Last week, Vijal and I went to The Uncommons - the first board game cafe in Manhattan - and had our very first game night with a dedicated board game crowd. It gave us a buzz to see so many people deeply engaged in play, whether in couples or groups.
The place was packed, and cozy, with games on shelves up to the ceiling. We met the owners, Greg and Maxwell in between their running snacks and games to various tables.Our own survey of the place revealed 3 distinct groups: regulars on a mission to win their weekly game night, explorers curious about many types of games and meeting new people, and couples on dates (love that!).
We had great chats with all 3 types. The ones used to hard board game mechanics and strategy gameplay -- i.e. “How do you rack up the most points?” and “What are the different ways you can win?” -- approached our game in a particularly interesting way. While Ani-gram-it is a strategy game with elements of chance, we didn’t design it with winning in mind: we designed it to be a fun way of learning about animals. That threw a few people for a loop, and made us wonder “How we can communicate that to board game enthusiasts like these moving forward?” We continue to see two main types of players: people who play to play, and people who play to win (and show their expertise by winning). The first group is more open to chance and new experiences and I call them “players”. The second group likes to constrain the activity towards mastery and winning, so I call them “masters.”
If you show “players” what they already know through gameplay, they’ll build on it by playing, which means lots of different age groups (several ages of kids, and young adult through grandparents) can engage together. Ani-gram-it is a nice change from the regular games most people have and play in settings like this and at home, and it still gives them the opportunity to learn something new together.
When it comes to “masters”, there’s no argument that you can be very strategic and competitive with Ani-gram-it. Especially if you have biology and zoology expertise. Yet, knowing more about animals will not make you a master of the game unless you play to the high level strategically - meaning, going through the same rounds the players do.
That said, we realized that Ani-gram-it works for both “players” and “masters,” and those two types can play together. Even in the same game. It’s a really nice option for a social game, and one we’re proud of at na2ure.
I always discover a new animal facts when I play our game, and that’s the feature (learning from other players) many people love about Ani-gram-it. Vijal and I play a fairly open style game, and so if we wonder if there was such thing as a venomous crustacean for example, we look it up. And voilá! There is! It’s a newly discovered species called Speleonectes tulumensis. It’s a nasty little bugger. And we made it by accident!
We had a great time visiting the The Uncommons. We found out they are friends with Boston board game cafe Knight Moves, featured in this recent article on the resurgence of board games. Hopefully, we can continue to make inroads into the board game community and see how the very bio-heavy Boston crowd likes Ani-gram-it.
What do you think: Do you visit board game cafes? Which style of game appeals to you and your group? Are you a player or a master? Let us know in the comments below - or on Facebook and Twitter!