I went on holiday last week to France. This wasn’t any ordinary holiday however. I was staying at a static caravan park, along with 100 or so other attendees, and we were there for the express purpose of playing boardgames all week!
It was my first experience of a boardgaming holiday and I was a little nervous spending an entire week with a bunch of people I’d never met before. I knew two of them (a bit) before going, but everyone else was new to me.
Is it an experience I’d recommend? Would I go again? Let me tell you about it…
Ten years ago, boardgame holidays were unheard of (at least to me). In recent years though, they seem to be cropping up more and more. This particular one is based at Le Pas Opton on the west coast of France.
One thing that attracted me to it was that it wasn’t just boardgaming. They had a range of sports facilities, a swimming pool, a bar and cafe/restaurant, plus the opportunity to go out and visit the nearby seaside town of Saint Gilles.
The place is self-catering and after a challenging trip to local supermarkets to find food that was sans gluten for my particular dietary requirements, I was set for a week of gaming.
I was expecting it to be a bit like a week-long convention without all the retailer stands. It wasn’t. Conventions typically have open gaming of course, but this felt different.
Firstly, it wasn’t too big. There were maybe 15 tables for gaming. Combined with the fixed audience (I knew I was playing with the same people all week), it felt much easier to find people to play with. Anyone hanging around in the gaming room was clearly there because they wanted to play a boardgame.
When I saw people standing around slightly awkwardly, I just thought, “Hey, they’re in the same boat as me. I bet they want to play a game!” and I went up and introduced myself. It was easy. I would feel much more reluctant about doing that at a large convention.
The gaming library was provided by the attendees themselves. Everyone brought a selection of games that they wanted to play. We labelled them upon arrival and stacked them along one wall of the gaming room. If you wanted to play a game, you just helped yourself.
“Woah!” I thought. “Do I really want a bunch of strangers manhandling my games all week?!” As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. This was the nicest, most considerate bunch of gamers I’ve ever played with. My games got played, but were treated really well. The fact that people tended to be invited on the basis that they knew someone who thought they’d fit in and enjoy the holiday helped a lot I think.
So I had a great time playing games all week. I even got introduced to some really good games that I’d not come across before (which is rare for me!). Most notably, The Climbers, which is a very unusual game about getting your meeple to climb as high as possible on an increasingly tall tower of blocks.
Unexpectedly, it isn’t a dexterity game. You can only move up onto a block surface that matches your colour so placement and orientation of the blocks becomes really important as you attempt to create a path for your meeple while simultaneously blocking your opponents.
The thing I loved most about the holiday though, was getting to know all the people. There were few enough people who I was playing games with regularly enough that I got to know some of them pretty well.
Playing boardgames, for me, has always been more about being part of the community that surrounds them, rather than the games themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing boardgames, but the people come first.
Overall, the people there were fantastic and I made friends that will stick with me for a long time. I couldn’t really say that about any conventions I’ve been to.
So would I recommend it? Wholeheartedly! I’ve booked my place for next year already. Have you ever been on a boardgame holiday? Does it appeal?