For the Love of the Games

Jess Carrier

Our Rotary speaker on February 3 was Jessica Carrier, who leads the marketing team for Noble Knight Games in Fitchburg. She spoke to us from the company’s store, and her presentation included interviews with key employees.

Noble Knight Games boasts the largest selection of table-top games in the world, including traditional board games, new releases, and rare and/or out-of-print games. They buy and sell games from individuals and manufacturers locally and worldwide. About 20 percent of the company’s business is international. Vice President Dan Leeder explained that his brother Aaron is the owner and founder of the company. In the 1990s Aaron had an assembly job in the Janesville GM plant — and a love for the game Dungeons and Dragons. He began by purchasing games in Madison and selling them on his site. In 1997 the company had five employees in Janesville. After 20 years the company moved to a newly built, 45,000 square foot building in Fitchburg.

The new structure includes a storefront with space for a mind-boggling inventory — hundreds of thousands of games, according to our speaker — and in-store game events, which were held every day of the week before the COVID shutdown. They are looking forward to resuming in-store events in the future.

Carrier said there are emotional, mental and physical benefits to playing table-top games. Even if a game is not marketed as an educational product, youngsters learn and grow by playing. They can develop reading and memorization skills, color recognition, cooperation and important social skills such as how to win or lose gracefully. She said that playing table-top games opens neural pathways that help you learn and retain information longer. It has also been tied to a slower onset of dementia in adults.

While one’s fate in many of the traditional games may depend on a roll of the dice or a card drawn from a deck, most newer games place more emphasis on strategy and, in some cases, cooperation with others. While the goal used to be to progress on a board, amass the most money or be the last person standing, now the goal is more likely to involve the management of multiple resources.

The presentation reminded me that I used to collect baseball cards, as much for the bubble gum as the players. Getting the card of a favorite player — for me it was Rocky Colavito, who played for Cleveland — was a matter of luck. Now there are games where you construct your own deck of cards which allows you to build a winning strategy in the game.

The presentation offered some suggestions for people who might be interested in gaming but don’t know where to begin. Start by talking with family and friends about the games they enjoy. For a group of two to four people, consider Azul or Catan. People who are used to playing Euchre might want to try the Wizard card game, which has additional suits along with Hearts, Spades, Diamonds and Clubs. The Haba games are great for young children. And if you want to move your teenager away from screen time, try to find table-top games in the same genre that is your kid’s obsession online. And, of course, the folks at Noble Knight Games will be happy to help!

Our thanks to Jess Carrier and her staff for their presentation this week and to Andrea Kaminski for preparing this review article.  Our thanks also to Neil Fauerbach who assisted in editing this week’s speaker video as well as our song at today’s meeting! If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

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