Category Archives: playing in public

R:CoM Swag!


Last night at Madison Board Games & Beer, the open-to-the-public board game night I organize, my game designer pal Kane Klenko gave me a handful of these ROME: CITY OF MARBLE beer coasters be brought back from the R&R Games booth at Gen Con. They look awesome!


Word play around the campfire


I’m fresh off a memorable weekend of tent camping at Kohler-Andrae State Park in Wisconsin, on the sandy shore of Lake Michigan, with a large group of friends and acquaintances. It was a weekend filled with adventure, play, laughter, learning, food and fun.

I was introduced to a clever colloquial word game our first night there, as ten adults and a passel of children huddled around a picnic table in one small screened tent to shelter from the pouring rain outside. The game–it lacks a formal name–is played with nothing more than your imagination. Structurally it’s a bit vague and open-ended, but it has a solid core that, with a little effort, could be formalized into a marketable party game.  The game play is difficult to describe, but as an easy analogy you could call it “Word Zendo.”

I plan to take a stab at developing this game a bit further, and we’ll see what comes of it.


a benefit of playing games in public

Earlier this month, my regular Tuesday night board gaming group, Madison Board Games & Beer, participated in a board game charity event held at Wisconsin Brewing Company. The event was organized by my friend Scott Bogen, a Madison-area gamer and host of The Board Game Show Podcast. This gaming event was a benefit for Verona Area Needs Network’s Move the Food campaign. It was well attended and by all accounts a great success!

The turnout was impressive and the event was a ton of fun. The kind folks at WBC were incredibly patient and accommodating of this larger-than-anticipated event, which was open to the general public. They quite happily set up additional tables for us out in the brewery space when the taproom tables filled up. I’d estimate there were close to 150 people playing games that Tuesday evening.

Games are a great tool for community building and outreach. I plan to look into organizing a similar benefit event for The Goodman Center, an amazing community center and food pantry doing vital work in my own neighborhood. Have you ever organized a charity gaming event for the general public? What challenges did you face?

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Playing board games at a brewery. As you do. #bgnb

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kubb, lawn game of vikings.

I recently learned how to play Kubb, a delightful lawn game which may or may not have been invented by Vikings.

Kubb is an outdoor skittle bowling game played by two teams. Players take turns in throwing their six wooden batons at five wooden blocks called “kubbs” attempting to knock them down.  The goal is to knock down all five of the opposing team’s kubbs, then knock down the “king” block before the opposing team does.

Kubb has an engaging back-and-forth in the game play and strategic field positioning that reminds me of medieval warfare.

Set ’em Up and Knock ’em Down

The two teams begin the game with their kubbs lined up in opposing battle lines, with the king standing in the center of the field.

The first team begins play by throwing  their batons at the opposing line of kubbs. Any line kubbs knocked down are tossed back to the throwing team’s side and stood up in the field where they lay.

The second team then throws their batons, but must knock down these field kubbs before knocking down opposing line kubbs.

And once the opposing side’s kubbs are all downed, the king is an easy target.

Your throwing line is always marked at the field kubb on your side nearest the center. All your throws are made from this line.

If a team manages to knock down all field kubbs and all line kubbs on the opposing side, they may attempt to knock down the king–if they have a baton left!

A Backyard Battlefield

The initial throws bring to mind volleys of arrows between opposing lines on a battlefield. The knocked-down kubbs thrown back across to the opponent’s side are like riders, perhaps, sallying to skirmish on the field. The action changes focus sharply to the swirling skirmishes in mid-field, before resuming the fight in the battle lines. The ebb and flow of the throwing line mimics the gain and loss of ground in a battle.

And once the opposing side’s kubbs are all downed, the king is an easy target.

Viking Chess?

I love to play kubb. I love socializing over a casual game with friends in a park and answering questions from strangers about this strange-looking game of blocks and sticks. I love the sheer physicality of throwing the batons and trying to knock stuff down. It taps directly into my own childhood, bringing back memories of play, of make-believe battles and pretend wars in my back yard.

I suppose, really, kubb has about as much of a warfare theme as chess, but playing kubb gives me a thrill that tabletop games like chess simply can’t.

For More Information… 

If you’d like to learn more about kubb, check out this video.

You can download official rules and more at the U.S. National Kubb Championship page.

Check your Friendly Local Game Store for Kubb sets. I got the beautiful set pictured above at I’m Board Games and Family Fun in Madison, WI.

board games are “making a comeback”

Since 1990, we’ve been told that board games are “making a comeback.”

Every few weeks we see another article in a local newspaper or hear another story on the radio about how board games are “making a comeback” or “gaining in popularity” compared to video games.

I'll see your board game cafe and raise you a bar

The relatively new phenomenon of the board game cafe has fueled a lot of the recent wave of articles.

Inevitably, when these mainstream stories are reported in the tabletop gaming press, the eye-rolling is nearly as loud as the audible sighs from dedicated board game enthusiasts.

“Board games never went anywhere,” we exasperate.

“Catan has been around for nearly twenty years,” we peeve.

We’ve got it wrong.

“Welcome,” we should be saying.

“Sit down and play!”

“Is it any surprise the media doesn’t know we exist?”

The media’s clockwork astonishment in finding board games being played might be traced to the fact that, until the recent boom in board game cafes, board gamers have largely been invisible. Our weekly game nights are in someone’s basement or living room. If we go out at all, we’re tucked into the back rooms of our friendly local game stores.

Is it any surprise the media doesn’t know we exist?

We can change this. We can play games in public spaces. We can invite strangers to sit down and learn a new game. We can no longer wait for them to come to us.

Go play in public!

Be visible! Take advantage of public spaces at your local library. Many already support gaming in the library. Check with your neighborhood branch or main library for available programs or volunteer to start your own.

Be proactive! Organize a game night at a local pub or coffee house. Most establishments will welcome the extra business on a slow night. Be courteous to the staff and other patrons. Establish a rapport, and people will seek you out.

Madison Board Games and Beer at Next Door Brewing Company.
Madison Board Games and Beer at Next Door Brewing Company.

I started a bi-weekly game night at Next Door Brewing Company, a neighborhood brew pub. I created a Facebook group to organize it, called Madison Board Games and Beer. It’s an open group; anyone can join and members are encouraged to host their own game nights. We’re up to 129 group members and growing quickly.

Word is spreading.

Board gaming is main stream. We are main stream. It’s time to let everyone else know.