London On Board

Like nearly every gamer I know, I’ve struggled to find a regular group of players. My capacity & urge to buy the latest shiny game filled with little cardboard pieces of joy, will always out-pace my chances to play the damn things. My wife is very understanding, she’s lived with my geekiness for long enough to put up with all my foibles. She’s even partial to the odd game of Carcassone or Dominion. However getting her to endure a 4-5 hour game of Arkham Horror or Mage Knight on a regular basis would likely result in divorce.

This means my local board gaming group – London On Board, has been a real life saver. London On Board is a regular board gaming night (I dislike the term club, as I think it’s a bit misleading, there’s no membership) held, yup you guessed it – in London. It’s arranged via Meetup.com which is a great site for any group to arrange meetings of any kind. There’s a little forum for discussion and they post up the details of upcoming meetings, which I get through as emails – which serve as a good reminder to pop along. Some nights are themed, some are play what you like, some are “newbie” nights to encourage new players.

I was first told about the place from a friend several years ago, “Oh wow that sounds cool, I’ll definitely pop along”. Weeks pass… I don’t go, months pass… I still haven’t gone. In the end I reckon it might have been around a year before I mustered up the courage to go along. It turned out the pub they meet in was literally 30 seconds over the road from my company’s office in The City, so getting there wasn’t exactly an excuse! I’m not exactly shy, my job involves getting up in front of strangers and talking & presenting, but there’s no denying it’s unsettling walking into a pub to meet a group of total strangers. They were fairly welcoming, well as welcome as a bunch of people that meet in a basement of a pub to play boardgames can be! I can’t pretend my first visit wasn’t a bit socially awkward, I hung about – not sure of the etiquette before a couple of guys playing Ticket To Ride spotted me aimlessly looking round the room and invited me to join them. Relief! I was in!

There's always a big pile of games to help yourself to and play

Now I’ve probably made the place sound rather unwelcoming – it really isn’t! I’ve been back many times since and it’s such a nice place to go along and play. It’s been invaluable when I’ve bought a new game and I’ve been itching to play it. There’s always a variety of games being played, from big theme heavy dungeon crawls, to clever eurogames, to quick simple card games, people are always happy to explain the rules and let you join their games. It’s certainly broadened my gaming tastes too, as I often find myself playing a game I’ve never heard of, or wouldn’t normally give a second glance, let alone play – yet invariably I’ll come away loving the game, and start hankering after my own copy!

One thing I’ve noticed is that LoB seems to be rather rapidly gaining popularity, going from one night per week when I first started and the occasional Sunday gaming session (all day, for longer games) to now having three nights a week plus the  Sundays. And it’s often packed out with 40-50 odd people. It’s rather pleasing to see so many gamers getting together, and to me highlights the resuragnce in popularity of board games.

So if there’s a local board game night near you and haven’t been along yet, please take the time to check it out, you won’t regret it. And if you’re in London can and pop along to LoB, please do, and don’t forget to say hi to the spiky haired, bearded bloke (that’s me BTW!) and we can have a beer and a game or two. Look forward to seeing you!

Author: Ben Coleman

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23 Comments

  1. The numbers for my club have also gone up quite well too. When I first turned up last summer there was just 2 guys there. Admittedly in the summer everyone has more plans so 6 people was a better average …but that number is easily more than a dozen every week out of a pool of people twice that. In a small town it’s quite amazing we can get 3 or 4 games going.

    I don’t know if more people are being attracted to board gaming or board gamers are being more bold in order to have games. I’m the former, but I’d say Ben is the latter, so I’m still confused.

  2. I enjoy the occasional board game with the kids, but its faily low-brow stuff, but it is slowly escalting into chess and things like that.

    However these board games give me flash-backs to a school club I went to, one cold and wet winters lunchtime so I could be inside and be warm. Rightly or wrongly a lot of these games look like things born out of the Dungeons and Dragons craze in the 80’s.

    When sitting in this lunchtime club, I was put at an immediate disadvantage because (a) some “dungeon master” was making shit up and (b) my character, because I was new and didn’t have any “leveling up” ability, died a lot.

    Suffice to say that I thought it was all a load of old bollocks and never returned.

    I am sure that some of these more structed board games have rules and everyone (hopefully) starts on the same page with the same things at their disposal. But I am still tainting them in the same way as I did D&D, and subsequently every Games Workshop store I’ve ever passed, in that its just not for me!

  3. I’d just like to add, there’s usually a host at each of the nights, there to welcome new people and show them the ropes and explain things.

    Also with the meets all posted in advance on meetup.com it’s easy for new people to see when meets are and from some of the comments what games are going to be played.

  4. There’s a few games in the D&D mould, with orcs & elves and shit – but really they represent a very small majority of board games these days.

    Being board games they are far more structured than something like the D&D RPG, everyone is playing to the same rules and fairly basic system. In fact many of them such as Pandemic (about controlling an global outbreak of some hideous virus) are co-op so there’s no danger of the other players being experts and trying to shaft you.

    I can see why you associate them with that bad RPG experience but something like Forbidden Island are easy enough to be playable with your kids, but it’s not some daft kiddie game

  5. I have a similar (unfair?) distaste for D&D and any orcs and elves shit. But most board games aren’t like that. The massive variety of themes and styles is huge and there is usually something there that you’d like.

    Also, at school you couldn’t opt to have a few pints and a chat between games. +1 to board game meets.

  6. Id love to go to a club, but the nearest on to me is a 1h30 round trip and cause of my job and family I could only get there at most once a month.

  7. Neil, I was a bit like yourself and thought most of these games were D&D based, but since being sucked down the rabbit hole, I’m amazed at how diverse the amount of board games there is out there. I said this on one of my articles, If you have a favourite kind of book, TV program, or film genre then there’s probably a game out there in that style.
    If your reading stuff on this site, then your already interested in boardgames so join the forum and ask any questions, we will try to help point you in the right direction.

  8. Nice write-up Ben! Glad you’re enjoying LoB.

  9. Could you organise something more local or are you in the middle of nowhere?

  10. Not exactly the middle of nowhere, I’m about 45mins from Glasgow. Its finding like minded people is the problem. Without spending cash on a local paper advert, I think it would be hard to find them.
    It took xibxang about 6 months before he found a fellow geek in me.
    I would think about setting a game night up, but as I said its the time factor for me.

  11. Can you not put a message up in local game shops? Glasgow has quite a few good shops, doesn’t it?

    Or go to that far off club once in a while just to see if any of them are local.

  12. I’d suggest posting in the UK forum on BoardGameGeek. If there are gamers in your area, you’ll find them there.

  13. The Glasgow group meets every Sunday for an all day session and Ill probably get along to that at some poin.
    Like I said time is a big issue for me. I work 13 hour shifts, 7 days split over 2 weeks and I work every second weekend so I dont get a lot of family time as it is. Hopefully in a few years time my daughter will be so brainwashed she’ll want to go along to a meet.

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