I’ve been trying to organize a few members of our gaming group to participate in the Play in Public (PiP) Campaign (started by Kevin at Seize Your Turn) for a month or so now. This week, I made an open announcement on our BGG guild, complete with a destination and a time to leave, and I was determined to make it happen one way or another. When the time came and I stepped into game night, two other fine gaming evangelists, Chip and Keith, joined me on our trip to the local Barnes & Noble.
I had scoped out the cafe area earlier in the day, and we were lucky that one of the two 4-person tables was available. Chip and I had each brought a game or two, and so after ordering a drink or snack (just to make sure that we didn’t annoy the staff too much), we pulled out our first game…
Forbidden Island [GeekDo]
For a smallish city, Burlington actually has a pretty nice B&N. Pretty nice, that is, except for their woefully pittiful game selection. We certainly didn’t have to worry about anyone thinking that we were stealing some of their games, but I was a little concerned about what would happen if someone was interested in one of the games we were playing and couldn’t find it easily. To sort of find a middle ground, I thought that it would be a good idea to start with Forbidden Island, which is a game that could certainly be ordered through B&N if a patron there wanted to get their own copy.
So as we got set up, Chip randomly picked the Pilot role, while Keith was the Explorer and I was the Messenger (I think that’s what it’s called). We were playing on the “normal” difficulty, and despite a couple of very early Waters Rise cards, we really didn’t have much trouble all game long. We won with a good chunk of the board remaining, and never really felt threatened.
Time: 25 minutes
Score: Treasure Hunters (Chip, Keith & Me) – Win; Forbidden Island – Lose
Ratings: Chip 8, Keith 8, Me 8
B&N wasn’t terrible busy, but there were a few people around in the cafe on their laptops or just talking. But unfortunately, none of them even seemed to notice that we were playing a game. But we weren’t dismayed or anything, so we just decided to pull out another game and keep playing.
Cartagena is one of Chip’s and my favorite fillers, and we got to introduce it to Keith for the first time. I went last and followed the new guy, so I probably had a bit of an advantage early, playing off some of his moves to get 2 or 3 of my pirates pretty far along the track. But Keith catches on quick, and by midgame, he was making moves like a pro. In the end, I still managed to put together enough cards to get all my pieces on the ship first and take the win, but Chip and Keith probably could have done the same on their very next turns.
Time: 25 minutes
Score: Me 6, Chip 5, Keith* 4
Ratings: Me 8, Chip 9, Keith 8
Again, we didn’t get anyone coming over to look or ask questions, but that dude in the background there was wearing a fantasy-themed t-shirt, so I know that, deep down, he was interested…
For our last game, I pulled out an old favorite with our group, Taluva, which was also new to Keith. Taluva is just such a beautiful and interesting-looking game on the table, and I was really hoping that it would attract a little more attention. I used to be really good at it back when we played a lot, and while I’m definitely a little rusty, I was still able to manage my pieces well enough to play out all of my Towers and Huts in time to win the game.
Time: 16 minutes
Score: Me – Win (Towers & Huts), Chip & Keith* – Lose
Ratings: Me 8, Chip 7.5, Keith 7.5
And again, we didn’t have anyone show any real interest in what we were doing. We got so completely little reaction, in fact, that I almost take it as a good sign. I’m sure that part of it was the fact that the assumed social contract in the cafe was to be quiet and let other people alone, but I still figured that we’d get a few more raised eyebrows or extended glances. So while people may not necessarily be seeking out more information about these “different” boardgames, they’re also apparently not all freaked out by them.
And despite the lack of interest from bystanders, I still had a great time with the PiP experiment. It’s pretty cool to get out of your normal gaming places and stretch your legs a little bit. When we got back to Hypermind for the rest of game night, we had a few other suggestions of places that may have a little more traffic, which I hope that we can try to hit in the coming weeks and months.
I’m also hopeful that I’ll be able to start looking for other opportunities and settings to play games in public. There aren’t a lot of people at my work that seem interested in playing games, but I wonder if there’s anyone else who works in Burlington that might be interested in getting in a game over lunch every so often. And even if there’s not, maybe I could start taking a nice solo game with me when I go out to lunch alone, just to see how it works.
Are there any other ideas out there? Are any of you participating in the PiP Campaign?
* First play for that Person