Eight years ago, I moved to a new city away from my friends and family. I didn’t know anyone except the colleagues I met in my new job, and the loudest housemate I’d ever had. I quickly figured out how to find people to play games with, which was an actual lifesaver. I started going to full day gaming sessions once a month and made new friends, some of who I’m still friends with today.
Since then, I’ve been to board game conventions, hosted 50+ board games evenings, and would call myself an avid board gamer. Board gamers are, in my experience, super friendly and nice people. And of course, perfect to play board games with. You just need to know how to find them. Here are my time-tested methods on how to find people to play board games.
1. Board Game Cafes
Board game cafes are a great option if you're fairly new to board games, as cafe staff (often board games geeks themselves!) will always be on hand to provide recommendations and explain the rules. My local cafe often has an open gaming table for anyone who wants to go alone and play board games, and they also run beginner gaming events. As a commercial venue, these sessions cost, but you have access to a huge selection of games, expertise, and even hot drinks (perfect to fuel your gaming session!) Plus, because someone is hosting there will be some structure, and you know what to expect going in.
I found a board game group in my area on Meetup, and with over 3,900 board game groups worldwide, it's likely you can too. These groups tend to host regular drop-in board game sessions in a public place where gamers bring their own board games and share with the group. The sessions I attended in a local pub were casual and social, which was great for meeting new people. Although registration to the website is free, some groups may charge a small admission to sessions to cover costs of running the group, but who can put a price on friendship?
As well as collections of books, libraries often have a dedicated corner of board games that can be used by patrons. Libraries are known to host free community sessions for days like International TableTop Day in June— a day that board gamers love—and volunteers arrange gaming events for International Games Week in November, which are family-friendly. The libraries will encourage individuals to join tables to play board games together.
4. Board Game Arena
Global restrictions on gatherings and travel have prevented many physical board game events. During the pandemic, I've been playing board games virtually on the Board Game Arena. As the world's number one platform for playing board games online, it has over 390 games to play with people from across the world. When you want to play a game, the platform will locate players for you. It then "builds" a virtual table where you can chat to your fellow players during the game. Many games are free to play, and there's a handy video tutorial for each game, so it's also perfect to learn new games at your own pace. From my experience, you need a large screen (a computer or tablet) to ensure you call see all the smaller game elements properly.
5. Board Game Shops
Like board game cafes, these are commercial venues, but have the primary purpose of selling games. Because the shops specialize in games, they are a valuable resource to connect you to events and local gaming groups. You might even bump into board gamers there! They sometimes host their own events, from release day demos to casual play sessions, to bring the local community together. These are usually free, and sometimes they'll offer a discount on board games bought during the event. This is handy if you’re thinking about starting, or expanding, your own collection.
6. Facebook Groups or Events
I found a free board games day in a bookstore, simply by searching for "board game events" on Facebook. Libraries, board game cafes, and shops also post their events on Facebook, so it's a great place to start a search for other board game players.
Facebook groups dedicated to board gamers in your location are a great way to connect and chat with local gamers. Many even host friendly chats on Discord. There are likely to be more experienced gamers in the group who can show you the ropes and provide a carpool to larger events, like board game conventions.
7. Board Game Conventions
The ultimate place to find people to play board games with is at a board game convention. It’s perhaps the most intimidating option for beginners, but it has an incredible atmosphere. Taking place over several days, there are board game demos, stalls, and open gaming, where entire rooms of board gamers play board games from early until late. There’s even a library of games to borrow from. Popular conventions include Spiel in Germany, the UK Games Expo, and PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia.
If you want to play board games and meet friends along the way, there are definitely plenty of options once you know where to look. Good luck discovering your next favorite game!