By David Pencek
There’s more to gaming than Nintendos and Xboxes. A visit to Schlow Centre Region Library on a Saturday afternoon can show that games played on boards with pieces and opponents sitting across from you are alive and well.
Each Saturday, from 2 to 4 p.m., Schlow hosts Go and Chess clubs in its Musser Room. Additionally, every fourth Saturday of the month, the library is home for the Boardgaming Meetup, which is hosted by the Tabletop and Role-Playing Gamers of Central PA. The gaming action takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Downsbrough Community Room.
(And if you want to create your own game night with family and friends, board games are available for library patrons to check out and take home with them.)
Each of the game clubs attract people of all ages, from kids to retirees.
“These clubs are great for teens and adults who want to hone math and strategy skills, critical thinking, and even develop an understanding of team mechanics,” said Maria Burchill, head of adult services at Schlow. “They’re fantastic for role-playing social situations and activating the imagination.”
It’s been almost four years since Sandy Breon helped bring the Chess Club back after it had been inactive for a few years. He says his uncles taught him how to play when he was growing up, but he never took it seriously until he was an adult.
“I really enjoy the strategy and calculation involved when playing a chess game, and every chess game that one plays is a unique experience,” he said. “One of the most interesting things about the game is that there is always more to learn about it.”
He says the club usually averages about a dozen people on a Saturday. Earlier this year, the club saw one of its regular members, Emily Hu, a student at State High, become the high school champion at the Pennsylvania State Chess Federation’s scholastic championships. She’ll be competing at the Denker Tournament of High School Champions July 28 in Wisconsin.
Breon said he hopes to one day have a practice tournament for kids who are interested in competing in official tournaments for the United States Chess Federation.
While the Chess Club is happening, some visitors play Go, which was invented in China more than 2,500 years ago. Players take turns placing their playing pieces, or stones, on a board. The stones can’t move but can be removed if they are captured, or surrounded by opposing stones.
According to the American Go Association, Go is “the simplest of all games” and also the “most complex of all games” because of how many possible moves a player can make.
Besides the enjoyment of playing games such as chess and Go, non-computer-type games also offer a social element where people can gather for a few hours of fun. That was a big reason why Gabriel Szaszko and his wife, Joana, helped organize the Tabletop and Role-Playing Gamers of Central PA and the Boardgaming Meetups at Schlow. The couple moved to State College from Tulsa, Okla., in 2013 and were looking for ways to meet people and socialize.
“We stumbled upon a small meetup group for board gamers,” Gabriel said. “So, we joined the group, found a core group of people we enjoyed playing games with, and, soon after, became co-organizers with Curtis Frantz and Steve Hawkins, who founded the group. We’ve since grown to almost 800 members.”
Szaszko said that about 10 to 35 people attend the meetups.
“We play everything from social or deduction games such as Codenames, Coup and The Resistance to much heavier ‘Euro games’ such as Castles of Burgundy and Power Grid,” he said. “People can almost always find the weight and speed of a game they’re in the mood for at one of our events. We have a wide array of gaming styles and preferences amongst our regulars.”
He adds that one of his favorite aspects of the meetups is it gives people a chance to socialize and try new games.
“While computer or tablet-based board gaming has its pleasures,” he said, “what emerges from the table due to player interactions, personalities and relationships can’t be replicated and is one of the primary reasons I’ve been in the hobby as long as I have.”
For more information about the Chess & Go clubs and Boardgaming Meetup, visit schlowlibrary.org.
David Pencek is communications manager at Schlow Centre Region Library.