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Variety of groups meet around county to play tabletop games

By , Columbian staff writer
6 Photos
Mario Sickenberger, left, and Zak Koehler ponder their next moves during a game called Tiny Epic Galaxies at Mythic Realm Games in December. Sickenberger and Koehler are members of the Table Top and Taps group that meets for board games every Saturday in Salmon Creek.
Mario Sickenberger, left, and Zak Koehler ponder their next moves during a game called Tiny Epic Galaxies at Mythic Realm Games in December. Sickenberger and Koehler are members of the Table Top and Taps group that meets for board games every Saturday in Salmon Creek. (Samuel Wilson for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

In this age of online video gaming, fantasy leagues and mobile games, a growing interest in tabletop board games may come as a surprise.

But plenty of gamers in Clark County say they prefer face-to-face play versus online gaming, and they are finding each other in various ways. They play at libraries, community centers and game stores. It’s a way to meet new people and enjoy a new challenge, they say.

Sound fun? Here’s a sampling of some local, in-person gaming opportunities.

• Mahjong in Ridgefield: On any given Thursday, a group of four to up to a dozen friends meet at the Ridgefield Community Center for a challenging game of mahjong, an ancient Chinese game said to have been started in the 18th century. The Ridgefield group plays an American version which they say is not as quickly played, and is a bit more difficult.

Ridgefield resident Sheryl Saylor says she enjoys the strategies of the game.

“It’s not a game you just play — you have to put some thought into it. You get hooked on it if you start playing … and for me it’s about winning. I like to win. It’s competitive. But what I like is that you’re not playing with partners, and you’re not responsible for anyone else’s screw-ups, only your own. If you don’t win, it’s your fault.”

The group does not play for cash winnings; they are just happy to be victorious on occasion. But Saylor also plays with a Newcomers Club group where they do. “This group is my practice for when I play for money.”

Gaming groups

A few local groups welcoming new members:

 Camas board game night, for age 18 and older, 6:30 p.m. on the third Friday of each month, Camas Public Library, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas. 360-834-4692.

 Ridgefield Mahjong, 1 to 3 p.m. Thursdays, Ridgefield Community Center, 210 N. Main Ave., Ridgefield. All ages welcome. 808-896-5361.

 Table Tops and Taps, 6 p.m. Saturdays, Mythic Realm Games, 14313 N.E. 20th Ave., Salmon Creek; and 6 p.m. Fridays, Dice Age Games, 5107 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Suite 105, Vancouver. 21 and older.

 First Friday Game Night, 7 p.m. Fridays, First Evangelical Church, 4120 N.E. St. Johns Road, Vancouver. All ages. 360-513-8877.

 Latte Da Monthly Game Night, dates to be determined. 360-448-7651.

 Search for more board game groups at www.meetup.com.

Get your game on

Preview board games online at:

 www.youtube.com TableTop and Board Game Brawl channels



Still, the prevailing atmosphere is jovial. All of the players look forward to getting together each week, and help newcomers who are not familiar with the game. They also pool a bit of money each week to benefit the library’s new building fund.

• First Friday Game Nights: In Vancouver, Andy Rice, 52, is one of the original members of First Friday Game Nights, which has been running for about 15 years, meeting at First Evangelical Church. He says board games definitely have created a hobby and a community he delights in being a part of.

“It’s a combination of sitting across from and having interaction with someone. Video gaming and the app versions are not the same as being present,” he said.

“And there’s something about the tactile nature of quality components of the board games. The dice aren’t plain, they’re nice — and touching them, holding them and feeling them, there’s a physicality that isn’t the same. People and pizza and laughter and touching the pieces is more immersive and involving.”

Rice said First Friday Game Nights are open to anyone of any age, and there is always someone willing to help new people get started, no matter if they are beginners or seasoned board gamers.

• Table Top and Taps: Table Top and Taps is another group of board game enthusiasts who meet on Saturday nights at Mythic Realm Games in Salmon Creek.

Zak Koehler and Mario Sickenberger, both 33, are regulars to the 21-and-older group who say they prefer tabletop board gaming because of the social interaction. On a recent evening of tabletop play, the two were playing Tiny Epic Galaxies, a game neither had tried before.

“I know you can play games online,” said Koehler. “They have those games where you can play other people and talk to each other, but face-to-face interaction is one of the most needed bonds as humans.”

“I feel like online, you’re just gonna talk about and be focused on the game,” added Sickenberger. “But here, I’ve gotten to know Zak somewhat because I see him regularly so I can talk to him on different human levels — ‘How’s your job; what’s going on, how’s your kid?’ Online you don’t know who they are; you’re just playing the game.”

At the next table, Paul Lorphanpaibul, 49, of Battle Ground was teaching a group of four to play Great Western Trail. He had previewed the game online and played it with his 7-year-old daughter.

Vancouver resident Rosemarie Ricker, 60, was enjoying the challenge of playing the complex game and participates in the group regularly. She also meets up with a board game group every other weekend at a local Brewed Awakenings coffee shop.

“I play just for something to do,” she said. “I’m getting close to retirement. I play games with my sisters, but they can’t play all the time, so it’s fun to meet new people. You also get to try a variety of games you don’t have yourself.”

Another group member, Beaverton resident Alexander Asher, 45, says it’s not hard for newcomers to join, and there are a variety of game types to choose from, including abstract games, party games or area control games, just to name a few.

“Find out what you like and what you don’t like,” Asher said. “Some people don’t want to play in game stores so they play in bars, or restaurants, or coffee shops, so you have to decide where you’d be comfortable playing, too. You have to find out what kind of people you want to play with, what kind of games you like to play, then just go play.”

Columbian staff writer

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