The Busy Girl’s Guide to Hosting Game Night

The best part of hosting game night? Your bed is only a couple rooms away afterwards. The pitfall? Playing hostess can sometimes tax even the most social of butterflies. What’ s a Busy Girl to do? Try out some of these tips to help keep the hostess having the mostest fun!

– Icebreakers – Don’t underestimate the power of a good icebreaker. Games like Code Names can accommodate folks as they wander in, getting the gaming kicked off as soon as the first few gamers arrive. Additionally, they’re a great way to integrate new people into an already established group.

– Set Start and Finish Times – I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been able to party like its 1999 since around 1997. Revolving door, come anytime get togethers are great – once a year, preferably at someone else’s house. Get the ball rolling by setting a time you expect people to start showing up ready to play. And do your weary bones a favor and set an end time. This doesn’t mean shooing everyone out at midnight before you turn into a pumpkin, but will inform folks that starting a game of Brass: Lancashire at 11:30 is not in the cards.

– Potluck/Food options – Don’t let creating snacks and munchies take over your entire afternoon. There are tons of healthy (and less so) pre-made snack options at your local grocer. There are all manner of services that will deliver Pad Thai or Pizza or Sushi to your door.  Even better, ask everyone to bring something they love to share. (You may discover one of your friends is the best brownie maker on the planet.) Grab some drinks and you’re set.

– Pre-view, Pre-punch, Pre-learn – Take a few minutes during your lunch break to read through the rules, watch a play through while you’re feeding the baby, punch a game while you’re catching up on the Great British Bake Off. Don’t spend valuable gaming and social time reading the rules aloud. And split the effort – encourage your friends to know their games before they bring them so there’s a knowledgeable teacher ready to guide everyone quickly through the first play through.

– Themes- We’ve all stood around at game night trying to figure out what to play to kick off the evening. Its a waste of valuable game time! Have themed nights. Food games, heavy euros, games that start with the letter F – whatever, just create a theme that folks can think about ahead of time so that they’ve already got what they want to play in mind when they walk in the door.

– Let the game fit the group – One of the biggest keys to a successful game night (and one that’ll keep people coming back) is choosing the right games for the group. Your casual, drink and chat friends are not going to appreciate something with a 30 page rule book. And the hardcore strategy folks in your life won’t be satisfied with a series of 15 min roll and writes. Don’t spend your night trying to bring every game on your shelf of shame to the table; consider your audience and plan accordingly.

– Set the table – Its super simple, but such a time saver: set up big games before your adventuring party arrives. When you’re talking about something like Gloomhaven or Arkham Horror that can easily take 20 mins to put together, save game time by setting it up pre-game night. If you don’t have cats or small kids you can even get it set up the night before – perfect if you’re rushing back after work/school/practice to set up for a week night soiree’.

– Seating and Tabletops matter – No one wants to be the one sitting on the couch hunched over the coffee table trying to play a dexterity game. The same goes for being the girl on the end of the long rectangular table during Happy Salmon. Think about your game spaces and what might be best for which games – your aching back will thank you.

– Don’t OVER host – Put out anything you can think that guests might need – glasses, napkins, etc. Or if you’re short on space, stick a post-it on cabinet doors labeling where these might be found. Invite your guests to get their own drinks from the fridge. Show everyone where the bathroom is. Designate the person in the chair closest to the door as ‘greeter’. The point is, YOU don’t have to do everything for everyone. The people you invite over are competent enough to play board games, so their probably competent enough to get ice from the ice maker.

– Take it easy – ENJOY YOURSELF. You’re playing games. Game night should be time to relax and have some fun. Who cares if you run out of dip? The best hostess know that the real key to a successful get together is one that everyone enjoys, and that includes YOU.

The Busy Girl’s Guide to Game Shelves…

Shelves of Shame. Kaelex. Oversized Boxes. Shelfies. BoxThrone. Custom Inserts. No matter how you stack it, board game storage is a big deal. What does how and where you keep your board games have to do with the busy girl. Girl, EVERYTHING. Proper organization and storage of your games makes choosing, finding, setting up, and putting away a snap, making more time for playing and less time digging through the chaos to try to find that one deck builder everyone likes. Here’s our tips for having a place for everything, and everything in its place.

1 – Create a system – You need a system. What makes the most sense to you and fits with the way you game. If you’re likely to want to find a game by name, shoot for alphabetical. More of a browser, think categories. Examples – do you usually have to choose based on number of players? Are certain genres (heavy euro, wargames, legacy) limited to particular folks in your group? Size/spread matters more if you frequently travel to game. Family games vs casual games vs hardcore games? Whatever your ‘mechanic’ for choosing is, you can build a system around it!

2 – How many similar games do you have? I have loved many a heavy euro game. And for a long time I kept every one of them. Until one day we realized there was almost one full shelving unit dedicated to heavy euros… Evaluate your games! Did something you formerly love get replaced by a recent edition with a slightly better twist? Do you really need every single Ticket to Ride map (be honest, you’re probably only pulling out the same couple maps every game night.) How many deckbuilders/worker placement/hidden role games do you pull out regularly for your game group? Keep 3-4 of each type (maybe even 5-6 of your favorite mechanic) and bless someone else with the spares.

3 – Find a reviewer you trust or a great borrowing library – Sometimes we wind up with an expensive purchase taking up valuable space because of buyers guilt; you spent $60 on it and hated it but its staying on that shelf til you’ve looked at it sixty bucks worth. Avoid the game regret blues by finding a reviewer that you agree with most of the time. Going in open eyed is so much better than carrying home a new purchase, opening the box, and realizing just the 30 page instruction book is a huge ‘Nope’ for you. Even better – find a great borrowing library at a FLGS or local convention and try before you buy.

4 – Share the wealth – Most folks game with a fairly consistent circle of friends. Or a regular circle to play XYZ games with (your war games group, your legacy fellowship)  Does every one of you need a copy of Castles of Burgundy? Who plays what the most often, or whose house is it usually played at? Designate more than one keeper of the games and you’ll make everyone’s shelves a little lighter.

5. Recycle/Up-cycle extra boxes- You don’t need every box that every expansion ever came in. No really, you don’t. Lots of boxes are being made with space for expansions now, and with the number of insert manufacturers its super easy to store three, four, or even five expansions safely and comfortably in the base game box. Biggest advantage? No trying to hunt down that somewhat smaller box that got put elsewhere because of its size and is now shoved behind another stack of expansions. (Hate the thought of just tossing the box? Frame the cover as art for the game room or reuse the box for storage elsewhere in your house.)

6 – When’s the last time you played… – Is something gathering dust on your shelves? The board game industry is not just constantly producing lots of new games, but lots of games that are improvements on established favorites. Has Viticulture replaced Stone Age for you? Do you prefer the stations in Ticket to Ride Europe over the America board? Take a page from professional organizers – keep track of what you’re using to see if its still useful. Take a few games and put them in your bedroom closet. If you don’t pull them out in the next three month there’s a good chance they’re not coming out at all.

7 – Game Apps – While we’ll never advocate going fully digital, there are some phenomenal apps that make player your favorites a breeze. I’ve converted entirely to Twilight Struggle through Steam solely because I can skip the 15 minute set up, cruise straight into playing, and when I’m done there’s no cleanup! Add in that extra space I have on the shelf and its a win/win overall. And there’s apps on just about any platform for a number of popular games.

8 – Alternative shelving and storage solutions – Hard to keep your shelves neat and organized? What solution does work for your lifestyle? Bins of each genre in a closet? Different games in the rooms they’re more likely to be played in? Purse games with your bags, travel games with your luggage? Converting the coat closet to board game storage? Pretty hobby shelves that alternate board games and related books and crafts? Giant behemoth spread games near the biggest table in the house? Think outside the box when it comes to organizing your collection.

9 – The bits box – We’re all put things carefully away on game night, only to step on a loose meeple two days later. If your first inclination isn’t to put it away, designate a special place for ‘bits’ – half a leftover expansion box, a dice bag that sits at eye level on the main shelf, whatever – just be sure its noticeable and that you’re consistent about putting things there so you’ll know where to look the next time you pull out the game.

Organization may not be the first thing that comes to mind when I say time-saving, but you’ll be surprised how many hours you gain when everything is in proper order and you can put your hands on it quickly and easily.

A stitch in time saves nine!

The Busy Girls Guide to Making Game Night Happen

Friendships sometime seem like a series of running into each other, catching up for 2 mins, comparing schedules for a real get together, then promising to catch up “when things slow down.” Planning a game night with several friends regularly? Forget about it.

We’re all busy with the day-to-day, usually so often that our hobby gets back burned until we can carve out that perfect few hours. Unfortunately, waiting for perfect usually decreases the chances of it happening at all. Erase ‘perfect’ from your phone and put its stuff on the street!  With a few hacks getting the gang together for a game night can be as easy as a roll of the dice.

1 – Consistent Day/Time – Schedule a regular day or night for game night. First Fridays, every other Saturday, every long weekend, whatever works best in general for your group. Regular events stick out in peoples’ heads, and if a player can’t make one there’s another already on the calendar for them to keep in mind and look forward to. Additionally, you’ll have that time regularly set aside on your own calendar for some game-y goodness.

2 – Find an Established Group – Can’t plan/host your own? Look for an already established group that welcomes new players. Check meetup or your local game store – there may be a gathering already regularly scheduled that you and your friends can join, taking the hosting/scheduling duties off your shoulders. (Pro tip: wear a game related shirt everywhere! You might be surprised how many folks approach to mention their love of board games and regular gaming group.)

3 – Public Space – Don’t have time to clean? Keeping 17 dogs in your apartment? Live out in the boonies? Find a central, open location for everyone to meet at. Libraries and community centers typically have public rooms, as do some small colleges and larger coffee shops. And keep your eye out for some more unusual spaces – we have a couple local pubs and restaurants with public space you can reserve as well. Less commute/cleaning time = more game time.

4 – Prep for pre-game – Kick the game into high gear early by setting up before everyone arrives. Send out tutorial videos for games. Punch and bag components (great netflix watching activity). Set up larger games with lots of bits and bobbles before the party gets started. Don’t derail valuable game time with twenty mins of organization and prep.

5 – Kiddo entertainment/Dog party – Juggling little folk or fur babies can often prevent folks from being regular. Consider hiring a single sitter for the entire group either in another area of your space or at another, nearby participant’s place. Not only does this increase the possibility of folks attending and staying longer, and give mom and dad a relaxing, responsibility-lite evening to look forward to, it means fewer overall interruptions for everyone involved.

6 – Alternative Times/Places – Think outside the box when it comes to game “night”. Why not game brunch? A quick game with work friends during lunch break, or a combined baby playdate/parents gamedate works as well. Or a gorgeous autumn afternoon picnic and play time. There’s no limitation on hours for this one. (Also, keep a game in your bag for improptu gaming moments, like while before the food comes at your favorite restaurant or waiting for the kids to get out of their activities.)

7 – Take a Poll – Scheduling apps like Doodle Poll are a gift from the tech world to busy girls everywhere. Throw out an invite to all your friends and let the app figure out when you all share free time. And don’t wait til every single person will attend! Once you have majority plan your evening; the next time you put together a game the person who couldn’t make it will be on the list and someone else will have to miss. Just get something on that calendar!

8 – Enlist some help – If your gaming group is more than you playing solo Spirit Island every week (hopefully), then everyone can contribute fifteen mins towards putting on game night. Round robin game spaces so you’re not the only one cleaning and setting up. Or maybe you have the best space, but one friend is better at finding game videos and another makes amazing snacks. Additional benefit – almost everyone wants to feel needed, so this one will also help folks feel like they’re a valued member of the group. And working together to host a great event will make your group tighter than ever.

Gather up a few friends and get those games on the table – with a little strategy you CAN fit game night into your life!

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” ~ Narthe Troly-Curtin

The Busy Girls Guide To… Board Game Conventions

Board game conventions are an outstanding way to meet new gamers, see the latest products, play some games, and connect with the community. In a perfect world we’d all go to Gen Con, PaxU, and Essen – play the hottest new games, eat killer local food, and stay up all night for weeks on end.

Unfortunately, few of us always have tons of time for every awesome convention that comes up. Maybe work is always pressing in August or your best friend’s wedding is smack in the middle of Origins. Life has a way of getting in the way of life sometimes. But don’t skip a board game event opportunity just because it can’t be the perfect, optimal experience! With a little forethought you can have your con-cake and eat it too!

1 – Buy EARLY. In addition to getting a discount, you’ll likely be able to get your ticket shipped to you or at least be fast tracked by print outs if you buy your pass and/or event tickets months ahead of time. Standing in a Will Call line stinks, especially for bigger cons like Gen Con where the wait can easily be two hours.

2 – One day tickets. Most cons offer a one day option. While one day may not be enough time to see EVERYTHING at the convention center, its usually just fine for hitting the highlights and still getting to spend a few hours on the thing you enjoy the most (game demos, shopping, discussion panels, etc.)

3 – Go early, or late. Thursdays and Sundays are typically the least busy days of a convention. Beating the crowd means you’ll spend less time waiting to get the attention of your favorite publisher or trying out the new hotness.

4 – Find a map. Looking for a map online can save you hours of aimless wandering. Don’t depend on getting a map at the con (sometimes these disappear fast). At the very least, find a map of the convention cente, so when your favorite media personalities says they’ll be in Room 123 you’ll know exactly where to go.

5 – Have a Plan. Events, demos, guest appearances and the like are announced ahead of the actual convention dates. Take a half hour on the bus or during lunch to plan out which events you really want to attend.

6 – Dress comfortably. We have all worn those fantastic 4 inch heels out for the night and wound up home hours before the club closed with aching arches. Do yourself a favor and go casual. Whatever you’re the most comfy in, whether its yoga pants or a cute sundress, keep heavy shoulder bags, painful shoes, and too-tight jeans in the closet for another day.

7 – Bring the kids. No sitter? No problem. Many conventions now offer family days (most often Sundays) and cheaper priced kid’s tickets as well as spaces for kids to game. Negate the pick up/drop off delay and introduce the munchkins to your favorite hobby.

8 – Or Don’t. We love ’em, but sometimes crowds and small kids aren’t the best mix, especially with limited time. Exchange play dates with a friend or hire a local college student to give you a a day to explore without kid-wrangling.

9 – Ask around. Board game social media is filled with fantastic folk that are happy to answer questions and give advice. Crowd source your big questions. Contact your favorite vlogger or writer for spicifics, particularly if your likes and life path seem to be similar and you think their advice would be handy. Those in the know are usually happy to share.

10 – Enjoy. Don’t cram 11 events into 9 hours. Don’t try and fit in EVERY demo. Nothing will burn you out and leave you hangry, exhausted, and unproductive for days after faster than over doing it. Set a few small goals and above all – HAVE FUN!

Whether you’re there for an afternoon of casual gaming or 4 days worth of events, panels, and midnight werewolf, everyone should get to enjoy at least one great convention experience.  Don’t let time be your limiter!

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. ~ JRR Tolkien

The Busy Girl’s Guide to…

You got up this morning. Went to the gym. Took a shower. Did something with your hair. Gulped down a smoothie. Dropped kids at school and headed to work. Eight hours of hustle. Picked up kids. Got dinner situated. Answered emails. Walked the dog. Tidied up. Read the news. Tucked little ones in. Repaired someone’s pants/computer/toy. Crawled into bed. Watched an episode of Blue Planet. Fell asleep.

Maybe you homeschool instead of going to a job outside your home, maybe your kids are actually fur babies, but there’s a good chance most of your weekdays are some variation of this. And its not a bad grind. But how do you fit gaming into your week with everything that HAS to get done?

The object of the Busy Girl’s Guide is to help maximize our game time even with minimum time. Can’t go to a weekend con? Don’t have time to create a perfect prototype for your game idea? Want to play something fun but have to include all ages? We’ll talk tips for casual gamers and industry professionals alike.

#Bestlife doesn’t have to be #busylife. But it sure does feel like it sometimes. Grab a cuppa, put your feet up for a moment, and lets chat about games.