A little while ago, I got stuck up in the west Chicago suburbs area for a week working on a physics project at Argonne Labs. In the evenings I had very little to do all by myself without even the internet available in my room. It was a bit of a nightmare, and I almost resigned myself to sitting back and absorbing The Million Second Quiz on network television (my one luxury…yay).
But instead I decided to check out Meetup.com to see if there were any gaming groups in the area. After all, Chicago is a pretty happenin’ place – surely I’d be able to find something.
I found many, many somethings actually – enough gaming groups to go to a different one every night of the week. And suddenly my time at Argonne didn’t seem so bleak.
Maybe it’s not totally clear, but I love playing board games. If I could spend the rest of my life doing nothing but playing board games, well, it would be an attractive course of action, though my hot wife may have a few things to say to the contrary. So when I say my options for every evening that week went from watching Ryan Seacrest read silly quiz questions to doing my favorite activity ever, this was a major deal.
Not only that, but for some reason I still had a bag of games in my car from a previous game night, and this bag included my prototype of Forge War. Not only could I play board games, but I could possibly drum up some local face-to-face support for my own project. This was going to be great.
Tuesday night I showed up at The Game Knight, a local board game store in Aurora. Normally I tend to avoid game store board game nights, but I’m not really sure why…I think it’s because they tend to feel a little impersonal, I guess, but I didn’t get that feeling from this place at all. The owner was super friendly and the layout of the place was very open and inviting. I was off to a good start.
Now, I did have a strong desire to do some Forge War play testing, but you can’t just walk into a game night for the first time and plop down your own game expecting people to play. I decided I needed to make some friends first before I broached the subject, so I sat down and played a rousing game of Tomb, a game I have discussed before. I was playing with a husband and wife and they seemed to have a good time learning the game, even though I severely over-powered myself and won handily.
After the game was over, I was about to bust Forge War out, but they said they had to go (something about waking up at 5 in the morning) and then I was back at square 1, and it was getting late. I played through a game of Escape from Atlantis (not one of my favorites…) and lost in a hilariously bad fashion. And though I had built up a rapport with the 3 other guys playing, by the time it was over, there was no way Forge War was happening. But it was totally cool. We threw in a couple games of Mascarade, and then I talked with the owner about my game and my plans and she was also super supportive in addition to all that friendliness. Plus any night with Tomb involved is most definitely better than a night with Ryan Seacrest involved.
The next night (Wednesday) I headed up to Downers Grove for some board gaming at an ale house. I was a little skeptical, but it turned out to be a pretty good venue. I once again tried to get to know people by playing their choice first, which is how I ended playing Robinson Crusoe and being moderately underwhelmed. Once again, however, the husband and wife I was playing with took off, and I was starting to think my strategy wasn’t sound. There was a fourth person I was playing with, and I was hoping I could get her on Team Forge War at least, but I don’t think she was particularly keen on learning new games, and she had just been burned by Robinson Crusoe, which she did not like at all. I busted out the board and all I got was a table full of shaking heads, which was a little weird because the board is absolutely beautiful, and that is usually how I can hook people, but oh well! I was defeated again, but that’s no reason not to have a good time. More Mascarade, Bruges and Council of Verona ensued and all was well.
Later in the evening another fellow showed up and it was revealed that he was a regular of the Thursday night game group, which met at the same place the very next night. There were so many game nights going on, I had completely missed that option. I was planning on going to a third group the following night, but if I could win this guy over to Team Forge War, I would have an instant “in” with the ale house Thursday board game group. We could make a plan to play it the next night, and two people sitting down to play a game is a much more powerful force than one dude with a homemade game. I talked to him about these thoughts, and he was very non-committal on the whole issue, but I figured having him around was better than going to an entirely different group and starting all over yet again.
So Thursday I was back at the ale house. I wanted to get there a little early and get Forge War right in on the ground floor, but I had to pack up all my stuff to head back to Indiana beforehand and it took longer than I expected. When I arrived, we had a game of Ascension going and a game of good old San Juan. I decided the guys playing San Juan were my people (god, I hate Ascension) and sat down to watch the second half of that game. After that, I finally did get a game of Forge War going after 2 nights of failed attempts. More importantly, the guys playing it really seemed to enjoy it and one of them picked it up so fast that he actually beat me in the simple game. By 1 point! I lost at my own game… a first time for everything. Also the play test helped my solidify some ideas about making the simple game a little more intuitive and flow better, so it was a win-win! Or maybe a win-win-lose depending how you look at it.
Afterwards I probably should have started heading home. It was, like, 10 p.m. and it was going to take me 2.5 hours to get home, plus a time change in the bad direction. But I couldn’t say no to a game of Lords of Waterdeep, so I ended up getting in around 3 a.m., much to my hot wife’s chagrin.
It was all-in-all a pretty fantastic time, though. It almost felt like a mini-GenCon. The power of board games turned a chore into a vacation. Just like it should.