The 'craft beer' of board games: Buying and playing local in Sask.

It’s undeniably cold in Saskatchewan and what better way is there to pass the time during the winter months than by playing a board game?

Regina designer preparing to launch Kickstarter campaign as hobby explodes

Nathan Ottenson from Regina Game Forge is working towards self-publishing his game Galactic Payload. (Alex Soloducha/CBC News)

It's undeniably cold in Saskatchewan and what better way is there to pass the time during the winter months than by playing a board game?

That's exactly what people in Regina did Saturday at the Core Ritchie centre for SaskGames first Prairie Games eXpo of the year.

There's more interest in designer board games and things that are designed locally, just like there's an investment in local craft beer.- SaskGames  president Bradley  Boileau

Bradley Boileau, president of SaskGames, personally owns at least 130 board games. He said it's nothing in the "really hardcore collecting community" where people commonly boast collections of about 500 games.

It's an old-school hobby that has exploded in the last five to seven years and those who are passionate about it welcome newbies.

"I think part of it is in an increasing technological age, we want things that don't use technology to spend time with, with other people," Boileau said. "Also, it plays into the craft culture. There's more interest in designer board games and things that are designed locally, just like there's an investment in local craft beer.

"People are going back to the basics and I think that's really important."
The Prairie Games eXpo is held by SaskGames three times a year in Regina. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

Derek Turner, who's originally from the city, said he discovered SaskGames in Regina about four years ago.

"You just can't even fathom that there's all these different parts of board gaming and parts of the hobby. You get exposure to different things and you get to see what different people are playing," he said.

He now runs a game design group in the Queen City called Regina Game Forge. At the eXpo, participants can play test designs through people who are excited to try local games.

Saskatchewan's Rob Gosselin has published a few games, one being the card game Monkey, which has a 7.5 rating on BoardGameGeek, an expansive review site.

"It's great to support local game design," said Turner, who invites people to look for games that were dreamed up close to home.

Currently, Turner said he is working on a game based on the Canadian electoral system.

Nathan Ottenson, another member of the Game Forge, is working towards self-publishing his game Galactic Payload.
Ottenson said he’ll need about $15-20,000 to launch the game. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

The sci-fi game has players travelling around the galaxy, collecting resources needed to colonize a home planet. Along the way, pirates and other competitors can steal player's resources.

Ottenson said he started developing the game by writing out ideas on scraps of paper and playing early iterations with friends, collecting feedback continually.

"Playing games helps a lot. The more games you play, the more ideas you start picking up. Then you try to incorporate the ones you like into your own games," he said.

I'd like to see it on a shelf somewhere.- Nathan Ottenson, Regina-based designer of Galactic Payload

For the moment, Ottenson is busy tweaking rules and building buzz around the game in advance of launching his own Kickstarter campaign.

He said he'll need about $15-20,000 to get his game to market.

"I'd like to see it on a shelf somewhere," Ottenson said. "It's very gratifying. It's been a lot of time in production but a lot of thought that went behind it too.

"It's nice to see how people react to my ideas."

Looking for new games?

Boileau was one of many SaskGames enthusiasts running learn to play sessions at the most recent Prairie Game eXpo.

One of the games he taught was a one of the group's current favourites, Azul. He said he expects the Portuguese tiling game to get a lot of attention in 2018.

"It's probably going to win a lot of awards for being incredibly beginner friendly. You don't need to have prior game experience to really get into it," he said.
Bradley Boileau, president of SaskGames, says the board games craze exploded in the last five to seven years. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

His all-time favourite game, if you're wondering, is War of the Ring. But he said it comes at the expense of about four-six hours of your time.

For beginners, he recommends Kingdomino. The village-building game, which was released in 2017, plays in 15 to 20 minutes.  

Turner said lately he's been into Terraforming Mars, a "thinky game" about settling on the so-far inhospitable planet. He also recommends Castles of Burgundy, 7 Wonders and Azul.

About the Author

Alex Soloducha

Alex Soloducha is a web writer/reporter for CBC Saskatchewan.