The St. Louis Board Game Meetup celebrates ten years of gaming
On Thursday, February 26th, the St. Louis Board Game Meetup will get together at local hobby shop Game Nite for an evening of games. The Meetup heads to Game Nite every Thursday after work for games and conversation, but this Thursday is different—this is their ten year anniversary. The St. Louis Board Game Meetup is made up of over 2,000 members who get together more than fifteen times a month to play games. Today, it’s one of the most active communities in St. Louis, but organizer Timothy remembers scheduling their first Meetup, exactly ten years ago.
Timothy is a self-described avid gamer. “Gaming is in my blood,” he says. “I’ve been a gamer all my life, pretty much. My father had been interested in board games since before I was born, and our family summer vacations would always include the new game that dad had bought and kept secret until our arrival.” When Timothy moved from the U.K. to Saint Louis in December 2000, he quickly set out to find local gamers. He connected with a handful of locals online, but was discouraged to find that the group rarely got together. In 2005, Timothy resolved to give it another shot and RSVPed for a Meetup with the St. Louis Board Gamers. “I went,” he recalls, “and brought a small box of games with me so I could easily be identified. But no one but me turned up.” Shortly thereafter, the organizer stepped down, leaving the Meetup leaderless. “I decided that I could make it work,” says Timothy. On January 29, 2005 he stepped up as organizer, and scheduled his first Meetup. “I was more excited than anything.”
Seventeen people attended that first Meetup, and the following month twenty-eight showed up. “People were having so much fun that they said they wanted to meet more often than once a month,” Timothy recalls. “And so, second Tuesday of the month gaming was born that April. In May, we held an all day Memorial Day event, complete with barbecue.” Timothy wasn’t just making it work—he was making community real for gamers in St. Louis.
As the community grew, so did demand for more Meetups. After six months, Timothy realized he needed backup. He found his first assistant organizer in his friend Mark, who volunteered to host a monthly Meetup on Wednesdays. Over the years, the Meetup’s leadership team has grown to twelve. “It became obvious that no single organizer could possibly attend every Meetup,” explains Timothy. Leaders are selected by their commitment to the Meetup and “their willingness to play games with people new to the kind of games we play.” New players are welcomed warmly at every Meetup.
Over the past ten years, the Meetup has grown into something bigger than board games—it’s a group of friends. “One of the things about board games, is that people have to come together to play,” says Timothy. “Many other activities can easily be done on your own, even if it’s more fun to do them together—but not board games.” Over the years, regulars have established themselves in the Meetup, and strong friendships have formed. A few relationships have moved beyond just friendship. “We have a couple who met at a Meetup who are now living together. Another couple is engaged to be married. One of the members is godfather to my son.” When a member was diagnosed with cancer, the Meetup rallied behind him. “We had a fundraiser to help pay his medical bills.”
Timothy’s hopes for the future are simple: “I’d love to still be doing this in ten years,” he reports. And for now, they’ll be celebrating their anniversary the best way they know— “playing games and having cake!”