For members of the Central Louisiana Gamer’s Guild, playing hobby board games means more than just winning the games.
“We’ve made some really good friends,” said Bliss Wise.
“It’s a social group and we’re trying to build a community,” said David Miller.
“A lot of people complain that there’s nothing to do in Rapides Parish, but there is something,” said Matt Gaspard.
On a Wednesday night, Miller, Gaspard, Wise and her husband Jason, Kaysie and Louis Busby got together at the Fighting Hand Brewing Company to play games like Just One, No Thank You, Reef and The Settlers of Catan.
But the conversation turned to other things. They joked among themselves and with others at the Pineville establishment.
“You spend as much time socializing as you do board games,” said Louis Busby.
“It’s just fun to talk to,” Gaspard said.
The guild meets once a month on Saturdays at the Westside Regional Library in Alexandria.
“Usually between 30 and 40 people come,” said Gaspard.
This was the first time guild members met in Fighting Hand. Gaspard said it’s one of the places some guild members frequent and there’s a board game collection there. Guild members communicated with owners Chris and Tiffany Lindsey via Facebook. They all decided to make Fighting Hand the location of their once-a-month Wednesday night meetings. The date will be published on their Facebook page.
The group has been around for about a decade, Miller said. Gaspard said even after all this time, people are still surprised to discover there is a hobby board game group in town.
They have around 530 members and their Facebook page has 361 followers.
Miller and Wise said people would come from places like Natchitoches, Fort Polk, Leesville, Shreveport and Lafayette just to join in the fun.
“That leads me to believe that people want a gaming community if they want to get this far,” Gaspard said.
Kaysie Busby said her husband Louis got into board games early on in their relationship.
“I wasn’t interested in it. And then he got this wonderful little game called Star Realms. I really fell in love with the card games. Then we found out that it’s something we can do together and not like watching TV or being distracted by a screen. So we really understood that aspect,” she said.
“In fact, this group is one of the first things we did when we moved here four years ago,” Louis said, adding that they moved here from Southeast Louisiana.
The correct term for this type of board game is hobby board game, Miller said.
Gaspard and Miller said they don’t play mass-marketed board games like Monopoly just because players know early on whether they’re going to have fun or just end up watching someone else play who wins.
If someone brought a mass-marketed board game to one of the meetings, they wouldn’t be turned away, Gaspard said. But you would like to introduce them to new hobby board games.
He said there are so many different types of games that there is something for everyone.
Gaspard has a stack of games in his truck, including Bears vs. Babies and another game he recently added to his collection, Poetry for Neanderthals.
Another aspect of the games that Gaspard pointed out is that they are aesthetic in one way or another.
“For example, if you look at my stack over there, the top one, ‘Bears vs. Babies’, the name sounds a bit strange, but the artwork is very clear. The box is covered with felt fur. “A lot of our stuff is aesthetically pleasing in one form or another,” he said.
Here to Sleigh is another game that Gaspard just ordered.
“I love it. It’s like little anthropomorphic animals. It’s a really cute game for kids to play and there’s enough strategy for adults,” he said.
Gaspard shows off the artwork on the Sushi Go! cards
The cuteness of the artwork will encourage children to play, but also give them something to look at, he said.
“It’s something you can practically learn and start playing,” he said.
How long it takes to play a game depends on the game, Miller said.
“For get-togethers, for example in the library, we go from noon to about 8 p.m. But during this time we are not just playing a game. We will try to play as many players as possible, as far as the schedule allows,” he said.
Some games can be played in 15 to 20 minutes, while others can take several hours, Gaspard said.
“It just depends on what you’re playing,” he added.
He said there will likely be a Dungeons & Dragons table at Wednesday’s meetings, but most likely board games will be played.
At Fighting Hand, access to the venue is restricted to those over the age of 21 as alcohol is served there.
“The library is more family-friendly. We can’t bring kids here, so it’s going to be a slightly different audience,” he said.
Gaspard said he regularly brings his 16-month-old to library meetings because gaming is a family event and he also enjoys being around children.
“We have a 7 year old, an 11 year old and a 13 year old. They play there regularly. We have children’s games,” Wise said of the library meetings.
Gaspard said there may be fewer children’s games when they meet at Fighting Hand, but the adults still have a lot of fun.
“I suspect the strategy differences in the kids’ games are a bit simpler, but not in substance,” he said, adding that none of the games will feature anything that isn’t kid-friendly.
According to Miller and Gaspard, the group is trying to bring together the gaming community in central Louisiana.
Miller said many guild members also play video games, although that’s not their primary focus.
“We do things online. We have our Discord group,” he said.
Gaspard said he and Louis Busby recently visited Gamer’s Pair-a-dice in Jena to connect with the gaming community there. The group plans to do activities with them as well. The shop has an events calendar on their Facebook page and plans to add guild activities as well.
Miller and Gaspard both said the gaming community feels isolated. There are individual groups that play war games, trading card games, hobby board games or role-playing games.
“Typically, if you enjoy one of those things, if you play it, you will enjoy the other, too,” Gaspard said.
“We want people to have a place where they feel they belong,” Miller said.
“The group has something for everyone,” Gaspard said.
To learn more, visit their Facebook page, Central Louisiana Gamer’s Guild.