Saturday, September 22, 2007

How I Run My Game Group


I have standing advertisements in the major Israeli English newspapers' community columns (Jerusalem Post and Haaretz). These are free for advertising groups or events. The papers can be a bit difficult when I need to change information, like a phone number.

My blog and web page serve as advertising, as do my posts on BGG or the Hebrew Israeli boardgaming forums.

For special events, such as Games Days, I send notice to the Jerusalem Anglo mailing list, which has a large readership.

Word of mouth is the most effective.


My dining room table expands to seat 10 people, which is two simultaneous games, if the participants are not too loud.

For more people, of for more games, I have a small card table to put in the living room. For even more, which happens occasionally, two people can use the desk in the kitchen or bedroom.

On Games Day, Nadine brings her table. I have enough chairs or couches for everyone.


Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 11:30. Sometimes I get tired a little earlier and kick them out. Sometimes it goes later to 12:00.

Some of the players who are closer friends may drop in a little early, but I might be eating my dinner still. Others arrive generally between 6:30 and 7:15.


I supply tea, and sometimes iced tea, and rarely a snack. I request that all participants bring snacks. Which, after several years, they actually do. Snacks should be game friendly and not gross (like marshmallow toffees or whatnot). Usually it's wafers, cookies, or salties.

On game nights, if more than one is eating dinner, they order from a burger delivery place. The vegetarians always hope for pizza, but that only happens a few times a year. If only one wants to eat dinner, it's not enough to deliver. Sometimes I'll give the one person my own food, especially if they're particularly friendly with me already.

I do the after-cleanup.


Membership in my group means donating 100 NIS every once in a while for me to buy new games for the group. There is no per evening fee, other than a snack. Membership is not required.

Regular members vary in age from 9 to 45. We've occasionally had younger and older. Most members are between 20 and 45.

Most are Anglos, all speak English to some degree. Most are traditionally religious Jews (and right-wing, to boot), but some are left-wing, some are non-religious Jews, and we've had visiting Christians who played with us for up to a year.

Members range from people who knew almost nothing about even traditional board games to people coming from similar game groups in the U.S.


I supply most of the games. One of our recent members (about a year) has been slowly amassing a large collection of new games, and brings one or two of these each week, which we may get to. Rarely someone else will bring a game to play.

We tend to play a core group of games repeatedly, not only because we can't afford new games each week, but because we like to explore the games we have and already like. The core is large enough that we don't play the same games every week.

On Games Day we play the longer games that we sometimes avoid on regular game nights.

We often argue for up to ten minutes about what to play.

I can play multiple games most of the time, so I tend to play two-player games with latecomers while also playing another game, if we can't squeeze them into the current game or start over.

Games are usually: a light game until 7:15, one or two major games until 9:00 or 10:00 - if two groups, one may finish at 9:00 and the other at 10:00 or 10:30. If 9:00, another major game may follow. If 10:00, light games may follow, such as Bridge, Tichu, or It's Alive.

Favorite games: Puerto Rico, Bridge, Taj Mahal, Power Grid, Caylus, Cosmic Encounter, El Grande, Princes of Florence, It's Alive, Modern Art, Settlers of Catan, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, Lost Valley, Amun-Re, Tichu, Shadows Over Camelot, Zendo, San Juan, Yinsh, Geschenkt, By Hook or By Crook, Tigris and Euphrates, Children of Fire: the board game, For Sale.


Very friendly, to the point of too much advice given on some occasions. Moves are taken back. Players look for the best plays for other players.

People are often overly critical of new games and start complaining before the rules are even finished being explained. This is a problem I'm working to overcome.


Serious conflicts are almost non-existent.

Once we had some hashing out of war vs Euro-gaming attitudes toward game selection and acceptable coercion tactics within a game. Twice I had to exclude children who were too disruptive to attend game nights regularly; they're still welcome on Game Days.

Once we had a little conflict about religious symbols on a game board.

We've occasionally had some people who were louder or had less "game smarts" than others, but we've been tolerant about this. We've occasionally had some people which whom my wife had personality conflicts, but she tends to absent herself from the house on Wed evenings, anyway.

Session Reports

Sometimes very general, and sometimes very detailed, depending on my mood. Session reports are up on a separate blog. I still haven't transfered over all the old session reports from the club's web page.

Session reports started with the week that I gave the group it's name, The Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club, back in October, 2003.



Dave The Game said...

"People are often overly critical of new games and start complaining before the rules are even finished being explained."

I frequently have this problem too. I often find those who do complain have already made up their mind before they start playing, and will find any reason to bash the game while playing. This is even among people who claim that they play more for mechanics than theme.

I wish they'd just say up front that it doesn't sound like their type of game and bow out. They think they're being polite, but it just leads to more frustration for everyone.

Dani in NC said...

My husband complains if it takes me more than two minutes to explain the rules to a new game. Because I know he is like this, I practice my rules explanation over and over but then I still get flustered when I'm actually doing it :-). I want to broaden our repertoire but there are some games that I can't boil down to a two-minute explanation.

Yehuda said...

Dave: I've been having some success in pointing out this behavior pattern and getting them to keep a little bit of an open mind. Their patience is gradually expanding, a few minutes at a time.

Dani: Oh, we have some of those in the game group, too. I'm someone who can't start a game without hearing or giving the full explanation.

Of course, if I give less than the full explanation, the ones who complained "Let's just play already" are the first ones to complain that you're changing the rules on them.

There IS an art to teaching games:

1 - the winning conditions
2 - the means of getting the winning conditions
3 - the resources used for these means
4 - the basic round structure

Everything else is details.

An alternate theory claims that if you really use the theme, you tell a story, and people are willing to listen more.


Dave The Game said...

I have had a little success by telling people that "I will be making up new rules as the game goes along" in games where some of the minor/fiddly rules don't come up until later and don't impact strategy. I use this technique most often when teaching Power Grid.

Of course, all these are reasons that I advocate simple, short games.