from board games to video games. Yet, with growing up I lost interest in it, and to be completely honest thought that gaming is childish. That all changed with a board game cafe I found when we were dating with my husband. That was on vacation and we went there almost every day. After we moved back to Helsinki, board games disappeared from our lives till one day, I brought home one of the games we were playing in that cafe, the Colt Express.
This game, that I’ll definitely write about one day, is a marvel. With its unexpected humor and the real carton train, it captured my heart and I discovered that board games are not all like Monopoly. So we’ve started to play at home more and more, going from some of the board game classics to more novel two-player games. I can’t count how many nights we spent on Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride.
There’s no conclusion here, just merely my own story on how we discovered board games. What do I do as a board gamer right now? Play games of course! I follow the news and discussions about board games I enjoy, regularly check and pre-order exciting upcoming games and kickstarters, read about games, and well... write about games here. I guess that makes me a board gamer.
So let me share a thing or two that I discovered during the last few years.
How to find what games to play?
Finding new games to play for me is often as exciting as playing actual games. I love visiting board games stores, but just like in a good supermarket, it’s easy to steal my attention by the cover, and sometimes that would lead to a beautifully packaged game that is not entirely my taste. Sounds familiar? Stay here with me.
- Ask for advice when visiting a board game store
This is one of the simplest ways to get new ideas on what games to play, especially if you’re just growing your collection. People who work in board games stores are often avid board games and have a good understanding of what kind of games could work for what kind of occasion.
- Ask for advice online
There’s a ton of board gaming communities online, on Facebook and Reddit. These communities are super helpful, you can find gamers of all kinds as well as board game creators looking for playtesters. A good way to ask is to share what kind of games you already enjoy or what kind of things you want to try and just wait for ideas to come.
This is probably the main website for board gamers. BGG is like IMDB for board games, it features ratings, reviews, and forums for discussions. Just like it can take you hours to find a movie to watch, I spend a lot of time discovering games I would enjoy playing.
As of summer 2020, there’re 19000 games featured on Board Game Geek and it might be a bit difficult to find the best game for you from the get go. Of course, your preferences and mine are probably different, but when choosing the next game, I usually pay attention to a few details:
- How good is this game with 2 or 4 players (which is the size of my typical gaming group). From BGG you can see the game rating by the number of players.
- What is a game's “weight”, or complexity? BGG measures it on a scale from 0 to 5, where 5 is the most difficult game. My typical complexity is from 2 to 3.5 and by this number I know exactly how much or little effort it would take to learn this game. Anything up to 2.5 is usually relatively light games that any beginning board gamer can easily pick up. Anything above that is of course also possible, just beware that it might take an hour or two to understand how the game works.
- The rank of the game. That’s simple, the higher the game stands the more popular it is. Although, I’ve played and loved games both from the top 100 as well as in the 1000s. Again, just like with movies, if a movie won an Oscar it doesn’t mean it’s for everyone and if it’s a smaller, not that popular film, you might love it.
- Reviews online
From written reviews and articles, podcasts to all kinds of Youtube creators, you will find a review of pretty much any game ever created. Here’s a list of those that I regularly follow:
- Poromagia Blog and Newsletter. We regularly review games and send suggestions to readers on what games to try in the future.
- Watch It Played. The best how-to-play videos I have ever found. It’s usually a place I go when I get a new game and need to learn the rules.
- Shut Up & Sit Down. Boardgame reviews in an extremely entertaining way.
- The Dice Tower. These guys have probably reviewed all more or less common games. Tons of content.
- No Pun Included. Another channel trying to review games in a funny way. We just happened to have similar tastes in games.
- Lautapeliopas. These board game reviews are written in Finnish and they have plenty of great content about the most popular (and less known) board games.
Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, is the birthplace of many new games. You pre-order or “back” the game on Kickstarter to help creators get initial funding for the game, which would be shipped to you in a few months or even a year. It’s a very slow way to buy board games but a chance to support the community.
- Board Game Café or any bar with board games
A great community gathering place is board game cafes. In Helsinki, you can go to Café Boardgame (yes, that’s the name) in Kamppi or in Tampere, visit Lautapelikahvila Taverna and try out tens of games of all kinds, from very light and funny ones to a few that you can enjoy for hours and hours. If you are lucky, these places will also teach you how to play games and there’re events for people to meet and play with other gamers.
In Finland, you can find a very good selection of games in the local libraries. Try out the game that you’re interested in in the library or order it home before buying to see if you’ll enjoy it.
That’s about it. With this list of ideas, you should be able to get very far and find the games that you’ll enjoy playing the most.
Next time we’ll talk about what kind of game genres there are and go through some “must-haves” (or “must-tries”) in a gamer's collection. Stay tuned!
I’ve been playing as long as I remember myself. When I was a kid I dreamt of building my own games, and now I’m trying to make it a reality. Board games carry me away into a different world where I can be a knight, a researcher, a kingdom builder or a zombie fighter. Love semi-coop and engine building games. Favorite game of all times: Dead of Winter.