If you’ve been bitten by the boardgaming bug, you’ve probably already stumbled across BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com), the most comprehensive boardgaming (and recently, roleplaying as well) site on the web. I can remember first discovering the site about six years ago, when I first checked online to see if anyone else was interested in these strange games from my childhood. It was incredible to find a site that was dedicated to boardgaming, full of all kinds of information about games, and bringing together a huge worldwide community of people with a common interest.

Those first few months on BoardgameGeek were a bit confusing as I worked out how things worked and what options were available to me as a freshly signed-up member of the BoardgameGeek community. So this little introduction is designed to inform new members of BoardgameGeek of some of the ways the site works, and how to get the most out of it.

BoardgameGeek is first and foremost a community, and all the content is provided by members of that community, whether they are designers, publishers or just players. So it’s important to sign up and become a member to get the most out of the site. Hit that ‘Register’ button in the top left hand corner – it’s free – choose a user name (careful, you can’t change this later) and password, and you’re a member. Now you may be wondering how you select an avatar, or little picture, to identify yourself. Well, actually it’s not that simple – you have to earn it!

Luckily, it’s very easy to earn an avatar, and also things like those little icons under your avatar (Microbadges) that identify your main interests. You can buy all these things with the BoardgameGeek currency, GeekGold (GG). Basically, you earn GeekGold by contributing to the site. The new user is usually after a unique avatar first, and that costs 30 GeekGold. Later on, you can upgrade to a GeekBadge, and then even an UberGeekBadge! GeekGold is also a great way of showing your appreciation for other members’ contributions – you can ‘tip’ them to say ‘thanks’. It can also be used to block advertising on the site. The most common ways of contributing to the site to earn GeekGold are submitting photos, files, reviews and session reports.

Later on, once you’ve realised that BoardgameGeek is an indispensable part of your life, you can become a BoardgameGeek patron and make a donation to support the site. At least one person makes their living out of the site so it’s worth doing; plus you get a nice little supporter badge as part of your avatar, and even better, if you donate enough you can get rid of all the advertising on the site, if you wish. You can even customise the BoardgameGeek page layouts.

Every game has its own entry – as of January 2010 there were over 45,000 – with all kinds of information about that game. You can easily find a game by typing it into the search box at the top of the site. At a game entry you’ll find huge amounts of information, all contributed by BoardgameGeek members like yourself. There’s a Marketplace where other members might be selling a copy; information about past versions of the game, a big section of forums where you can post questions and get answers about the game, its rules, strategies, your game sessions, variants, etc. There’s usually a big Gallery of images of the game and people playing it, and game-related files that people have made that you can download. There are also links to GeekLists that feature the game (more about those in a moment), web links, all kinds of fiddly statistics for you information junkies, and finally a section where you can record your plays of the game and whether you have a copy in your collection.

One of the useful things about being a BoardgameGeek member is that you can record your boardgame collection online. At the bottom of each game entry is a button to “add a copy to your collection”. On your Profile page you’ll see a link to your games collection – you can rate your games, make a comment about them, or record plays.

While you’re in your profile, remember to write a little bit about yourself. You can record your Top 10 and Hot 10 games. Under the GeekStuff tab you can see how much GeekGold you’ve collected, and who your GeekBuddies are – these are people that you’ve decided to add to your list of interesting contributors or game buddies. Under the Interests tab you can go into more detail about your hobbies and favourite stuff. The Contributions section will keep track of everything you’ve ever contributed to the site, including comments on files and photos and forums you’ve posted on.

Something that often confuses new users is the GeekLists section on the front page. What are GeekLists? They’re lists of games made by members that are usually strung together by some common theme or interest. There are too many types of GeekLists to list, but they range from lists of games played at a particular game day, to funny lists, competitions, commemorative lists, lists marking particular events, or ones that express a member’s opinion about something. It’s a good idea to have a good look through some lists before making your own. Remember however, that a list shouldn’t be just one item and then an invitation to add other items. You can invite readers to add their own items to a list to expand it, but the list should stand on its own merits before going up for everyone to see.

Apart from ‘tipping’ members GeekGold, don’t forget to ‘thumb’ them to show your appreciation as well. This is a little green button attached to almost every entry, photo and file on BoardgameGeek, and it’s another way of saying ‘thanks’ and give feedback that members appreciate. It’s can be very satisfying to see something that you wrote get thumbed by hundreds of people!

The great thing about BoardgameGeek however, isn’t just the amazing amount of information all gathered together in one place. It’s the community. There are thousands and thousands of members from all over the world, and not only might you discover a new gaming buddy who lives around the corner, but you might make good friends from the other side of the globe. Of course it goes without saying that with all these people mixing together on one site, it’s very important to be as considerate of others in the community as possible. There have been times over the years when big discussions have turned into arguments, but usually they don’t last long and for the most part everyone is very friendly and helpful. Using ‘smilies’ like smiles and winks can sometimes help to get your message across effectively. Just remember to respect others, play nice, and remember there’s a person on the end of that post!

As you can see, BoardgameGeek isn’t just a place to go to find information about games – it’s a big community of like-minded people from all over the world who love games and gaming. Make sure you get the most out of this fantastic resource for gamers – go join in on a discussion, upload a picture, or write a GeekList now!

For more information about BoardgameGeek visit, umm, BoardgameGeek! (www.boardgamegeek.com).

by Universal Head

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate websites, to postage stamps, to a mobile phone interface. His personal site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.