Board Games with Strangers #50Meetups

The smooth sounds of old jazz flow through the airwaves as I sit here on a Wednesday evening, writing in my notebook. I am alone, very early for the meetup. I can hear girls giggling as they jokingly yell at each other to take their turn faster. I also overhear a man explaining the rules to a game. “Let’s say you take this card and…”

The NYC Board Games and Card Games Meetup group meets on Wednesdays at the Uncommons, also known as Manhattans only board game cafe. I’d been there before, but never without a group of my friends. It was a little strange to show up and wait to find someone to play a game with me, but that’s what I get for being early.

Eventually, a barista let me know where the table was reserved for our meetup. As I settled in, a young man approached me, and said he was there for the meetup too, but it was his first time. Immediately, we bonded over being new. Soon, another person joined us, saying it was his second time there. Our mismatched trio sat awkwardly for a bit until one of them said, “You know, we don’t have to wait for anyone, we can just start playing a game.”

And so, we played a game of Splendor. My first new friend taught us how to play this simple yet fun game. Soon, it didn’t matter that we had all never met before. The same banter arose that would in an old group of friends.

Wait, is it my turn? 

Can I make this move?

Oh man, I am so mad you got that card first!! 

As we wrapped up our game, (I lost, don’t worry), a group of three newcomers asked if we could play a 6 player game with them. We cleaned up, moved to a bigger table, and settled into a very confusing game of Camel Up. Once again, we all felt like fast friends, while at the same time asking about each other’s careers and lives.

Why this meetup was successful

Games naturally brings people together.

Board games are great at turning strangers into friends very quickly. All it took was for us to start setting up a game to suddenly feel very comfortable. I think this is because board games do three things.

Shared sense of purpose

Something to focus on besides awkwardness

Low-risk social engagement (especially if you’re all new to the game)

Great environment

The Uncommon is a fun place packed wall to wall with board games. It’s easy to find something to comment on to start a conversation. Plus, since everyone, even those not there for the meetup, is there to play board games, you feel like you all share an interest.

Stickers for meetup members.

When I paid the entry fee, they gave me a sticker because I said I was there for the meetup group. That way, others could recognize me from the group.

What I wish this meetup group had done better

Where was the leader?

The entire time I was there, I was never greeted by the host of the group. In fact, I don’t know who he is. Had the second person I met not suggested we just start playing, I would have sat there awkwardly waiting for something to happen.

When did it start?

Speaking of waiting for something  to happen, there was no structure for this meetup. It literally was just about showing up and playing games. There were people there as early as I was, but I had no idea they were there for the same group, as they were already so into a game. I felt I couldn’t interject.

Overall, I had a great time playing games with new friends. This group is great for people looking to meet new friends and enjoy a hobby that nobody else they know may be into. You can’t exactly go to The Uncommon alone, but you can go if you know there are others willing to play with you.

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