How to start a boardgame club

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Hey Rob! Firstly, what made you want to start the club?

There is a comic shop in St Albans that I’d been going to since I was about 15. It was a really friendly and open place and as my brother had been getting me into board games I found out they were planning on starting a board games evening.
I went to that for several months until it was cancelled. There were a group of us that were really sad about it ending.

It was a real revelation to me to have somewhere where being into board games and all things geeky was celebrated and not mocked. Having somewhere where it’s safe to be yourself is so important.

So I was just fed up that that was taken away. I just phoned a local church hall and set it all up.

Why do you think yours became one of the biggest U.K. Clubs?

I think it’s mainly just due to demand. The board game industry in the last 15 years has grown and grown and grown. Board games are now so much more than the terrible Cluedo and monopoly. There are games for everyone now. No matter what you like or how strategic you are, you will find a game you love.
The other part of it I think is that I always ran the club with the goal of it being fun.
It wasn’t a business. Yes there was money being taken for the hall hire etc but all of the extra money was put back into the club to improve it.

Me and my advisor/friend/mental support made sure that new people were welcomed an included in games. We made sure that the kids were helped with learning rules and with people who were responsible.

It was all about keeping an atmosphere of relaxed fun. I’m really proud of things like parents leaving their kids with us and being Able to help give people a place where they can be themselves.

Did you find that this put you in contact with anyone that’s created their own games?

Board gamers writing their own games is very common. I think about half of our core members have a few prototypes in boxes stashed away. Most will never see play testing. It’s very difficult to get a game from prototype to testing to publishing.
I know three or four people who have actually made and published games through the club. I got to play a one of the prototypes with a designer of Mage knight which was very cool.

What was the best part about running it?

I think it was being able to look out over a room full of 60-70 people and see everyone enjoying themselves.
The best part is the laughter that comes from social interaction. Every game there will be a moment where someone really dicks another player over, or is winding someone up, or just the banter that goes on. And you will hear laughter, real loud, uncontrollable laughter. The kind that you’ll never get from sitting in front of a computer playing games. It’s magical.

Do you have a favourite boardgame?

That’s like asking someone their favourite piece of music or favourite cheese. It changes. I have a tattoo of carcassonne on my leg. It’s not my favourite but it was the first games I owned and it started of my collection and my hobby.
Right now my top 5 are;
Letters from Whitechapel
Firefly
Spartacus
Archipelago
Manhattan project.

Would you ever want to create a game yourself?

I have. Several of them. Again, it’s the difficulty of getting it published that stops me going further. It is getting easier with things like 3D printing and access to group workspaces though. I’m also working with a published designer at the moment. Helping him playtest and refine one of his games. Hopefully that gives me access to further develop one of mine. I’ve got a space mining game that I’d love to see published.

 

Robert Whitford started one of the biggest clubs in the UK

 

To find a boardgame club similar to the one Rob started, all you need to do is look. Search on Google, Facebook or download an app that specifically searches for other boardgamers nearby. Alternatively, follow Rob’s footsteps and start your own. This Nerd would love to hear about it if you do!

6 Comments »

  1. Thanks for this interview. It’s really great that more people are getting into and talking about board gaming.
    Also really enjoying the other pieces on here.
    Keep it up!

    Like

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