Today I am going to talk about some great ways you can engage with your tabletop gaming hobby that doesn’t involve getting together with people and playing games.
These are all things you can do between game sessions, many of which are things that you can do that will, in the long run, improve your future game nights.
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Just because you can’t game doesn’t mean you can’t do something gaming related.
There are many reasons why you may not actually be able to play the games you own. Your regular group could have other plans for the weekend or you could be forced to stay at home due to a worldwide health emergency.
No matter what the reason is, not being able to play games doesn’t mean you can’t engage in the gaming hobby in some way.
Below I am going to list off a number of gaming related things you can do to keep yourself busy between game sessions. Many of these suggestions are things that you can do that will actually end up improving your future gaming experiences.
Here are some great gaming related activities you can do when you can’t actually play games:
Take Steps to Protect your Games:
One of the most common things people do to protect their games is to sleeve any cards. This applies to any game with cards, not just card games. Sleeving cards can be quite zen and relaxing. For me, it’s something I do while in front of the TV or while listening to podcasts.
I also like to laminate anything I can. Player aids, thin player boards, reference sheets, rule summaries, scorecards and sheets, roll and write pages, etc. I have found a ridiculous number of uses for my personal thermal laminator.
To protect chits and counters consider picking up coin capsules. These are made to hold and protect collectable coins but can be awesome for protecting board game chits and counters.
You could also consider using spray varnish on your other game components, such as game boards, meeples, resource cubes, etc.
Snakes & Lattes, the world’s premier board game cafe, has a great video on maintaining your games.
Taking the time to protect your games during downtime will mean that you can enjoy those games for a longer period of time overall.
Building Board Game Box Inserts:
Back in August of 2018, I posted an article about whether board game box inserts are worth using. My conclusion then was that if having an insert meant that the game would get played more often than they were a worthwhile endeavour. I still feel the same.
Downtime between games is the perfect time to build some box inserts for your most fiddly games. Those games that have the most components and sorting and separating of things needed before you start playing.
There are all kinds of box inserts out there. You can buy them online from a variety of companies. Meeple Realty and The Broken token are the most well known and they make wooden inserts. Then there is Folded Space, that produces much cheaper and lighter foam core inserts. You will find multiple shops on Etsy selling wood, foam and even 3d printed plastic inserts. It’s worth shopping around to find the best insert, at the right price, for your game.
If you’ve got lots of time on your hands, maybe now is the time to try building your own insert from scratch. You can either wing it or check BGG as there are many people who have uploaded their own plans for inserts. Check out this DIY Foam Core Insert Master List for some great insert patterns.
Organize the Components in your Favourite Games:
This can just mean grabbing some resealable plastic bags and splitting out the components between them all, or going as far as getting Plano containers and other bits holders for the game’s components.
There is a very popular geeklist on Board Game Geek called The Plano List that tells you exactly what Plano brand container is perfect for what game. Be sure you check the fishing section of your local hardware store as well for cheaper alternatives.
For individual components, there are all kinds of storage containers out there. Look to other hobbies like beading, jewelry making and scrapbooking for very useful small storage containers.
One extra step you can do that will greatly help with cleanup is to label everything. Note what goes into which slot in your containers or label individual bags.
Organize your Game Collection:
Back in November of 2018, I published this article: Organizing your Game Collection. Check that out for some rather interesting methods of organizing. I take a look at eight of the most popular methods and give the pros and cons of each.
While organizing your collection it may also be a good time to do a game culling.
Go through the games you own and see if you really need to own all of them. Has one game replaced another game for you so that you never play the original anymore? Are there games that you find broken or that you’ve solved? Do you have any legacy games or one shot games that you’ve played and never gotten rid of after the fact?
What you do with these games is up to you. You can sell them, donate them to local libraries or schools, trade them for more games, etc.
Paint Those Unpainted Miniatures!
Painting miniatures is a long time hobby of mine. One that I find very relaxing, zen, and that takes up a lot of time. The hours just fly by when I’m painting.
You don’t have to a good painter to improve the overall look of a game. Generally, any paint helps. Remember that you are going to be looking at any painted pieces on the table at an arm’s length away or more. Don’t get discouraged by seeing how well others can paint, miniature painting is a skill that takes time and practice to get good at.
If you aren’t willing to go whole hog, consider just putting an ink wash on your minis. Even just doing that really helps them pop. Quickshade from Army Painter works great on painted and unpainted miniatures.
Add Some Bling to those Games:
Does your favourite game have boring drab components? Wooden cubes and meeples only? Wouldn’t it be so much cooler if those meeples were miniatures and those resources actually looked like what they represented?
There are all kinds of things you can do to upgrade your games. There are a number of companies that make replacement resources to replace cubes and counters. For an example take a look at Stonemaier’s Scythe Realistic Resources. The company Meeplesource has made a business out of upgrading board game components.
One of the best places I’ve found for board game bling is Etsy. There are all kinds of Etsy shops offering all kinds of great board game upgrades.
Take Some Time to Do a Rules Refresher:
Downtime between games is the perfect time to figure out if you’ve been playing your games correctly or playing the Xtreme version.
Once I get a new game, after the first play, I like to review the rules to see what we messed up. Then, after about two more plays, no matter how much time has passed I like to go back one more time just to check over the rules. It’s amazing how many games I’ve played wrong and little rules I’ve missed.
This can be even more important for RPGs. Most RPGs have thick tome-like rulebooks and it’s almost impossible for someone to remember all of the rules. Every few sessions I like to take out the core book for whatever game I’m running and quickly go through it with a focus on stuff that I know will be coming up soon. Are the players going to be on a boat soon? Better check those naval travel times, and the rules for swimming and drowning, once again.
Do Some Extra Prep For Your Next RPG Session:
Most RPG facilitators are already going to spend some time preparing for the next game, especially if running an ongoing campaign. While there are some zero preparation games out there most do require some work between sessions.
If you’ve got an extended break in your game why not do some extra behind the scenes work.
Create a relationship map between all of the characters and NPCs that have been introduced so far. Zoom out and do a similar map with all of the power players in your campaign setting. Create a stable of ready to go NPCs you can use in future sessions. Map out a few dungeons for the next time the players go off the beaten path and head somewhere you weren’t expecting. Create a new monster or villain so you can catch your group by surprise using something not from the books.
There are all kinds of things you can create and make and have ready in your toolbox ready to use during a future game session.
Find or Create Some Player Aids:
One of my favourite things to do when I have downtime in preparation for playing a new game, or teaching it to players for the first time, is to go online and find some fan-created player aids. These can include summary sheets, turn order cards, tech trees, equipment lists, combat tables, and all kinds of other forms of reference material.
This applies just as well for roleplaying games as for board games. If you are running the game consider making your own GM screen or reference pages to have out during the game if you don’t like using a screen. If you are a player, this is the perfect time to write out your spells on index cards or create other tools that mean you won’t have to look up things in books once you get back to playing. Players should also consider making their own character sheets, that are specific to their characters.
The next time you are playing a game take note of how often and what you had to look up in the rules. These are the things that would be great to have on a reference sheet or summary cards.
For many games, there’s a good chance someone has already done the work for you. For board games in particular, be sure to check out The Esoteric Order of Games as they make some of the best rule summaries and player aids out there.
Extended Downtime Can Be A Great Chance to Learn a New Game.
Have you had that epic, six hours, 45-page rulebook, hex and counter war game on your pile of shame for far too long? A period of downtime may be the chance you need to get it out, set it up and work through all of the examples in the book with the game right there in front of you.
Intimidated by all the charts in Rolemaster? This may be a good time to make a handful of characters, and then set up a mock battle with you playing all the sides, learning its unique combat system through play.
Traditional RPGs in particular are known for their tome-like rulebooks with hundreds of pages of rules and reference. If you are between games, maybe now is the chance to finally sit down and got through that copy of Pathfinder 2nd Edition and see what Paizo has done with their system.
Play Some Games By Yourself
If you can’t get together with other gamers there are plenty of solo games out there. In addition to one player games there are many games that play more than one player but can be played solo.
In addition, a period of downtime may be a chance for you to learn or improve your strategy in a multiplayer game by playing it solo while controlling more than one side. This works with RPGs too, where you can play out scenes from both sides, helping you to better understand the mechanics and interactions between those mechanics.
Solo RPGs are a thing as well. While they were rare at one time, I see more and more solo RPGs getting talked about online. Check out this List of Solitaire, Soloable and Cooperative RPGs from RPGgeek for some suggestions.
So there are some of the things I consider part of the Lonely Fun of tabletop gaming. These are all gaming related activities that I like to do between game sessions. What do you like to do when you don’t have a game to play? Let us know in the comments.