Why Join… A Café or Convention?

Why Join... a Café or Convention?
Why Join... a Café or Convention?

This post was written by guest contributor Chrissy Wissler.

Why join a board game class or a meet-up? What’s the big deal about board game cafés and conventions? Why not just stay in the comforts of your own home, inviting friends over for regular board game nights?

Let’s just stay home.

Information about games is available online. You can research different games, watch reviews so you can match the play styles and tastes to your family.

You can punch out and sort the game pieces when your chosen game arrives, read and learn the rulebook… possibly watch a rules-video online (or two or three times because man, sometimes those things just don’t make sense).

Then, you can teach everyone how to play.

After you schedule the game day/night with your (kids’) friends, that is.

After you’ve fit in this time, to play games with your kids, into our very packed, very full lives.

To be honest, especially with my kids still young (seven and four, both who are differently-wired), and even with my love and passion, I struggle with this. I struggle to make board games a part of our daily life.

Often, I’m exhausted.

When I’ve got zero energy left at the end of the day, the thought of pulling out a game, setting it up, convincing my kids to sit and play it (rather than some awesome video game) is hard. Really hard.

Most times, it feels impossible.

In fact, this was one of my big incentives to start a board game club in the first place (and why I’m playing with the idea of starting an adult board game club… but how I’m going to fit that into my schedule, I haven’t a clue). Having the club has forced me to commit—both my time and energy—to a regular board game meet-up.

Almost like my own kick-in-the-pants, if you will.

It was simply getting too easy to allow the rest of life to swallow up the time and energy I wanted to go towards board games.

If playing board games is important to you, important for your kids to explore all the amazing learning opportunities gaming provides (not to mention all the chances for growing and supporting their emotional intelligence), all you have to do is show up.

Boys playing Century: Golem Edition

Just show up?

Go online and see if there’s a place to game in your area. Look for board game cafes or board game stores.

If you’re in Glendale near Los Angeles, there’s a fantastic cafe called, the Game Häus, which I just love. There’s also the Game Chest in the South Bay at the Del Amo Mall (also have locations in Orange County), with owners who are passionate about board games and making space so you can actually play games in their store (they’ve also got quite the selection for purchase—so be forewarned with your pocketbook).

Places like those might have regular board game hours. Check them out. See if it works for you and invite your friends. Or, just show up and see what happens. This is a very welcoming hobby, especially to new gamers.

(Editor’s note: If you’re in New England, we heartily recommend Boards & Brews in Manchester, NH and The Castle in Beverly, MA.)

But maybe that’s not enough convincing for you. You still can buy the game yourself, save yourself the cost of a possible game fee or a class or simply gas to get your car from point A to B.

Here’s the real rub, though, the part that, even for me—board game fan that I am—trips me up.

The rules.

Yep. Reading the rulebook—which often feels like it was written in another language.

And once you’re done reading (and hopefully understanding) you need to translate this to a whole bunch of other people—possibly even little people, who often have little patience for fumbling with rules or flipping back and forth because some rulebook writer thought it’d be great to stick that very important detail… all the way in the back where no can find it.

Let me know if your kids are still waiting around at that point; Kate often isn’t.

But as I’ve learned over the years, explaining rules is an art form; and it’s one I’m very much still learning. Being able to explain what we’re playing and why, giving a nice broad summary of the basics (meaning: no extra words and loops and random, unessential rules thrown in). Then, of course, there’s going down into the details. Into the minutia of the rules. The exceptions (and wow, there can be a whole lot of exceptions).

And you’ve got to explain it.

And be clear.

And make sure your audience, the kids playing this game with you, understand.

Not impossible, but not easy, either. Especially after a long day of running around, dealing with chores and house stuff and kid stuff—all that which requires time and effort and energy, and goes hand-in-hand with being a parent…

But wait!

But what if you have someone around that has already played the game? What if you are in a game café or at a convention?

Kate and I were at the Dice Tower West board game convention this past year and I read a lot of rules (most ever in a three-day period). With some of those rulebooks I had no clue what was going on—even after I pulled up how-to-play videos.

Rulebooks: The Grimm Forest, Castle Panic, Stuffed Fables, Trekking the National Parks
So many rulebooks.

One game in particular, Rescue Polar Bears, gave me a real hard time. (Editor’s note: us too!)

It’s a cooperative game; everyone works together to collect scientific data about why the polar ice caps are melting (these are needed to win the game), and of course, you need to rescue polar bears.

But there’s an actual flow chart for what happens when an ice hexagon melts and there’s polar bears on top. It was everything from which is boy or girl polar bear, and if there were little babies, too, and…

And it made no sense.


Thankfully, another convention goer popped over to say hi and to see what we thought of the game. He was gracious enough to spend five minutes explaining Rescue Polar Bears. It took him five minutes and it would easily have taken me another twenty (on top of the initial twenty minutes it took me to read the rulebook).

And his explanation made sense.

(And believe me, I was so grateful.)

Having someone explain a game to you so you don’t have to go and translate those rules (which feel like they were written in another language), and then explain them to younger players in a way that actually makes sense

Speaking from my experience, it’s so worth it.

A young girl playing Rescue Polar Bears
Kate examines the flowchart for Rescue Polar Bears.

(Which is totally why this next year, when Kate and I go back to Dice Tower West, I’m gonna jump in on as many kid-friendly games as I can with players who already know the game… or who will do all that translating for me.)

I’ve got more reasons, which I’ll share soon, for why you should consider joining a meet-up, a community of gamers.

But how about you? What are your reasons for setting aside time in your busy life to play games with others? To go to a café or convention?

Or, conversely, what are the reasons that have prevented you from doing just that?

Chrissy Wissler is a professional writer of fiction, parenting blogs and raising differently-wired kids, and also—a gamer. She runs the Homeschool Board Game Club in Torrance, California, sharing her love of games and supporting kids with the community. If you’d like to learn more, check out: facebook.com/chrissykidsboardgames and ChrissyWissler.com.