Board game cruises are rising in popularity. The Dice Tower network hosts a Dice Tower Cruise, BoardGameGeek hosts BGG@SEA and independent organizations like CrusieCon host their own events too! If you love cruising or have ever considered a cruise, this post is a good place for you to get a sense of whether a board game cruise might be fun for you. Below you’ll find info on what the experience is like for someone who just sees themselves as a traveler to someone who is deep in the world of board games.
The event we attended was CrusieCon aboard the Norwegian Epic. Though the ship is huge (4,100 passengers), the board game contingent is pretty small (about 100 attendees). That’s small for a board game convention but is a great size for this event. By the end of the cruise you will have met everyone in the group and, if you want to, have had plenty of opportunities to play games, have meals, and dance the night away with the people you connect with. (The dancing is of course optional).
What is expected of you
Nothing! A board game cruise, as far as I can tell is like any other cruise – except there is always a group of people in a designated area playing a board game. In a way it was like any other shipboard activity, except no one really knew about it but us. How exclusive!
The truth is, I had some hesitancy about going on board game cruises in the past because I wondered if it would be worth it to take a cruise and then spend the whole time playing board games. I think the answer is “no, that’s ridiculous!” But fortunately that isn’t what I did. It isn’t what anyone did!
The beauty of an event like this is that you can choose your level of involvement. If you want to spend all day at the pool drinking cocktails, you can! But when you want to socialize with some new friends over a game, that option is open to you too.
What about newbies?
Though I am something a veteran to gaming, this was my very first cruise and it was a great experience. The event was welcoming to cruisers and gamers of all levels.
From a cruise perspective, I found the staff helpful and also had a build in support group in the form of the convention attendees. Several of the attendees do this every year and were happy to provide great recommendations for meals and entertainment on the ship and what to see and do on shore days.
From a game perspective, I saw lots of new players playing easier titles and I myself regularly joined in for late night party games with people who had never played before. We were all laughing in no time. Though I’m sure the drinks helped.
One player I spoke to told me she only owned one board game. She learned it on the cruise last year and loved it and this year she hoped to find her “next game.” So I would say this was welcoming to newbs of all kinds!
Breakdown – what might you get from this experience
Certainly the above conveys a fairly glowing review of the board game cruise experience but that doesn’t mean I think board game cruises are for everyone. Certainly there are some groups of people for whom this is a better fit than others. Let me share my thoughts on a couple different kinds of travelers and or gamers and you can see which one best fits you.
If you see yourself as a traveler first and foremost I’m not sure a cruise is for you – with or without the board games.
I love to travel and I love seeing new places, meeting new people, and having new experiences and a cruise is pretty self contained. It is a floating hotel and can be pretty luxurious but you won’t exactly see the world. Your stops are fairly cultivated and touristy and you will spend most of the time on the ship. If you are the kind of traveler who likes to roam the streets of a new city, get lost, find cafes, mingle with locals, this might not be the experience you are looking for.
If you love cruises, doing a board game cruise is a no brainer for you. It will be everything you already love about cruising with the added bonus of some exclusive activities just for you.
You can still jump into game shows or go to the comedy club if the urge strikes but when dinner is winding down and you want to kill some time before the dance party picks up on the rear deck there will be a room of people waiting to teach you a new game all for no added cost.
That last line matters. So much of the fun stuff I did on this cruise had a fee associated with it. And when I was all funned out on buying “Deal or No Deal” admission tickets, I’d head to the game room and make some friends!
If you give yourself this label (and I do), there is never enough gaming in your life. So the easy answer is, “yes! Go for it!” The thorough answer is a little more complicated.
If what you want is dusk till dawn gaming, you can find it here but board game cruises don’t seem built for that. There is a lot of cool stuff going on during the cruise and most players will be tempted to enjoy some time away from the table. I think that’s a good thing but for those who want to knuckle down and play heavy games from sunup to sundown you’ll find other conventions more suited to it.
On the other hand, if you love gaming and your family or significant other is less enthusiastic, a board game cruise is a great option as they will always have something to entertain them and you will always have games available to you. (But seriously, enjoy the cruise. Spend some time with them at the waterslides. It’s worth it.)
Conventions are peak opportunities for designers to meet publishers, show off designs, and even rally strangers for playtest sessions. If you are looking for that kind of experience, the board game cruise scene isn’t ready for you yet.
At least where we were, the vibe was pretty intimate. There weren’t pitch meetings or official unpub spaces (though I did see some players enjoying a designer’s prototype). The fact of the matter is, if you come as a gamer who also designs, you will enjoy it as much as any other gamer. If you come to hustle, you won’t find much of an audience.
This may change as board game cruises grow but as of today it is not a secret frontier for maximum facetime with publishers.
Sponsor. Attend. Enjoy. I’m not kidding.
I attended as a representative of Grey Fox Games and I have never seen a group of players more excited about their goodie bags. I have never seen more of the door prize games hitting the tables during the convention. Board game cruises are where you want to be!
I’m not saying we should set up booths. I actively think we shouldn’t (there isn’t really space for it and the crowd is on vacation with even less space than usual).
What I am saying is that the players on this cruise range from brand new to gaming veterans and the games of mine they got in their swag bags already got more play and exposure than any other convention giveaway I can think of.
I got to spend real time with these players and chat with them about my company and about my games. I made connections with players who I think will remember me and my company as a result of the personal interactions we had. Granted this happened on a very small scale but it felt meaningful and, perhaps more importantly, it was fun.
Hopefully you found enough good stuff here to make up your mind on whether a board game cruise is right for you. If it is, maybe I’ll see you on the next one!
Have you ever been on a cruise? Do you think board games would be a great extra activity? Leave a comment.