Last weekend Tony and I helped to run a Curry and Board Gaming fundraising event for our local theatre group (which we and my wife are members of). It was a lot of fun but we learned a few good lessons about running a board gaming event for ‘non-board-gamers’. Here’s the rundown:
1. Give people another reason to come along OTHER than board games
If we were running a board game night for our usual band of board gamers it would have been really easy. All we would have needed to do was say “Hey, we’ve booked a hall for a night of board games” and we would have filled it without much trouble. But this event was for a different crowd. People of all ages, all backgrounds and not much modern board gaming experience. So entice them through the doors we promised them the one thing almost no-one can walk away from. Curry.
2. Make it VERY clear that you’re not playing monopoly all night.
We made it explicitly clear on the facebook event that we would be bringing dozens and dozens of board games and none of them were monopoly, cluedo, scrabble or chess. But STILL people were surprised when they saw a table full of ‘weird’ and ‘new’ board games! It was certainly the first thing people noticed when they walked in.
3. Sell it on a theme and an experience
You can name as many interesting board games as you like but you may as well be reading gibberish in R’lyehian to people who haven’t played a board game in over 10 years. To get people interested, tell them what experiences and stories they’ll be part of. For example:
“You’re a tribe of people on a tropical island and all is well…until the volcano in the middle of your island erupts in a fiery explosion of death and lava! Divert lava away from your village and towards your opponents before it’s too late”
“You and your party are exploring an ancient temple (think Indiana Jones) when all hell breaks loose! Escape quickly or lose everything…even your hat!”
“Pandemics are breaking out all over the world! Work together to defeat them and save humanity, or fail and succumb to a plague to end all plagues…”
4. Cater for all ages and experience
We had a range of ages from 10 years old to….grandparents (it was rude to ask!) so try to have games in your collection that everyone can enjoy. A quick game of Rampage/Terror in Meeple City went down a storm with the 10 year old but grandma didn’t like it very much.
However, Rhino Hero went down well with everyone, even it didn’t work out so well for some!
5. Remember that it’s supposed to be fun!
You may need to enforce some rules depending on the group. For example, next time we’re going to have a ‘swear jar’ for people who couldn’t stop cursing even though children were present. Every time they swear they’ll have to drop some change into the swear jar. But here’s the real kicker, a lot of the new players really ‘got’ the idea that we were trying to move away from Monopoly so they suggested that if anyone mentions the “M-Word” that counts as cursing and the offender will have to drop £1 into the swear jar! Brilliant!
6. Prepare well for the next event
If you want to run the event again then make sure you get plenty of photos and ask people to talk about it to those that didn’t come. No less than FOUR people said the following to us in almost exactly the same words: “I had real reservations about coming tonight, I was expecting 4 hours of monopoly so I only came to support the group, but I had a blast! I had no idea all these games existed”.
I can’t tell you how happy it made us to hear people say that. People are still talking about how much fun they had days later and many are asking about the next time! We’ve definitely made some converts!
A particular magic moment for me was a gentlemen who attended and wasn’t expecting much. We started with a game of Eruption with people he didn’t know. After getting the hang of the rules he played a smart quiet game, stayed out of trouble but managed to convince the rest of us to turn on each other which made him very happy! And he won!
We followed up with a game of masquerade which he REALLY got into! Being a member of a theatre group he enjoyed the theatrics of the game and really got into the theme and the story. I knew something with a bit of theatrics was going to go down well next so I grabbed Snake Oil and WOW did he have fun being a salesman!
With a little bit of smart game selection I helped one guy have a great evening and he’s said he’ll be coming along to the next one and bringing friends! Win!
- Have you run a board gaming event for non-gamers? How did it go?
Thanks go to Aimee Winston and Sarah Burrows for the photographs.