For the September 2021 edition I have managed to grab a chat with Ann Jones, a local board game expert. If you are looking for a unique way to bring friends and family of all ages together with simple to learn cooperative or competitive games for any event she can help.
Here is an abridged version of our conversation from 18th August 2021.
Deby: What is your connection to Leeds, the greatest city in the world?
Ann: I’m actually from near Liverpool but I did my teacher training in Leeds. Then I lived in Holmfirth for a while then back to Leeds in 2017.
Deby: Tell me a little bit about Cards or Die.
Ann: The idea behind the business was simply to bring people together with board games, playing together, get them off their phones, get them engaging with one another and connecting. I host events at pubs and cafes, where I take selections of board games along, teach and recommend games. There are so many new and engaging games, it’s nice to be able to introduce people to different things that they may not have heard of or seen before.
I’ve been booked for weddings, festivals, old age pensioners groups, mental health meetups and lots of special needs groups. I designed a board game to be used for social prescribing training for a charity in Birmingham. It’s nice to have done something so useful.
Deby: I saw an Instagram post recently about a wedding event recently which looked great fun. Is that something that fills the gap between the ceremony and the dinner?
Ann: That weird like Twilight Zone time? No one’s quite sure what they’re meant to be doing. Formal photographs with people being called in and out and there’s an awful lot hanging around.
I arrived at 5.30pm to a wedding and parents came straight over to ask – “What have you got in this bag?”
"what have you got in this bag?"
And I was like, “I am just getting them out, I’ll be with you in a minute.” So, they were like “Have you got this? Have you got that?” Because of that wait, because they were stuck in that bit in the middle trying to entertain their children. It’s lovely. Once a few games are set up I can move around and chat to different people and get people playing different things.
It helps to remember that you’ve got a mix of ages, not everybody wants to dance all night. Some people quite like sitting down, having a chat, maybe having a bit of something to do, you know, playing a game together.
Deby: I suppose board games can give a group of strangers something to talk about and concentrate on without it being awkward.
Ann: Yeah, definitely. And it also gets you mixing with other tables. So, one table might see a group of people playing something then go and ask to join in or play next. Many of the board games look interesting. They’ve got cool components; they are colourful and well designed.
When we think of board games, people can be resistant at first and immediately think Monopoly and Cluedo or Mousetrap and think that won’t work at an event – “it takes hours, it’s really boring”.
it's board games night
I always do a bit of a whizz round at events and say to people “It’s board games night. Let me know if you fancy playing anything.” And there’s always someone who is like, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, we don’t play board games.” It’s a bit weird, a bit defensive, “No, no, I don’t no.” And regularly, give them half an hour and they’re like “What, what are they playing? What’s that?”
It’s not all Monopoly, arguing and people being bored. You know? It’s fun.
Deby: Do you ever take Monopoly to an event?
Monopoly - I don't usually take it
Ann: Someone asked me to bring it to an event once, I don’t usually. It didn’t go well.
I got called over because of an argument, a player had bought all the houses, so there were no more houses left. And my instinct was, “Oh, no, that’s not fair. You’re gonna have to buy a hotel.” She said “I don’t have to buy a hotel. You can’t make me buy a hotel.” Me and another player thought they really should buy a hotel. She was like, “No, it’s legitimate.” And it is legitimate, she’d monopolized. But it did pretty much ruin the game for everyone else.
Deby: What’s an easy to learn, but very rewarding and fun game to play?
Ann: It’s so hard to pick. I will ask guests “What kind of thing do you enjoy?” because it very much depends, there’s so many that are easy to pick up. Carcassonne is a popular one, you’re collecting points, basically, for placing little figures on the board and you claim points for things like having a long road or a big city or being a farmer and owning lots of fields. But all you do on your turn, is you draw a tile, you decide where to place it. Players can keep the instruction booklet open with the scoring on. It’s quite a nice gentle game for two to four players and it’s not too cutthroat.
After the first few plays you can try out different tactics, it’s just nice. There are loads of similar games, where there’s not too many rules.
Explore the galaxy in Stellar Leap!
Deby: Sometimes, you might decide early in the game. Am I going to concentrate on my own personal game? Or am I going to attack somebody and make them lose points?
Ann: Another of my favourite games for events is Stellar Leap, conquering planets, and mining resources. Players can get points by fighting people and taking planets off them, by having loads of population on a planet or by discovering new planets. But you can’t do everything. I quite like that you can try different things each time. And you’re thinking to yourself, “Do I want to just go for attack? Shall I just be really ruthless and attack everyone and get points that way?” But if you go all in, and then halfway through you think, “I should have done more mining.” Then it’s too late to mine. I like those games where you’re weighing stuff up it forces you to choose what you’re going to do.
sometimes you need to commit to one strategy
Deby: Concentrate on the goal that you’ve set for yourself and try not to deviate. It takes self-control. I do that in Dominion quite a lot. “Don’t buy that card. I know that card looks fun, but don’t buy that card.”
Ann: That’s right you can’t do everything. You need to commit to one strategy.
Deby: Have you played the game called Pandemic?
Ann: Yes, it’s one of the games we played online during the pandemic. It’s about eradicating viruses. First you cure them, and then you try and eradicate them. It’s cooperative. A virus spreads from an outbreak and it overspills into the neighbouring connecting cities by road, air, or rail. It mimics the way a real virus escalates. I tend to avoid too much realism, in games though.
would you ever lose a game DELIBERATELY?
Deby: Let me know your thoughts on players losing a game deliberately.
Ann: I think it’s interesting. Particularly with children, some people have very strong opinions about that. Sometimes people have a very strong view that you should never let a child win. Because that’s pandering to them. I’ve always felt that you should let them win a bit. I don’t think you should let children win all the time, but equally if you’re too competitive with them, and they never win they won’t ever want to play (obviously, you’re an adult, and you’re more experienced). I wonder if grown-ups had a running race with a child, would they sprint off while the child’s running, trying to keep up – or would they see that differently? Because to me, it’s not fair. With little ones, you always do that thing where “I’m running really fast” but I’m barely moving. And with games, you do that, “Oh, I can’t think what to do”. Dobble is an excellent game for smaller children.
Deby: It gives them a bit of a confidence boost if they do win.
Ann: I’ve never done that with adults, I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a game.