Not bored with games in Bend

Saturday board game group brings dozens to the table

By Mac McLean / The Bulletin / @agingbeat

Published Aug 3, 2014 at 12:08AM

If you go

What: Bend Board Games Meetup Group

When: 7-11 p.m. Saturdays

Where: Pappy’s Pizzeria, 20265 Meyer Drive, Bend

Contact: www.meetup.com/bendgames

Taking a break from her studies to work an internship in Central Oregon, University of California, Santa Barbara graduate student Mary-Sophia Motlow found herself alone in Bend on a Saturday night with no one to call.

She decided to solve this problem by logging on to Meetup.com — a social networking website where more than 100 clubs and groups in Central Oregon can post information about their meetings and events — to look for people who shared her interest, particularly when it comes to playing board games such as Settlers of Catan.

“That’s one of my favorite games,” she said, referring to a game players settle a land, build roads, trade with one another and harvest resources. “There was probably a year (in college) where we played it all the time.”

But instead of playing Settlers of Catan, Motlow joined two other people for some light conversation and a few slices of pizza when she sat down to play Ticket to Ride, another European-designed board game where people build railroads that connect cities, at the Bend Board Games Meetup Group’s latest strategy game night, on July 26.

“There are new people who move to Bend every week,” said Paul Adams, who founded the board games group last summer and wasn’t at all surprised it’s been attracting newcomers to its meetings. “We usually get two people at each meeting who say, ‘I just moved to Bend, and I don’t know anybody.’”

But while he’s perfectly content the board games group has become a place where people who are new to town can meet one another, Adams said, that wasn’t exactly what he had in mind when he set up its first meeting in August 2013.

“(My wife and I) wanted to have a date night and we wanted to make sure it happened,” Adams said, explaining that he and his wife, Mary — the Meetup group’s co-founder — were having problems sticking to the plans they made.

So like Motlow, they logged on to the Meetup.com website and created an event where they would get together at a local restaurant and spend a quiet Saturday night playing a few of their favorite board games.

Although this may seem an extreme step to take, Adams said, he and his wife felt like putting their plans on the website’s calender committed them to showing up. They also got regular e-mails letting them know the date night was coming up, he said, which made it difficult for them to forget about their plans.

But using Meetup.com to set up a date also had some unintended consequences; their quiet game night turned into something else when 15 other people showed up to play.

“We expected that nobody would actually come to this event because who wants to play board games on a Saturday night?” he joked. The Bend Board Games Meetup Group now boasts 161 active members.

Adams said the group has grown so quickly over the past year that he’s had to change its venue twice before finally settling on the back room at Pappy’s Pizzeria in southeast Bend.

He said about 40 people regularly show up, including four so determined they braved the aftermath of the Feb. 7 snowstorm — which blanketed Central Oregon with almost 2 feet of snow — so they could spend an evening playing card games like Dominion, Sentinels of the Multiverse and Love Letter. Adams said that like Ticket to Ride (which has sold more than 750,000 copies) and Settlers of Catan (more than 15 million copies), these card games have seen a huge burst in popularity over the past decade because they are marketed toward people who played board games as children but can’t really find a title they like as adults.

“Some of the games we liked as kids don’t really hold up when we’re older,” he said, explaining that some of the most popular board games require people to come up with a strategy and plan their moves several steps in advance.

Another development that’s led to board games’ resurgence in popularity is the creation of what Adams calls “community or team games” that create an environment where teams of players, rather than individual players, have to come together and join other teams of players or solve challenges that the game and its rules present them.

Adams said this style of game is usually one of the most popular at his events because “people are working together and they don’t have to worry about losing by a large amount or getting crushed if they don’t know how the game is played.”

Forcing people to work as a team also forces them to interact with each other, have a conversation and maybe split a pizza once it’s time to put away the game.

“This is really just a chance for people to hang out,” Adams said, adding that the real purpose of his Meetup group is to create a place where people can meet each other and make friends. “The board games are just an excuse for us to get together.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7816, mmclean@bendbulletin.com