Tabletop Game Nights Beckon With Fun For All

For many years, Johnson County Library provided tabletop game nights for enthusiastic patrons, capitalizing on the growth and popularity of modern board games. 

The pandemic forced those events to go virtual. But now, these fun intergenerational events are resuming at four branches. Patrons are encouraged to explore the incredible variety and creativity of 21st century board games, dice and card games. This is not just Monopoly and Clue. Today’s games allow participants to experience imaginative worlds, artfully drawn. Tabletop games test participants’ intellectual and reasoning abilities. They require strategic thinking and can inspire both competitive and collaborative approaches. “Gaming is having a really big heyday,” notes Tami Thomas, youth information specialist at Blue Valley Library. “It’s a very popular activity.”

Josh Neff, an adult information specialist at Blue Valley, said the Library branches provide a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere for people to try out an amazing selection of games, all for free. “It’s being able to get out and do something. There are a lot of modern games now and so many different styles of games,” Neff said. “There are some that are really competitive. There are some that are really cool.”

Game nights are being offered each month from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at Blue Valley, Gardner, Monticello and Central Resource Library. The schedule through April is available on the events calendar. Patrons can try out the Library’s games with coaching from staff, or bring their own. They can come and go as they please. Light refreshments are provided. Patrons can also enter drawings for some game giveaways at the end of the spring season.

On a recent Wednesday night at Blue Valley, Neff demonstrated the collaborative game Forbidden Island. He worked with a mom and her teenaged daughter to collect treasure and then escape the island. It’s a tough game to win, but they did. Meanwhile, Thomas showed a father and young son how to create dinosaur theme parks with the game Draftosaurus. Three teen volunteers played the card games Pirate Fluxx and The Mind with a patron. Many more games were available to try, including Settlers of Catan, Wits and Wagers, and King of Tokyo.

Neff said the game nights began at Lackman in 2013. Attendance was sparse at first but he and others were confident it would take off. “We were sure there was a desire for this in the community,” he recalled. They were right. Within a year, they outgrew Lackman’s meeting room space and moved to a larger venue at Antioch. By 2019, five branches were hosting game nights year-round. “It built because of word of mouth,” Neff said. “We definitely had people talking about it, bringing friends along. We had a lot of regulars. It’s a good way to be social.”

During the pandemic, the virtual game nights also gradually grew in popularity. But Library staffers are eager to resume in-person gatherings this year. They realize it will take some rebuilding again, but believe it’s a great way to promote a sense of community. Thomas recalls watching one couple playing a game with another family and getting along well. “They ended up becoming friends and getting their kids together,” she said. It’s also a great way to learn. “Playing games actually helps you with a lot of great skills,” Thomas said, “Collaboration, problem solving, creative thinking.” She said they are geared up to have patrons back in person and connect with them through games. “Everyone is welcome at the Library,” Thomas said.