Playing in Public: An Expedition into the Wilds of Regular Humanity

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 [GeekDo]

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… 

Taluva [GeekDo]

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


  1. Alton

    “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.”

    B&N for shame, for shame! OR maybe we could tell them about Hypermind and our great FLGS in Burlington NC… Hmmmm What do you think?

    I mean let’s start supporting our STORE and talk about Tuesday Game Night at Hypermind.

    It’s just a thought.

  2. Chris Norwood

    So, are you NOT telling people about game night and Hypermind already?  Because I do all the time.  The whole PiP Campaign thing isn’t instead of everything else that I do for our group, the store, and gaming in general, it’s in addition to it.  Because, you know, if no one tells people about all these freaking awesome games that we’re playing, most of them will never know.  Heck, some of the people at game night wouldn’t know, had I or others not told them.

    And I don’t know about you, but the thought of sitting in one place of business and telling people to go to another place of business just seems tacky to me. 

  3. Alton

    Tacky or not; I just feel that we need to support OUR store whenever we can. I don’t see B&N, the Mall or any other place supporting our gaming efforts and providing a place to gather and play as Hypermind does.

    It’s a place that we can share our gaming hobby with others on a night set aside just for us. I’m all for getting people involved in our hobby. I just want to see us always support the store that supports us.

    That means buying your games from Hypermind when you can, bring like minded friends to the Hypermind game night and when you are out playing in public telling the folks that seem interested in your game of the great FLGS down the street where there are games to buy and play, new friends to be made, old friends to enjoy and a wonderful break each week on Tuesday night we call Hypermind Board-game Night.

    It’s a night I look forward to every week and would hate to see it and my group of gaming friends disappear.

  4. Alton

    BTW Chris great article on PiP. Maybe with such efforts we can lead a chosen few to the Light side or are we considered the Dark side.

    Anybody up for a game of Catan at B&N? On any night other than Tuesday that is.

    The game banter of Catan alone should bring a few around for a look at all the fun we are having.

  5. I think the PiP campaign could be a good thing. And I also agree with you Alton that supporting Hypermind is also our goal. Here is a suggestion: I like the thought of gaming on other nights too (if you have the time) and maybe doing a PiP on those nights. I’m good for Monday nights or Friday nights as well as Saturday Morning-early afternoon. I would love to play Catan some place soon again. (I don’t own a copy but would play if you guys bring it along). So here is the scoop: Play a PiP couple games on an off night from Tuesday (Since that is the regular Board Game night at Hypermind). Maybe bring a couple pamphlets made up telling about what the Hypermind Boardgamers do and when/where they meet so if people are interested we could draw them in and at least give them something to take home. Do you all think Denise might give them a 1 time 10% off if they were new to our board game nights and also brought the pamphlet with them? Just a suggestion…it would give her business, draw a new gamer to board game night, and be a win win for all in the long run. What do you think? Anyone willing to see if Denise would be interested in that idea?

  6. Chris Norwood

    Well, I’m not available any other time than Tuesdays, and even that may be difficult to protect in the next few months.  But y’all can certainly add in any extra PiP sessions that you want to do.  Even write them up and send them to me, and I’ll post them as guest blogs here at

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