Through boardgamegeek, I found a gaming group that gets together on the first Friday of each month at a grange hall less than a mile from my house! Even better, because of the holiday earlier in the week, they were having a potluck dinner beforehand. Usually, they start around 7pm, and game until everyone gets tired -- but because of the addition of dinner, the festivities started at 6pm.
A little after 6pm (thanks to work), I grabbed some animal crackers, Tootsie Roll Pops, and a few games (Citadels, Bohnanza, and Elder Sign), and headed out. I was really surprised by how close it was -- if I had a good way of transporting my games with me (or knew that I wasn't going to need any), I'd take my bike.
Once I arrived at the grange hall, I wasn't really sure where I needed to go. Both of the obvious doors were locked...but the event was being held in the basement, so I just needed to go around the side. Fortunately, the organizer just happened to be heading outside as I walked around the building, so I didn't have to explore too much before finding the entrance.
Inside, the grange was a very nice venue. There was plenty of space for tables and a large kitchen for whatever purposes you needed. They also give you the use of two refrigerators, if needed. I'd guess that there was room for 100 people in the basement, easily, though I didn't see any signs indicating the maximum occupancy. As it was, I think there were only 7 people in attendance when I showed (not counting myself). The organizer was busy in the kitchen, and the other 7 were playing Hex Hex and really seemed to be having a good time. They allowed me to interrupt their game to introduce myself and get introductions, and really seemed like a welcoming bunch.
When they finished, we ate -- they had hot dogs, nachos, lasagna, several types of chips, and fresh fruits. There was plenty for everyone, and then we got down to business.
We separated into two tables, since we were then up to 8 players. I was at the table playing Last Will, a fun Brewster's Millions type of game where you try to spend all your money as quickly as you can, and end with no possessions. I didn't quite get it early on, and completely wasted my first few turns, but caught on in turn 4, and wasn't out of contention quite yet. I finished third, 2 points away from the leaders.
Next, we consolidated to play Incan Gold, a press-your-luck type of game. The person who brought it had replaced the Adventure/Leave cards with tokens, which I think added a lot to the game. As is par for the course, I pressed my luck a little too much after getting a 17 card to myself, and ended up in dead last -- but could have won if greed hadn't gotten the best of me.
Afterward, we socialized for a bit, and got to know each other while weaving in discussions about the next game. Another person showed, and they started setting up a game on the second table (I believe it was Homesteaders). As others were deciding whether to play another game or head home, I joined the Homesteaders table...but because of the number of players left, we changed the game to Alea Iacta Est. This poorly-named game is a dice game where certain combinations of dice can be played for different effects. I liked it, though there were a few awkward parts of the game (specifically the Senate actions). I was only a couple points off the leader in this one, as well.
Finally, we ended with a game of Mu, a trick taking card game with multiple trumps and a fluid partnership mechanism. It was fun, but I think it would be a lot more fun once people had played enough to develop strategies...as it was, there was a lot of uncertainty of what to do during the auctions for trump. I didn't finish well score-wise in this one, but felt like I could climb back into contention once everyone had the hang of it.
In all, it was a great evening with great people, and I'm considering this my new gaming group now. I look forward to the next one in August, and hope that we'll be able to get together a little more often for one-off games when possible.
If you're interested in more information on this gaming group, the vangames Yahoo! Group is where most of the communications are.
Also, I recommend you read more about the Washington State Grange. I found it interesting as a concept for local outreach, and it is apparently well-utilized here in Washington. Besides renting out the facility, they have monthly meetings to discuss activities in the community and sponsor a few different community activities.