When you’re into board games, finding people to play the games you like is not always easy. If the game you really want to play is long, complicated or it takes a while to get the rules, chances are, it’s gonna be even harder to find a group of players willing to commit time and effort.
Board game enthusiast and software engineer Robin Cafolla is working to bring people with this hobby together, through his recently launched Board Game Network, a free online service that allows you to organise events and find players for board games.
We spoke recently during a Board Games Ireland meetup, and he explained more about his project: “It’s a finder and event organiser for board games, like a matching service that tries to help you find players for the games that you wanna play and hopefully it will get people with similar taste in board games together.”
While it’s Dublin-based for now, Robin hopes to escalate soon and eventually to go global. “It’s very Dublin-focused at the moment because finding players for board games is a very location-specific problem. I looked at like how other apps have solved this issue, how do you escale when you need to find people in a location, and most of them focused very narrowly in a specific place, built up an audience there and then spread out from that location.”
How did you came up with the idea?
“When I was a teenager I played Warhammer and it was always hard to find players, particularly outside of Dublin. I think when I started playing board games again a couple of years ago as part of Board games Ireland, I remembered what it was like to struggle to find people and how hard it is to put together a group and how hard it is to regularly meet people for games.
I did a little bit of research and there seemed to be an apetite, people seemed to think it was a good idea, particularly for finding people for specific games. Groups like this are great for meeting up and just playing something, but if you want to play a specific game it can be hard.”
He explains that while users can find people they know and arrange to meet, the real goal of the Board Game Network is to help you find new players.
How does it work?
“You create an event, you check the box that says find new players and the application matches the games that you selected to play with the players and the available space.”
It looks through the possible players and matchmakes, aiming to pick the ones that are most likely to reply to the event.
“What we’re doing at the moment is we’re changing focus a bit and we’re reworking the player finder so that when somebody creates an event it will suggest players to them and they’ll manually select the players they’d like to invite because we think that gives people a better idea of what’s happening.”
Board Game Network is currently in beta and has been so for approximately four months. Until now, there has been “very little marketing”, Robin points out, as he has focused in getting players to test the features and polish the last pieces rather than in expanding the audience.
Despite that, it’s open to all users who wish to create an account. All you need is an email address. Users have to be at least 18 years of age, as it involves getting to meet people in the real world and Robin was not on board with the idea of minors using the service.
Board game trends
While Robin mentions that he normally prefers Eurogames (“games that are very heavy on mechanics and maybe lighter on theme”) and worker placement board games, he notes a few trends in recent years.
For example, a peak in Eurogames and tile games, as well as a many new games in the long tail of the worker placement genre. “There’s been a lot more abstract games in the last few years”, he adds.
Are there any unmissable events for the Board gamer’s calendar?
“I think the one that I would recommend to anyone who’s into the hobby is the Spiel Essen Board Game Convention. It’s just… the escale of it is outstanding. You play board games and it feels like a niche hobby but when you go to Germany and go to the biggest board game convention in the world – I think there were 190,000 people there in four days last year- you realise that there are so many people that are interested in this.”
“We’re still in beta but we would really appreciate people siging up, particularly people who would be willing to give us some feedback and critique what’s there. Ultimately what we have at the moment is a test, a look into what it will be like and we need feedback to improve it and get it to a final stage.”
For more information or for joining visit boardgamenetwork.com