Cardboard magic: The reopening of Board Games at Basecamp

Singapore-based board games meetup group Board Games at Basecamp have found new digs at Marina Bay MRT. From this Saturday (5 May), they will be holding weekly meetups there from 2 to 6pm. Whether or not you think board games are your cup of tea, founder Daryl Chow is here to tell you why you should clear your calendar to make your way down. – ed.

The following piece started out as a regular ‘come play here, we have lots of games’ shout-out – before coming to the realisation that an article like that isn’t what people need. The truth is, odds are you’ve already made your minds up about board games. From my years of board game ambassadoring, there are a number of people who flat out dislike board games, and a much greater number who are just apathetic to their existence.

At the risk of oversimplification, these people fall into a number of categories. You may be the type that only knows board games from the Hasbro basics like Monopoly or Uno, and have decided that games for children or families aren’t worth your time and brainpower. Or, you might associate board games with the abstract classics of chess or Go, thinking that board games are high level computations with no tangible connection to regular human beings. A third possibility is that you may equate board games with dungeon crawls or space fantasies, and have come to the conclusion that the nerdiness or commitment level of these games are not your cup of tea.

If you fell into any, or all, of the above categories, I don’t disagree with you. In fact, I couldn’t agree more. There are many things to dislike about board games – they have a laundry list of limitations, including being too childish, too complex, too abstract, and too theme-specific. Very few other forms of entertainment require so much time commitment to learn sets of rules, not to mention having to gather a bunch of volunteers before you even sit down to start. Why then, do people even play board games at all?

HERE’S WHY YOU SHOULD

Here’s where I do an about-face and try to convince you why we do, and why you should, too. Let me direct you back to that earlier sentence. How can anything be at once so simple, yet so difficult? So abstract, yet so overly thematic? How is it possible that we can criticise something for being two extremes at once? And herein lies the crux of the issue: just like any other forms of media or entertainment or social activity, board games are only a medium. And just like any other medium, disliking some forms of the medium should not mean that you hate that medium. You can’t read a dictionary, a do-it-yourself guide and a couple of horror novels and honestly say that you hate all books.

Within any medium, you should always be able to pick and choose your preferences as a thinking individual. That is why you don’t ask people if they like music, you ask them what kind of music they like. You ask people what their favourite movie is, already with the assumption that they have one.The same should apply to board games. To say you aren’t into board games is the same as a Shylock proclaiming he despises all music – you just haven’t met a game you like yet.

At its essence, the medium of board games is meant to connect people, and to foster thought. The rules of the games, especially well-designed ones, should promote interaction, engagement, or at the very least get you to think. It is technically possible to hate the medium of board games, but by extension that would mean that you hate your fellow human beings and also any form of intellectual activity, in which case – I hear they are asking for volunteers to Mars?

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE

Board games, therefore, are about people. It is a form of entertainment powered by people, and cannot be consumed solo like with music or movies. The people you play with are a lens through which you experience the game.

And here’s where I tell you – we have the best people. Over the past year, through our weekly meetups, we’ve slowly but surely built up a community – a family – of people who came out to try the games, but stayed for the people. The board games themselves are the draw, and we constantly curate them to maintain their spontaneity and challenge, but the people are why the games even matter. We try as much as possible to eliminate the barriers to getting into games by having hosts seat you at tables and passionate experts teach you rules.

We had a regular board game home at Kallang Wave Mall for a number of weeks which we had to abandon due to the transient nature of Basecamp. At the beginning, we didn’t have much furniture, nor attendees, but we grew as the amount of furniture increased over the weeks, from 20 to 30 to 50. At the very last meetup we held to say goodbye to Kallang Wave Mall, we had over 120 come out.

Still, we are not just numbers and statistics. There are people who have problems connecting to their peers, but who can finally be themselves in the spontaneity of organised play sessions. There are people who have to muster inner courage to come out, but who are rewarded for their efforts. There are people so inspired by the camaraderie that they compose ballads. (NOTE: link not yet available) There are people from more countries and cities and walks of life that you can count, coming together to meet in a world created by ourselves where these differences do not matter. We would love to have you too.

Everyone comes here as an individual, but leaves with a new family. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it can’t be just cardboard we are playing with.

Come join the fun at our new board game home at Marina Bay MRT B2-02, every Saturday from 2-6pm, starting this Saturday the 5th of May. For more details, refer to our meetup site at https://www.meetup.com/Singapore-International-Boardgames-Meetup/
or follow us at https://www.instagram.com/cardboardcrewsg/

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