I've been watching some gamers' stations on You Tube, lately.

Tabletop gaming is a fascinating little world unto itself. A far cry from what I can remember of the AD&D era, when it was six geeks and heartbreak at the end of the night, now it's extended to German-style casual gaming, all manner of classic kid's games, abstract games (apparently less popular than you'd think), even an adults' group who plays "Pretty Pretty Princess", which, they admit, only makes sense after a couple of beers. Wil Wheaton hosts an excellent game review show, and there are a few others, like Dice Tower, that hope to lead a beginning gamer down the pleasant path of chance and miniatures. Most of these are quite enjoyable and in some cases, quite informative. But there was one that gave me pause.

The subject was "Ten Tabletop Gamers' Essentials." Very straightforward, you'd think...but after watching three overweight middle-aged adolescents fight bitterly over whether you should have a TV in the game room, and then, who gets to pick/change channels (and this is on item #9, just after, "should the room have a sound system, or be dead silent"?) with the debate over what kind of storage is right in the offing, I picked up a pencil and wrote this down.

  1. A comfortable, well-situated room. In a prewar Colonial, or an old apartment building, this can be the dining room. Many people like basement dens, to highlight the "dungeon" aspect, and love the idea of a dedicated game room (in a McMansion), but since you're going to spend a good deal of time there, it should be whatever you're comfortable with. You should have some space for coats, etc., and at least arrows pointing to the facilities. (And be sure you've got enough toilet paper, soap and towels, and a scented candle, if there are going to be more than two or three over. Just sayin'.)
  2. A table, small enough to permit easy access to the board, but large enough for all the various pieces, reserves, lists, drinks, snacks, etc. that accrue over an evening. A poker table is pretty good. A dining room table is also a good idea. (There are enough of them in used-furniture stores, look around...)
  3. Good chairs. Having a folding chair breathe its last under you is not fun.
  4. Storage for all these boxes and pieces. A nice armoire is great, ordinary bookshelves or closet space will suffice. Bonus: a display cabinet for miniatures, trophies, etc.
  5. Good light. It's hard enough to see whether your hobbit is close enough to the dragon to strike without the distraction of shadows keeping you from charting hit points.
  6. Enough paper, pencils and dice for everyone.
  7. Artwork, curtains, atmospherics, whatever gets your game on. Some people like incense or room spray to get a nice 'medieval' feel, some people like loops of appropriate sounds.
  8. A source of snacks and drinks, or at least a side buffet to get things from. This can be as simple as air-popped popcorn or an elaborate buffet of hot soup and sandwiches during a break. You needn't set up a mini-kitchen, as some have suggested, if you're near the real one.
  9. Good friends and family. Sportsmanlike players, and merry company. When researching this WU, I found lots of players who believed that the Perfect Game Room had a "separate entrance" from the rest of the house, and wished for a designated bathroom so that they didn't have to deal with that "funky gamer smell" for at least a few days. Relax! Are they your friends or not? Is your spouse a gamer, or your kids? If you've got to get so away from non-gamers, or from people in general, to play, you have problems that architecture isn't going to solve.
  10. A genial, generous host, a fair Dungeonmaster, who will care for his guests from the invite until the last player is safely home.

...and the rest is optional.

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