The thing that separates great DJs from the pack is their ability to play the music that people want to hear, when they want to hear it. Those DJs can keep a party rocking all night long, while most others will struggle to keep a crowd engaged for an extended period of time. I never chased my DJ dreams with any real vigor, though they ultimately died on the vine when I realized that making a living as one would basically mean that I would have to put the musical tastes of others before my own. Sorry, but your music sucks and I’d rather play Taylor Swift and Wu-Tang all the time. 😛
Ever since I got serious about collecting board games, I’ve unintentionally become the go-to guy that my family and friends look to in order to bring out games that they’d find fun to play. Much like a DJ, it’s become very important for me to gauge the group and pick out the right titles that will work for that group.
As a modern video gamer, this altruistic approach to game selection has taken some getting used to. I play video games almost entirely based on my own personal tastes, since I’m either playing alone or playing with like-minded individuals online. Since board games are still a face-to-face social experience, being selfish all of the time is a quick way to drive people away from you and from board games.
Recently, my coworkers and I have been testing out the possibilities of hosting a board game night after hours at work. Since I haven’t played with any of them before, and I knew that the group was going to be large, I chose what I would think are sure-fire hits for newcomers or veterans. This included Ticket to Ride, Cash ‘n Guns, Camel Up and Coup. At the last minute, thinking I needed something else, I threw in Sushi Go just to round things out.
I chose to start things with Cash ‘n Guns. This one is a sure-fire hit with my main board gaming group, so I figured that would translate to this group as well. Unfortunately, due to people still having to work among a few other unforeseen circumstances, the starting group we had was a bit small, which isn’t the best way to play that game. The game was still fun, but certainly didn’t hit in the way I would have hoped.
The group dwindled down to three players, at which point I asked the group if they wanted camels, trains or sushi. They said camels, so I broke out Camel Up. One of my coworkers got it right away, though the other was distracted by Family Feud, which was playing on the television the background. She didn’t even realize it when the game was over, so that one unexpectedly fizzled out, too.
With one more coworker coming down to play, setting our new player count to four, they opted for sushi instead of trains. Now Sushi Go is a fine game that has worked well as a warm-up for my main group, but it never had the depth the satiate my group for more than a few plays. Thinking this would also be the case here, I was stunned by how well it was received by my coworkers. Within one round of play, they immediately grasped the rules, formulating strategies and role-playing into the theme of building a delicious plate of sushi. This game stayed on the table for hours and was forcefully ripped away from the group at the end of the night when one of us had to go home.
Off the strength of the experience that one game provided, we’re now trying to set up another board game night and maybe someday grow this into an officially sanctioned event by my work. If I didn’t have that game handy, this might have been a complete bust and I would have carried all those games downtown in vain. Whether you’re playing with newcomers, experienced gamers, or some mix in between, knowing how to pick the right games to please your crowd is key.