Home is where the board games are (Topic Discussion)

I feel that the board game hobby is great and that our community is wonderful. Board games bring like-minded people together. I know, nothing is ever perfect and we can’t ignore the bad actors, but on the whole, board game people, if I may address you all this way, are great folk. Playing board games is my happy place and I feel very much at home whenever I see board games.

It’s always lovely to see when your hobby becomes more mainstream and is accepted by society as something normal, rather than odd and nerdy. I know, some of us are proud to be seen as nerds, or rather as board game nerds to be more precise, and that’s great. At the same time, being seen as an outsider or outcast isn’t so nice. I do feel that board games used to be seen as weird, but not in a good way. So it’s good to see it’s changing for the better.

Come On In

Given that the board game hobby has been, and to some extent still is, more of a nerdy thing means that the people in the community have each other’s back. Our nerdiness has created a close-knit community. Again, I know that’s not completely true. I’m not blind to the toxic behaviour that’s still happening and needs to stop, but in this article, I want to focus on the positives.

So, when my wife, daughter and I walked into the Thirsty Meeples cafe in Oxford and saw so many tables all of which had happy people sitting around them, playing board games together, I immediately felt at home. I felt I could walk up to any of the tables, say hello and ask them about their game or ask for a game recommendation. Of course, I didn’t do that, because I didn’t want to intrude on the happy time these people were enjoying in each other’s company.

Instead, we sat down and waited for one of the wonderful “game gurus” to come over and help us choose a game. We ordered our drinks and some food and got playing. We felt safe, surrounded by like-minded people, all of whom were having fun. There was such positive energy all around. The huge variety of games on all the tables was amazing. It was just glorious.

When I came back from a quick comfort break, wearing my meeple mask, of course, one of the other guests saw me and told me how much they liked the mask. It was really wonderful.

Board Game Events

Thinking about going to Airecon 2022, the first in-person board game convention I attended after the UK had first gone into lockdown, was an anxious time. I didn’t know what to expect and how I would feel being so close to so many people in an enclosed space.

Of course, it all turned out fine.

The event organizers did everything they could to make people feel comfortable. You had to show a COVID pass or negative test, wear your mask, unless exempt or sitting down to play and there was plenty of ventilation, hand sanitiser stations and everything else.

I felt really at home at the convention and was able to see so many of the people I previously only knew via social media. I loved talking to them, getting a demo of their game or generally catching up with people. Everyone was friendly and everyone wanted to enjoy seeing people in person again.

Board Games “In the Wild”

I also always love seeing board games when I’m out and about. Of course, board game shops and cafes will have board games, but as the hobby has become more mainstream, you start to see modern board games in other places as well. Long gone are the days when toy shops only stocked Monopoly, Clue and other classic games. Nowadays, there are many modern titles and not only Catan. Ravensburger‘s latest line of IP-based games has become much more commonplace in toy shops. Not only that, but modern games can now also be found in book shops, which is really amazing to see.

So it’s no surprise that more and more people play games together and that our community is growing. Board games are just a lot more visible now and hopefully, there will be a self-propelling cycle of more people buying games, leading to more games being more widely available, leading to more people buying games.

hand of Fluxx cards

Getting to Know Each Other

Board games are also a great way of connecting with people, of course. Not only do conventions allow you to make new friends through playing a board game together, but playing board games also allows us to get closer to our friends and family.

Board games are a good way to find out more about a person’s character. The type of games someone likes and how they act while playing can often reveal some clues as to who they are as a person. I found this with our neighbours. The first time we played board games together, I had brought a selection, just to see what would work and what wouldn’t. It didn’t take long to find suitable games that everyone was happy with. Now everyone feels more at home when we play something that everyone can get really into and get the most out of.

Spead the Word

It’s also nice to spread the hobby further. It didn’t take long after giving my wife’s brother’s family a modern board game as a present that they started to ask me for suggestions on what other games they might like. Soon after that, they found games for themselves and introduced us to games we hadn’t played before. Whenever we visit them now, we will play one of their games with them – and not too long ago it was us bringing games to play. So we feel right at home now.

Couples Time

Board games have also given my wife and me another way to connect with each other and spend time together. A quick game over lunch or a longer game in the evening with maybe a glass of wine is wonderful and gives us the chance to talk – either about the game or about us. I feel that our board game nights have brought us closer together. Board games can create a focal point that allows us to relax and open up.

How About You?

So what about you? Do board games also make you feel at home? What is it about the hobby that makes you feel so comfortable? Is it the games, the people or something else? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear your story.

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Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/)

Home from Home – a con visit with a difference (Topic Discussion)

I always love going to board game conventions, shows, conferences or whatever you want to call them. Just walking into the halls and seeing lots of excited people who share the same hobby is invigorating. The prospect of catching up with friends whom I might not otherwise see is wonderful. Finally meeting the people I only know from social media face-to-face is fabulous. Board game events are always very much like a home from home. Yet, my visit to Berlin Brettspiel Con 2023 and the Spiel des Jahres awards a few weeks ago took this to another level.

First off, Berlin is my hometown. I was born there and spent all of my childhood and youth there. I saw the Wall, that everyone expected to always be there, finally come down. I saw the masses of East Germans come over to West Berlin in their Trabants or on foot. I saw them queueing up in front of banks and building societies with their passports to receive their welcome money. I saw how the long-divided city grew together again, much quicker than the rest of Germany did. I was able to finally walk through the Brandenburg Gate. I saw Germany united again, at least on paper, even when the Wall still remained in many people’s heads.

So going back to Berlin is always filled with a lot of very mixed emotions: pride, happiness, anger, frustration, hope, nostalgia, homesickness, excitement and sadness.

Berlin, Berlin, Dein Herz kennt keine Mauern

The prospect of spending a long weekend in my hometown and visiting a board game convention added even more emotions into the mix. I was really looking forward to playing games with fellow hobbyists, meeting people for the first time and generally immersing myself in the world of board games. I knew it would be a lot of long days that would be very tiring. At the same time, I knew I would feel very invigorated by talking to like-minded people.

The location of Berlin Brettspiel Con 2023 was also very exciting. Gleisdreieck is very much steeped in the history of Berlin, giving the event a certain atmosphere that is hard to find or replicate. The station’s name literally means “railway triangle” and marks the spot of a major train hub that opened in 1902. It is a set of viaducts, where the train tracks are lifted above ground. During the War, the structure suffered heavy bombing and it was totally destroyed during the Battle of Berlin that marked the end of World War II.

After the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the lower platform became the terminus of the U2 underground line, until service was finally discontinued in 1972. It wasn’t until 1993 that the line restarted its service. Now it’s a relatively busy intersection for several lines.

a plaque set into the ground marking where the Berlin Wall had been - the plaque reads: Berliner Mauer 1961 - 1989
a plaque set into the ground marking where the Berlin Wall had been

I never really visited Gleisdreieck until the convention. So seeing the station in use and visiting the convention located right next to it, but of course, on the ground and not up on the viaduct, was really wonderful. It feels a bit out of the way of everything, but in reality, Potsdamer Platz, the location of major redevelopment popular with tourists, isn’t too far away.

All Change

To visit Berlin, I only had to pay for the flight, food and drink. I got a press pass for Berlin Brettspiel Con and stayed at my parent’s flat. Now that’s not the flat I grew up in. That one is in a building right next to the one I stayed in. So I could see the window that I had often looked out of when I was playing in my room, but I was unable to go back in. I felt nostalgia and a pinch of loss.

It also felt quite weird staying in my parent’s flat. It’s a small studio flat, so my parents had gone away to let me stay there by myself. Yet, on my previous visits, my parents had been there and I had been with my wife and daughter. Additionally, board game convention visits are intrinsically linked with staying in a hotel or B&B. So being in my parent’s flat, all on my own, was really strange. I was at home, but also very much not. I was visiting a board game event, but I wasn’t in a hotel room.

The advantage of staying in the flat was that I didn’t have to pay for expensive breakfasts or other food and drink. I could pop to the shops and get what I wanted, relatively cheaply. That’s when the feelings of nostalgia and loss kicked in again. It’s of course no surprise that the supermarkets and corner shops I knew in my childhood were no longer there. I knew the neighbourhood like the back of my hand, but the little kiosk selling sweets, ice-creams and sticker book stickers wasn’t there anymore. The corner shop I sometimes had popped into was now some sort of office. It was all very different.

Still There

At the same time, there was a lot that was familiar. The sound of housemartins in the hot summer’s air. Hearing crickets chirping in the trees lining the streets. The noise of ambulances, fire engines or police going by with their sirens blaring. The odd plane or helicopter flying overhead. The general noise of the streets. Going on a bus or underground train. It all felt the same and took me back to my childhood and teenage years.

a Berlin Currywurst, a fried pork sausage covered in ketchup mixed with curry powder, accompanied by potato salad with mayonnaise
the Berliner Currywurst still tastes amazing and potato salad has to come with mayonnaise

I had forgotten that people smoked in the street. Seeing people with bottles of beer in their hands outside a restaurant, happily chatting and generally being merry was great. People were even having a can of beer on the underground or S-Bahn on their way home from work. It didn’t feel threatening or weird. It’s just what people do in Berlin. Even seeing people begging on the underground, loudly telling everyone their story as they walk past, felt normal. It’s the colourful palette that is Berlin.

So, in a way, not much has actually changed.

a game of Blood Bowl Team Manager set up
being invited to a game of Blood Bowl Team Manager by Ben Maddox meant a lot to me

Thank you, Berlin

In the end, I settled into it all and had a really wonderful time. I am grateful that Berlin Brettspiel Con 2023 gave me a free press pass. I feel very honoured that Spiel des Jahres invited me to the awards ceremony and the press conference the next day. Bumping into Ben Maddox from Five Games For Doomsday was great and his offering to play a game of Blood Bowl Team Manager with me during the game night before the convention meant a lot to me. Seeing Uli Blennemann from Spielworxx in person for the first time and receiving such a warm welcome from him was very special. Speaking with exhibitors and getting demos, forging new contacts and getting a glimpse of new and upcoming games was so invigorating. I think I even made a couple of new friends, if I may be so forward.

So, yes. Thank you, Berlin, for having me back and looking after me. I am so proud to be a Berliner. I hope to see you again soon…

Read more stories about Berlin Brettspiel Con >>

Useful Links


Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/)

Music by AShamaluevMusic.
Website: https://www.ashamaluevmusic.com