This table fills up first with the early arrivals and there is room for between six and eight people. As soon as enough people sit down, someone suggests a "filler game", usually a deck of cards, for a quick round of play. The first time I attended the meetup, I found myself seated here with five men and we quickly started playing a card game. The member who was already familiar with it explained the rules to the rest of us and then we started a hand. This play mode is extremely uncomfortable for me and causes a great deal of performance anxiety. Along the way, players remarked on how impressed they were at the game's cleverness, playability and elements that made it enjoyable. I was having a different experience altogether: anxiety mixed with frustration and a deep feeling of wanting to get up from the table and run away. In addition, there was nothing interesting to me about the game at all. Winning was a function of process of elimination and luck of the draw. I typically think of games like this as a waste of time, for people who must be too bored to think of anything else to do. Personally, it would be quite unlikely for me to choose to spend my time playing a card game like this and I have difficulty understanding why anyone would.
In another disappointing moment, a member at this table made a sexist remark - unrelated to the game - and prefaced it by saying "Not to sound sexist, but..." I immediately wondered to myself if he inserted the caveat solely for my benefit as the only woman present. I learned later in the evening that this member has only been living in Denver for a couple months. Meeetups like this often attract people who are new to the area, who may be trying to become familiar with the social scene and to make friends. Over the course of my attendance I have discovered that this is the case for several people who attend this meetup. After two months of my own attendance, I actually am actually beginning to feel like a veteran in the group, as there are first-timers that come every week.
After a couple of hands of whatever filler game is happening, generally more attendees have arrived and it becomes time to choose what games people want to play and how many people will join each game. Several regular attendees typically bring canvas bags filled with a selection of board games. There are always duplicates. Some players arrive with an idea already in mind of what they want to play that evening. Others are completely open to whatever game is available and generates enough interest to comprise a round. It usually takes a few minutes to determine:
a) who wants to play what board game, and
b) how many people can play a chosen game according to the game constraints
It also requires lots of verbal interaction and conversation. I believe that it really helps to be assertive in this context. It is no small feat for a dozen people to coordinate what games can be played and how to fit everyone into play. Once these things are decided, smaller tables are then arranged according to what has been decided and the space is configured for play. The area at the far end of the coffee shop that is allotted to the meetup group can accommodate between two and three additional tabletop areas as a complement to "the big kids table". Interestingly, the latter is positioned on an elevated platform, which contributes to the perception that it's for "grown ups", ie. serious or advanced gamers! This table is also where large scale and lengthy strategic board games are played. These are games like Blood Rage, for example, where expansive play surface is required and there is a time commitment of two to three hours.
The following week, I chose to observe game play. I did get trapped into playing the initial filler card game, only because I arrived first again and I was sitting at the big kids table. It was the same filler game as my first time, so at least it was familiar. It was still just as uninteresting to me, however, despite knowing the basic rules of play. I couldn't wait for it to be over. When it came time for groups to start playing different games, there were four games going at once, at different tables. I had brought my roommate along and he ended up playing a 4-person game of Five Tribes. They had enough people, so I declined to participate. I figured it would be a nice opportunity to observe, anyway. This is another example of where it is helpful to be assertive in order to get "placed" at an active playing table. If you are not able to vocalize that you want to join or start a game play group, you will probably get passed over.
As for Five Tribes, I was pretty unimpressed with the game - it was a lot like Small World, which I also found to be somewhat boring. I have learned through play and experimentation that I don't enjoy board games where there's an accumulation of "stuff" (objects or territory) and where players intentionally move around in ways that inhibit or block others. It's just really tedious and uninspiring to me, for some reason. I observed an interesting moment during the game where the person who had been explaining the rules since the outset - to the three other players who had either never played before or who were very novice - paused and officially noted that he had forgotten to discuss one rule of play: