So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bait Games – Getting your family and friends to play

Since you are the one reading this post, it would be natural to guess that you are the one most interested in playing games in your family or group.  In fact, you may be the only person interested.  It may come as a surprise to you, but I feel your pain.

Most of my gaming is with my gaming group that meets once a month.  I would certainly like to play more often than that though.  That leaves me three choices, playing solitaire games, playing online or getting my family to play.  I have a few solitaire games; it’s really not the same experience.  Playing online is great for chess, but leaves me cold for other games.  Let’s talk about the last option; playing games with those friends and family you spend most of your time with.  There are three things that help draw people to the game table: great looking game bits, how fast the game plays, and a theme that appeals.

Because I like sports games, I have two football games.  The first is Bowl Bound, a college football simulation that is the sister game to Paydirt, which some of you may remember.  Bowl Bound was originally published by Sports Illustrated in 1973, and is faithful to the game of football.  It features lots of charts and tables and one little flat football.  Last week I picked up Battleball (which just sounds cooler) from the thrift store.  Published by Milton Bradley in 2003, it is the “future of football”.  Which is the better football game?  To a football fan (me), that would be Bowl Bound.  To a 13 year-old boy (my son), it’s definitely Battleball, because of the truly cool figurines. “Wow, miniatures!”, Daniel says.  “When do we play this?”  The Awesomeness Factor is definitely a pull.

Battleball - All kinds of awesomeness! (Photo by Henry Durand)
This works a little differently for my wife.  She likes games that are visually balanced and/or beautiful as you play.  It’s actually more important than winning to her.  Scrabble games must fill the whole board, which is aesthetically appealing to her.  Another favorite is Carcassonne, which produces a beautiful map of cities and countryside by the end of the game.  Players build it as they go, and it never looks the same way twice.  Again, the visual appeal gets her to play this game more than others.

The Carcassonne Countryside (Photo by Mecandes)
Time commitment will often be another factor.  The “speed” of the game has three pieces to it.  First of all, most people who play more casually are looking for a game they can learn fast.  Secondly, they want a game that keeps them involved, without a lot of “down time” between actions.  Lastly, and most obviously, they may not want to commit to a four hour marathon even if there is time.  Ask someone to describe Monopoly in one word, and you will most likely get the word “long”.  At first, a game should probably last less than an hour.  Once your family and friends realize this is fun, they will have the patience to learn longer and more complicated games.

The final factor is theme.  Most people like playing a game about a topic they like.  Daniel likes fantasy themes, which shouldn’t be a surprise with him being a boy his age.  In fact, his favorite game is War of the Ring, which has a fantasy theme, figurines and a huge map of Tolkien’s Middle Earth – go figure.  My wife, being a school librarian, almost immediately likes word games.  We were introduced to Bananagrams over this past Christmas, and she immediately wanted all three games in the series.  Those are the two types of games I can almost always get them to play.

War of the Ring (Photo by Christopher Bartlett)
I will admit those themes are worlds apart.  Getting all three of us to the table at the same time isn’t easy.  Taking turns is the rule for picking games as well as playing them.  I can be persuaded to play almost anything, so that helps a little. Flexibility is important.

I would love to hear what works for you and yours.  Please let me know what themes work for your family.  There may be a theme that appeals to you that will help someone else find a game for their family and friends, and you may find a new theme too.  Until then…

Keep rolling along!

1 comment:

  1. I like the points you made about getting your family and friends to play games with you. Another point that I think helps is to find games where you can talk during the game. Playing games is all about the social aspect. So games where you spend most of the game concentrating on your own stuff and not really interacting are also a turnoff to new players.