Joe’s Bookshelf – How to Host a Game Night

Written by Erik Arneson and published by Tiller Press
ISBN 978-1-9821-5047-1 (ebook ISBN 978-1-9821-5048-8)
Review based upon a review copy provided by the publisher

Erik is, of course, one of the Opinionated Gamers writers (if possibly one even less prolific here than I am), however unlike most of us, Erik is also a published author. And he has a new book out, available today, focused on how to create a successful game event.

The primary focus of the book is on creating a successful game night, but Erik also addresses such topics as creating a two-player game event, a game day, a game weekend, a small convention, and even – very apropos – online gaming get-togethers. He proposes not only general ground rules, but specific suggestions from food and drink options to how to build a harmonious game group to suggestions for games well suited to various occasions.

Now I must admit – going into reading this, I was curious just what I’d get out of it. After all, I’ve been organizing a game group for 25 years. But Erik has a number of suggestions and viewpoints which I hadn’t considered, along with some good advice that unfortunately comes way too late for me to benefit from. On the whole, there was more than enough that the book was a quick and enjoyable read for me; I think it would be invaluable to someone looking to start a new event from scratch.

If I have a quibble with the book, it’s only that there are some events I’ve seen be very successful which aren’t suggested. Erik writes about the advantage of having a coherency to a game night – which I agree makes perfect sense – but not about the option of organizing multiple game nights, each with a different focus. Joe Rushanan does this, and it works very well; he has a fast group, a fiscal group, and a fun group. While there is some overlap – the fun group does play fiscal games sometimes, and the fast group frequently does, for example – this differing focus helps each group to work well. Another type of event that Erik doesn’t cover is the house-con, which falls somewhere between a weekend get-together and a convention. Finally, I have a personal issue with one of his ground rules – “Don’t read from the rulebook.” I’m well aware that this method of learning the rules isn’t for everyone, but with the right group this can be a great way to learn to play a game. It’s a cooperative game, really, where everyone is working to help the table understand what to do. Most people aren’t fond of that experience, but personally I love it. There also are a few exceptions, games such as Galaxy Trucker where the rulebook is so amusing that many of the rules absolutely should be read.

But, as I say, these are quibbles. It’s an excellent book, well written and a great resource for anyone looking to create or improve a gaming group. And, even better, a fun book to read, as well.

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