Above: Left to right, Steven Bush, Sherie Green, Peer Stueckenschneider and Elliot Shin gathered in September for a meeting of The Boardgames in Norcross/Peachtree Corners Meetup group. They meet weekly on Saturdays at Tavern at Medlock. Photos by Phil Mosier.
Bernice Hunter and her six siblings were always ready for a game when they were kids. “We would sit down at tables with pens and paper and it would be ‘OK, name the capitals!’ and everyone would race to name the capitals,” she said. “At the dinner table sometimes we would play, “You Don’t Say,” which was a popular television show in the ‘60s. In cars, we would play find the different license plates.”
When her children came along, “I’m thinking I’m growing two great board players,” she said. “The kids hit around age 11 or 12 and didn’t want to play board games again. Still don’t want to! My kids will play board games with me as a Christmas gift,” the retired technical writer said, laughing.
But no longer must she wait for her kids to take pity on her. These days, Hunter gets her game on every Friday afternoon at the Tucker Library, where she’s the organizer of a group called Board Game Fun.
“I have a thousand errands on my mind almost every time. Most of us do,” Hunter said, during a recent Board Game Fun event. “But when you’re in here, all you’re thinking about is talking to friends, people, and playing a game.”
Dinner and a game
It can take a little digging to find them, but board game groups and events are popping up across metro Atlanta in libraries, comic book shops, game stores, bars, senior centers, recreation centers, churches and other locations. Titan Games & Comics in Smyrna offers a Board Game Day on the last Sunday of each month.
Participants can bring their own games or play one of the store’s demo games in the free family friendly event. As many as 23 people have shown up to play, manager Mike Loewnau said.
The 30-year-old store also hosts a Dungeons & Dragons event weekly on Wednesdays. “Our goal with our open board gaming events is to foster a good and friendly environment for players of all types to enjoy the hobby,” Loewnau said. “Building a community of hobbyists willing to support and bring other newer players along only serves to improve the overall general play experience.”
Across town, the Boardgames in Norcross/Peachtree Corners Meetup group has been in full swing for about 11 years. (Meetup is an online service that helps people connect with others who have similar interests.)
This group typically draws about 25 people every Saturday to a back room at the Tavern at Medlock. Most people arrive in the evenings to grab dinner and a game, said organizer Steven Bush, a real estate consultant who’s about as close to a board game expert as the average person could get.
The events are open to anyone, including children accompanied by adults. Players can bring their own games or play one of the games already there. Bush usually takes about 50 of his own games to each event.
“I have games that are older than some of the people I’m playing with,” he said.
He believes it’s more socially acceptable for adults to play board games these days than in the past and said board games have evolved over time, with more being made for adults, particularly games that are friendly to play. “It’s not so much that you’re beating an opponent, but you’re beating the game itself,” he said.
Board game groups are good places to meet people who like the kinds of things you like in a friendly environment, he said, and this one draws a lot of computer programmers and engineers.
While some groups lean more toward social games or party games, this group plays more of what they call “chunkier” games. Bush defined those as games that require a little more thought or strategy, such as Terraforming Mars and Castles of Burgundy.
“If you can quote Star Wars, Star Trek or an ‘Avengers’ movie, then we’re your crowd,” he said. For seniors, “It’s a great way to keep being mentally active and a way to mix with other people and people of different age groups,” Bush said. “People come and just watch us sometimes.”
‘No one’s meant to be an island’
Nichelle Broughton, a nursing student at Western Governors University, joined in a recent Board Game Fun event at the Tucker Library as part of a Community Health class assignment that took her to dozens of senior events in three counties. Her topic for the course was “preventing social isolation in seniors.”
The Board Game Fun group is “priceless,” she said, “because too many seniors are at home just watching television or don’t have many family or friends that they can reach out to.”
“I think for seniors to stay active in their community, to maintain that independence and maintain as much quality of life as they can does make a difference,” Broughton said. “And this is treating mind, body and soul. No one’s meant to be an island.”
Pumped to play
Within moments of her and the other players’ arrival at the Tucker Library, Board Game Fun was in high gear with multiplayer action. First game du jour was Timeline—an educational guessing game with cards that depict events on one side and the dates they occurred on the other side.
And so it began. The first card read: “The Twilight Zone” premieres on television. Wendy Hardin, one of the group’s regulars, got the year on the money.
Another card: Ray Charles first performs “Hit the Road Jack.” That one struck a chord with Hunter, who was thinking it was in the ‘60s. “That was when I really began understanding music,” she said.
On the group played, guessing dates such as when Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Ocean and when McDonald’s was founded. “Do you remember the first time you went to McDonald’s?” Hunter asked, taking the game off track for a quick little trip down memory lane.
When the game ended the fun was far from over. The six players who’d shown up that day fanned out into two groups for Qwirkle, Rummikub, TransAmerica and other games they brought with them.
Hardin said she likes this group because it exposes her to different games “without being uber competitive.”
Newcomers Broughton and Joann Daniels were introduced to the word game Bananagrams by Nancy Patterson, one of the group’s original members. Patterson, a retiree, plays Rummikub at the Central DeKalb Senior Center and helped start Board Game Fun after connecting with Hunter in the Games section of their Nextdoor neighborhood network last winter.
“The people are very enjoyable to play with. We rarely even keep score and so it’s light-hearted,” Patterson said. “It gets me out of the house. It lifts the mood, and, of course, it uses the brain, and I think that’s very important for seniors.”
As she turned to leave, Daniels sounded sold on Board Game Fun. “Good fun, good people,” she said. “I’m looking forward to next week.”
Find some face-to-face fun
Here are some places to find old and new games played the old-school way, across a table.
Board Game Fun. Weekly on Fridays, 2-4 p.m. Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library, 5234 LaVista Road, Tucker 30084.
Boardgames in Norcross/Peachtree Corners. Games are weekly on Saturdays, 2 p.m. to midnight. Tavern At Medlock, 3230 Medlock Bridge Road, Peachtree Corners 30092. meetup.com/Boardgames-in-NorcrossPeachtree.
Titan Games and Comics. Monthly Board Game Day is the last Sunday of each month, noon to 6 p.m. Outside food and drink permitted. 2512 Cobb Parkway, Smyrna, Ga. 30080. titangamesandcomics.com. RSVP for a wide variety of gaming events at meetup.com/Titan-Smyrna-Gaming.
Meetup. Search for board game groups on this social network’s site, meetup.com. One group, Well Played, organizes board game, card game, and social game events and lists partner meetups. See meetup.com/gameswellplayed.