It's Not What, But Rather Who.

Most of my posts here have been about specific games, game mechanics, and other topics along those lines.  Today I'm going to deviate a little and instead talk about the players.  A key component to good gaming, is a good gaming group.  I have a few sets of players I get together with regularly, and they all have wildly different levels of geek cred, dedication to gaming, and styles of game they like. But I love playing with all of them.  The interaction is different in each case, but it is always good.

So what makes a good gaming group?
Yup, looks about right.
The first key is people who are willing to be social.  I am generally quite introverted.  It's something I've been working on changing over the last 10 years, and I've made some progress, but still if you take me to a party where I don't know anyone, I'll be the person sitting alone in the corner, or constantly on the hip of the person who brought me.  I don't choose this, its just the way it is.

Even losing money can be fun with the right group.
However, I recently was introduced to a group of gamers though my wife.  She was at work, so I got to games night before her, walked in to a room of 6 people I had never met before, and sat down to play a game.  That's where the magic happens.  There is common ground in the game; something we all HAVE to talk about, and that helps open the proverbial door.  No stilted conversation of "what do you do?" "Where are you from?".  All these things do end up getting discussed, but the game works to break the ice and get people introduced to each other without the pressure of forced small talk.  There are games that facilitate this better than others, such as the co-op games I talk about here, or games where you show your personality like Balderdash, or where you have to discuss your motivations like The Resistance. Once you know the people at least a little better, you can really get to see their personality with Dixit or Cards Against Humanity... Playing together and being social is one of the key components to a fun tabletop experience.
The next thing that helps is a shared interest in a gaming style.  With one group, we often play Catan, Alhambra, Carcassonne, etc.  All games with a similar mechanic style, but more importantly, all games where the game play is separate from the person.  There are no characters, no role playing, no player stats to worry about.  Through our first few play sessions, it quickly became obvious what these players didn't enjoy, and as the main game provider for the group, I know what to introduce them to in the future, and what they will not have a good time with.

In contrast, the group mentioned further above is full of hard-core gamers, and they will play any style.  While I like playing games with anyone who will sit down and have fun with me, this group is my favourite.  Every time we get together, usually about once per month, it is guaranteed there will be at least one new game we haven't played before.  Exploring new games together is another fun activity, with everyone learning it at the same time, so I always look forward to these dates.

The last "who" I'll mention is the buddy system.  It's a wonderful thing to have a friend or coworker you can sit down with and have a quick game whenever you feel like it. Unfortunately my gaming coworker moved on to another job a couple of years ago, so this has been missing for me for some time, and I haven't found a replacement yet.  There's such a stress relief at work to be able to sit down at lunch and have a couple of rounds of Tsuro, Clashing Blades, Blokus, etc, and forget about that email you need to send, or the presentation you have to prepare, even if it's just for 15 minutes.

Who are your favourite people to play with?  Do you adjust your style to different groups?  Other thoughts you think I should here?  Tell me in the comments!

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