Table Tips - How to Choose the Right Game for your Group

Hey all!  Welcome to the first instalment of Table Tips Thursday.  In this segment we look at various tips, tricks and life hacks that can help you gain more enjoyment from your gaming pass time.  I thought I'd begin with a topic I've often struggled with, choosing a game that's a good fit for a group.  After many discussions with fellow gamers something that seems to come up regularly are tales of people selling off their games because "they weren't the right fit for our group".  This seems sad to me.  It suggests the person who bought the game did so because they themselves were at least interested enough in it to invest in it and were probably pretty excited to try it out.  I can imagine they carried it gleefully to the table, their big puppy dog eyes scanning their co-gamers faces for signs of approval only to have those hopes dashed in a fit of Kevin’s ambivalence. Anyway, here are a few things to consider when trying to choose a game for your next game meet up.

Available Time

Coordinating people to meet up for a game night can be a task unto itself, but even if the stars align and you're all free and ready to play, how do you ensure your group is going to enjoy themselves?  There's nothing worse than bringing an epic game to a game night only to get 3/4 of the way into it before someone says "Well, that's it for me tonight, I have work/kids/crimefighting to do", and then they leave, with you likely in a position to have taken the victory if only you'd had another three to five rounds, why does Kevin do that?!

"I'm not wearing hockey pads... or pants."

So yes, ensuring the game fits with your group's time commitments can increase the amount of time you get to enjoy gaming and prevent disappointments like Kevin from happening.

Age of the Players

This one applies more to groups with younger players, if there are kids involved consider not only the complexity of the game but other elements such as theme, language, imagery and the typical game length. Your results here will vary depending on the age of the group, you know them best and what they can and can’t handle.  Placing unrealistic expectations upon younger players can not only result in a frustrating game for all, but could potentially turn off the younger ones as they may come to see board games as too difficult and not worth the hassle.

"This one's for you, Dad!"

Keep in mind that adults in the group will want to play something they can enjoy too, so setting the bar too low can come with its own drawbacks.  Finding that delicate balance between fun, appropriateness and complexity can be tricky. Trial and error may be the order of the day here.

Group Interests

Knowing your group's tastes can save a lot of money and disappointment.  If your group gravitates towards abstract strategy games for example, perhaps a heavy handed campaign style game wouldn't be the best idea.  Likewise, if your players prefer complex euros, then a standard beer and chips dice chucker may not serve you well. The first and most obvious way to avoid this is to simply ask your group what they like and if they'd be keen to try X or Y game.  If not, great!  You just saved some hard earned cash and everyone’s time. 

I can't believe I almost bought Gloomhaven!

If only a few of them take you up on it, then perhaps consider playing the game with those chosen few at a later date.  More often the disappointment can come from not getting to play a game you yourself have been looking forward to getting to the table.  This is something I've had to accept many times.  This is also the reason I end up playing a lot of solo games, but that’s an article for another day.  

Past Experience

This comes down to recognising what has or hasn’t worked for your group in the past. Again, this will be largely dependent on how well you know your group and how communicative they are.  Groups that provide feedback on the games they’ve played have a better chance of getting more of what they like to the table, so it’s a good idea to engage in a little post game table talk during pack up.  I find this is an organic part of most game nights I attend, but each group is different.  Setting up a group chat to discuss the game later once everyone has had a chance to reflect on their experiences, this also makes for a great way to decide on future games you’d all like to play.

Expense

With few exceptions, games cost money.  Normally, this money is the result of working hard, or some shady criminal enterprise. The one thing gamers tend to have in common is finite funds with which to purchase their games, this annoying limitation can make us selective when it comes to adding to our collections. Shelves of shame don’t create themselves, they’re normally the result of weeks of toil and poor decision making.

"I can't believe I almost bought food!"

So when considering your next purchase, be sure to take into account how likely it is to see play time with your group.  That isn’t to say you’re going to take your group into account with every purchase, but if you’re looking for a shared experience, it pays to play it safe. There’s buying for yourself and then there’s buying for a group, and those don’t always go well together.

Willingness to Try New Things

Of course few groups want to play the same game week after week, beyond the occasional legacy or story driven campaign game.  Trying something new comes with its own risks and rewards.  I hate to use a cliche but, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Providing you take the earlier points into account when introducing an untested game you shouldn't have too much trouble.  Making a wish list can be a great way to keep suggestions from the group in mind, or taking turns to suggest or bring along new games can help others to feel included and validated.

Yes, even Kevin.

 

As you’ve probably deduced from all of this, communication is key; as long as you and your group are talking, providing feedback and keeping open minds about what other people may enjoy, you’re sure to have functional, happy game sessions. Conflicts and differences of opinion will pop up from time to time, but keeping these tips in mind may help you right the ship before it sinks. If you have any related gaming tips of your own to share feel free to leave a comment below.  Likewise if you’d had any good or bad gaming experiences you’d like to share I’d love to hear about them.  Thank you for joining me for this first of many table tips to come. In the meantime, good luck and I’ll see you next time!