I sit in my hotel room, week three of a six week work trip away from home now completed. I’ve brought along everything for the room I could want: solo boardgames, two video game consoles, and my laptop with way too many shows and yet more unfinished games I intend to catch up on. I’ve provided for myself and my sanity in every way possible, save for one. I’m still very alone. Thankfully, I have a backup plan for this as well.
I’ve quoted this line before, but it’s worth repeating: “Play with strangers.” These three simple words got me out into the larger world of Netrunner, and then I began applying them to board gaming as well. Most of the people I’m closest with outside of family are ones I’ve met through games. And so now, whenever I find myself travelling, I make it a point to seek out the local game groups. I can think of no better way (save perhaps tracking down amazing food) to get out of the hotel, and this one satisfies my need to move bits of cardboard and plastic around in an evening of fun.
I’ve seen no shortage of this question on Reddit, game forums, and on Facebook. “How do I find more people to play with?” Whether at home or, like me, on the go, here are some tried and true tips I’ve found to get the job done.
Maybe you just have a hot, new game and no one that wants to play it with you. Where do you even start looking?
A Quick Note On Safety
Boardgamers (and Netrunner players especially) are generally a cool bunch. But I would be remiss not to give a little safety disclaimer to start this article out, as we are after all discussing travel to new locations and meeting complete strangers.• Go with another if possible: if you’re travelling with a friend or significant other, or if you’re at home looking for the local meetup, going with another person is a great way to make sure everyone’s keeping a lookout for an inclusive and respectful gaming meet. • Public, not private: especially if you’re travelling alone, this one should go without saying. Private meetups are out of the question. There are plenty of great public meetups these days at bars, restaurants, geek shops, and other stores. In fact, I’d say these are the most common meetups given that gaming groups are always looking for places with nice big tables as well as possibly good food and drink. Any group looking for more players isn’t going to ask new folks to find someone’s private residence or a locale that doesn't have others flowing through it.• Gauge ahead of time: As I’ll mention below, there are ways you can talk to a group before you actually show up. If you find a group particularly clique-y or closed, it’s easy to disengage and find another. Some areas have multiple groups, so don’t feel like you need to pin all your gaming hopes on the first one you find.
You've got your safety tips. You've got your games. Now how to find that one hex the other gamers are hiding on?
Seek And You Will Find
I was sitting in the middle of my first round of a casual Netrunner tournament, roughly 45 minutes out from my hotel, when my phone buzzed. It was my aunt texting, wishing me well on my work trip and asking what I was up to. “I’m actually in a Netrunner tournament right now,” I quickly wrote back between turns. “It’s amazing how you seem to find the gaming meets wherever you go! Even out of the country,” she replied.
“It’s what I do,” was my joking response.
But it got me thinking. “Seem to find.” If I’ve managed to find boardgame and card game meetups wherever I go, it stands to reason that it’s not just all my ability to sniff them out like some cardboard bloodhound. Gaming groups exist all around us, so if you’re sitting at home lamenting the lack of interest your current friends have about your hobby, don’t despair! There are bound to be other like-minded gamers near you somewhere just waiting for you to share in the fun.
Ah, Netrunner. I can always count on you to find me a gaming group wherever I go!
There are all sorts of ways you can go about finding a gaming group. I’m sure at least one of them will work for you as they’ve worked for me!• Start with the source: if you’re looking for a local meetup, and you have a game store around you, check their calendar to see if they host a night just for boardgames. Many do. And many have a website online you can find said calendar. If all else fails, ask the people behind the counter the next time you’re there browsing.• No stores, no problem: my go-to when I travel out of town is Facebook. Searching with the name of your destination and “boardgames,” “Netrunner,” “Pathfinder,” or whatever it is you’re looking for usually yields results. Requesting to join a local meetup’s Facebook group is a great way to ask questions before you arrive, too, such as if anyone would be up for a particular game you’ve brought. If you’re travelling around holidays, this is also a great way to stay abreast of last minute cancellations.• Meetup with Meetup: you know, the app! In fact, there are a few apps out there people use to post local game meet ups. Remember, you just need to find when and where people meet, so the more places you’re checking, the better off you are. Check as many sources as you can find. Sometimes just Googling can turn up message boards and more info.• When all else fails, just Reddit: the internet can be a scary, salty place sometimes, but both r/Netrunner and r/boardgames are pretty level-headed places by comparison. I’ve had great success just saying “hey, I’m a travelling person looking for a group in area X.” Friendly folks who are happy to share their local groups will chime in and give you a hand. Some, like the boardgames subreddit, keep a handy list of groups in major areas for reference in moments such as these!• Does your pick of poison have its own resources: some games like Pathfinder have their own additional resources like the Pathfinder Society. Any additional avenue you can look down is a potential lead on an event or gathering.
Most of all, as long as you're being safe about your meetups, just try to keep an open mind and have fun!
Getting To The Games
Of course, no amount of research and planning is worth anything unless you’re ready to get out there. We all come to games for different reasons, and no one reason is any less valid than another. Maybe you’re the type of person that finds it harder to “just get out there” and dive into games with strangers. I respect that. But you probably haven’t read all the way down to this point just to pack it in and walk the other way; some part of you does want to jump into the deep end and get back to the games you love. So make the experience as easy on yourself as possible. Most gaming groups have some kind of point of contact. Get a hold of them (the ones I’ve had the most success with are Facebook and Reddit). Start some conversation with your future partners in gaming. It will be all that much easier to get out there when you know a little of what to expect and that people have a heads up on your arrival.
Finally, remember that if you're the one coming in from out of town, you're the guest. Be a courteous guest! If the local group doesn't do heavier games unless you give them a week's notice for people to express interest, play the games that get broken out that week and take the proper steps to prepare for the next one. That's what happened to me recently, and it's been GREAT. I've gotten the chance to try so many titles I've heard of but never played, and I'm all set to ask about my own games going forward in the future. A win/win situation!
However you choose to get out there and find the groups around you, I wish you luck. Life is short, so have fun gaming!