My Journey into Board Games (as a Hobby & the Industry)
For anyone who follows me on Instagram already, you'll have seen a small post about my journey into this board game world.
There was so much interest in the post, I've decided to elaborate into it a bit more and really start at the beginning.
I have always loved board games, growing up in Germany board games is a big part of family life and so I learned the classics like Backgammon, Chess, Labyrinth, Draughts, Monopoly (with the proper rules!) etc etc.
Abiding by the proper rules was a big thing in our house and I very much carry this into my adult life (I'm such a stickler for the rules! :'D)
Even so, we didn't really delve outside of those more well known titles and we weren't one of those households where Catan was a staple or anything.
When I was 10, we uprooted and moved to Ireland which is what I now refer to as "home".
I didn't really know board games was a "thing" as much as it is (probably because it wasn't really to the extent that it is now) until after Uni - I must've been about 21 - and my best friend Michael brought over a crazy, hard to follow card game called Munchkin and a game with a box that had the most amount of pieces I'd ever seen in a game - Small World - and thus we had a games night with pizza.
That night some people bailed on us so it was just the two of us but we managed to bribe my housemate at the time with pizza and got a three player Munchkin going (which I lost terribly because I was backstabbed many a time by my so called best friend) and that was the true beginning of my journey into this lovely hobby.
Funnily enough, betrayal games are now amongst my favourite genres to play.
A few months later I decided to pack up and move to Paris (as you do) and for a while I spent some time on a pull out sofa in my friend's tiny Parisian flat.
He had a small bookshelf in the room and I spotted something I recognised on there - Munchkin! And it was surrounded by more board games!
I didn't know Jean-Baptiste was into games (having met him through fencing at Uni) and so he taught me a new game that I still love dearly - Libertalia! (This reminds me, I really need to get myself a copy for my own library...)
As it turned out, JB went to bi-weekly board game meet ups where a bunch of people got together and played games and I went along to a couple with him learning games like Letters from Whitechapel, Love Letter, and Dixit! In French! Come on, NOW is the time to be impressed! FRENCH!
I didn't really think anything of it, it was just a nice way to get out and do something in Paris and soon enough I moved back to Ireland for a while before I decided to make a move I'd been working up the courage for for ages - my move to London.
I've heard this a lot and it's such a cliche at this point, but my first year in London was the worst. It was hard. I was broke and I didn't know many people (although I lived in a hostel so did get to know people but everyone left so nothing really lasted) and so I decided to see if I could find a group like JB had in Paris, where I could go along and play some games and socialise for a few hours.
Looking back now I really don't know how I missed the huge Meetup group London on
Board...I must've been blind!
But I found a lovely group of gamers who met up every second Sunday in West London and spent the whole day playing games.
I had some brilliant times there, learning even MORE games like RoboRally, Cosmic Encounter and some others which don't seem to have made it into my memory bank.
Looking from the outside in, I must've looked so odd in that group of what felt like, vastly older men at the time. And there amongst them was me, the 24 year old blonde girl. :'D
I loved it though. Everyone was lovely and we had a laugh.
I stopped going when I eventually made some friends in my own neck of the woods (East London) and started visiting Draughts Board Game Cafe teaching some games I'd learned to friends and being taught some new games by the Gurus there.
After about 9 months in London, I'd had enough of the place. I really did have a terrible time starting out (I won't go into it) and I ran off to Greece for 2 months to work on a boat (again, as you do!)
I was supposed to be out there for 3 months but circumstances had me coming back earlier than expected.
I had no intentions of moving back to London, I was looking into other options - maybe Manchester? Leeds? Where else would be good?
I had booked a flight before I left for Greece to see my brother who lives in the US but my flight had been booked for 3 months time, not 2 so I found myself with a month to kill.
Seeing as I could pick up some temp work easily enough and stay on people's sofas in London I did that.
I applied for some jobs, I don't even really remember what exactly but I must've applied for a job as a Games Guru at Draughts because the day I arrived back to Ireland after my US trip (super jetlagged etc), I got a call from the Head Guru at Draughts asking me to come in for an interview.
He rang me around 1pm which is a perfectly reasonable time to call someone but I was still asleep from my jetlag and he must've thought I was the laziest person on Earth because it was quite clear he'd woken me!
I had my interview, where I was asked to teach him a game and I chose Carcassonne: The Castle (a great 2 player alternative of Carcassonne, which btw I have not played since that moment), I was invited for a trial shift and got the job! Woo!
I had almost forgotten about this but it just came back to me - I had actually applied to Draughts previous to that too (must've been before I left London), except in that application form where they ask you about your board game experience I told them how I used to play Monopoly by myself as a child, which I left out the second time I applied!
That must've made all the difference...didn't come across as big a freak I suppose.
I loved working at Draughts. I loved introducing people to new games. I loved the team. I loved being able to run a Star Realms tournament!
I made friends at Draughts that I still have to this day, although we're now strewn across the globe (1 is back in Canada, 1 is back in Australia and the other one is in London with me and we still see each other semi-regularly. Hi Russ!)
It's one of the things I most appreciate about this community, everyone is just so f**king lovely!! It's almost a struggle NOT to make lifelong friends!
And it's like that at Big Potato Games which is where I am now.
We had 16 people attend my Star Realms tournament, one of which was a great dude who is part of the marketing team at Big Potato.
We got chatting and made friends and I asked him to keep me in the loop about upcoming roles - as much as I loved Draughts, it was a bit of a dead end for me.
A few months later, they were looking for an Events Manager and I applied!
The rest is history.
I'm still there, 3 years on, although I moved from Events to Sales about 1.5 years in and now I travel all over the South of the UK and Ireland looking for shops to sell our games (if you are one or know any, send 'em my way!)
I know there's a lot of people who DREAM of getting into this industry and I just kind of fell into it. It was good timing and lucky encounters that landed me here and I thank my lucky stars that I did find my way in because it really is a fun job! How could you not love going into work every day?!