Down time – What to do when you’re not gaming

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I don’t actually sit down and game every waking hour. There are times where I’ll go days without playing a board game. But there are things to do when you aren’t playing board games that can still help scratch that itch. I’ve listed some of my favorites below, but feel free to add your own in the comments.

Website browsing

Obviously I spend a lot of time on BoardGameGeek, but there are some specific areas I spend time on. I am subscribed to my favorite board games and board game companies, like Alien Frontiers. When you subscribe, you can get every post that comes up for that game. You can spend time helping people find answers to their questions, get answers to questions you didn’t even realize you had, or just see news about the game.

I am also subscribed to the Kickstarter family on BoardGameGeek, which means I get updates whenever a new game is added. This allows me to know when games are put up on Kickstarter so I can get more information about them. If it looks like a game I’m not interested in, I just go past it, but I’ve found a few games I wouldn’t have otherwise using this method.

Podcasts

I am a fan of podcasts, for a variety of reasons. I love hearing what other people love about the hobby and about specific games. I also like to hear what they don’t like, as it helps me connect with them. Once I know what kinds of games a podcaster likes and doesn’t like, I can use their reviews to get ideas of what I’ll think of the games they talk about. I love using these podcasts to help pass the time when I’m on a long drive.

I’m a big fan of The State of Games done by Dice Hate Me Games. Chris (Dice Hate Me) and Cherilyn (monkey238) do a great job of telling stories when they review games, which makes their opinions of the games all the more relevant to me. Knowing not only how they feel about a game, but why they feel that way makes me appreciate their opinion more.

The Dice Tower is a classic podcast that I’m working my way through. It’s filled with loads of reviews from Tom Vasel who does a great job of explaining games. He’s one of the most famous board game reviewers, and he certainly has earned it with his reviews.

How to Play is a podcast that I don’t listen to as a device to hear reviews, but rather it teaches players how to play. The way that Ryan talks about games and teaches them without being there with you is incredible. It’s how I learned to play Age of Steam, one of the longest and more complicated games I’ve played.

Another podcast I enjoy is Boardgames To Go. While Mark has changed his podcast hosting over to BoardGameGeek, his site is still up and showcases his love of gaming with his family. Listening to him talk about games really shows his love for board gaming as a hobby, and his discussions are very thought-provoking.

Videos

When I’m at home or have some time at a computer, I also like to watch videos online about boardgames. These are nice as they help show off components of the board games they’re discussing, which podcasts usually lack.

TableTop is the first major video series I started watching. It has Wil Wheaton of Star Trek and general geekiness fame. He sits down with friends and just plays games. As someone who teaches a fair number of games, the mistakes that are made during play bug me, but the show is getting more people interested in board games, so it’s okay by me. Maybe you can show the Ticket to Ride episode to your family at the yearly reunion and get them interested. A large hurdle with getting people into hobby level gaming is having them see how much fun it can be. Wil and his groups do a great job of having fun with the games they play, which can help you convince your friends and family to give “that weird game” a shot.

A new video series that’s coming out soon is Boardroomers. It’s going to be a recorded discussion about various board game topics by game reviewers, designers, and publishers. They only have the introduction video up so far, but it’s certainly an interesting concept and one that I would love to participate in, even if it’s just part of an after-discussion.

Apps

Let’s be honest, when you need your gaming fix, sometimes you’re not physically near other gamers. Luckily, there are many apps for that. I’ll be listing ones for the iPhone and iPad, since that’s what I have. If you have a favorite board game app for Android or something else entirely, leave a note in the comments.

Roll Through the Ages is a great game with a wonderful balance of dice rolling and civilization building. Sometimes you don’t have the table space to roll the dice, or you forgot your pencil. The iPhone app is a great digital version of the game. You can even do the solitaire version and see how well you can do on your own, or play the with the Late Bronze Age expansion sheets.

Small World is one of my favorite games to play on the iPad. The board game is an area control game similar to Risk, but introduces fantasy races and some tweaks to the rules. Each race comes with a power, and those pairings are randomized each game. The only issue I have with the iPad version is that it’s only for 1 or 2 players, when the board game handles up to 5. Still a very clean presentation and a great game to play.

Ticket to Ride is a very popular game and is one of my go-to games for introducing players to hobby level gaming. If you have an iPad, you can get that version of the digital board game. There’s also a Pocket version for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and a newly released Ticket to Ride Europe version of the game for those devices!

So overall, a decent list of activities to keep your mind on gaming even if you can’t be at the table. If you have a favorite gaming website, podcast, video series, or app, just leave a link in the comments so everyone can know about it!

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