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Board Gamers of Singapore #9: Ben Tan (Organising with a Smile)

Board Gamers of Singapore #9: Ben Tan (Organising with a Smile)

It all started in a Church in the year 2011A.D. when Ben decided to try out board gaming to pass the time. Little did he know that this pastime would come to play a decent part in his life and that his collection of games would grow from 0 to its current size of 273!

Like many people, Ben started with the "Modern Classics". These included Settlers of Catan, Smallworld, and 7 Wonders. As a testament to these game's replayability, he initially played these titles week after week and still wishes to go back to them whenever he can. 

His true step into the rabbit hole though was when he signed up for an account on Board Game Geek (BGG) and On BGG, he not only found a community that was dedicated to the hobby but he was also amazed at how many games there were to play.  

Related: Board Gamers of Singapore #7: Han Weiding (The Lord of Smiles)

Locally on, Ben found that there was a group for Singaporean Board Gamers, joined it enthusiastically and at some point decided to go to his first meetup. He remembers vividly being asked to play a 9-player game of Eclipse and narrowly escaped that experience. One reason he calls it a "narrow escape" being, hours later when the meetup was closing, the game of Eclipse was still not finished. 

Instead, he joined a table playing Power Grid and enjoyed it but felt his brain burn as the strategies for Power Grid was quite the leap from 7 Wonders. 

Since then, Ben has attended many a meetup but sadly that stellar attendance has been reduced quite a bit in the last few years due to life's many commitments. It is for this reason that he and some other friends set up a private group to play games on Mondays and still do to this day.

But what makes Ben an excellent gamer on top of his good nature is his ability as an organiser of his gaming group and thus here are some features many of Ben's ardent supporters have pointed out about his great organisational style that you might want to emulate if you were to want to start a group of your own.


In an RPG, usually, the healing cleric is not the first choice as it is not an exciting role to play as the heroic Paladin or Barbarian. It is the same for an organiser, a lot of the work is behind the scenes and mundane but has to be done. These can be things like updating the group on events, find/scout locations, arrange timings and be the person to go to on any issue the group. All this effort usually unpaid and on their own time.


This characteristic is really important as it takes commitment to constantly put in the time to keep the group going. To many, the job seems simple, just send a message on a group chat and that is it. This can be true of some groups but for many, it usually takes one person to send the opening message in the group for the next session and that is even when attendance is waning for whatever reason. This period being key as the longer the group is on hiatus the more likely the group will go defunct as people will just take it that the group is no longer meeting.  


When there are sentient beings around each other, there will be conflict. Understandably no one wants to be hated and thus when an issue comes up, most people either pretend to not see it or just try to stay out of the way. The good organiser does not have this luxury though, for if the organiser leaves the problem to fester, it will usually tear the group apart. 

For example, if you have someone in the group who is late all the time but wants to join a game with another member who stresses punctuality. You have to stress to the late player that if he is late, he will lose his seat or even offer that he joins another game and not the current game as it will probably create conflict between him and the other member.  

Another example is to spread any burdens. One example, a practical one that Ben recognises for a regular gaming group to play more games is that the purchasing burden should be spread among the group. In this way, not only does everybody save but by suggesting it, it creates a conversation that allows people to buy games they feel best suits them and no obligations are created. 

Also on this point though is that no one should be obligated to buy games too but if they don't then they should not pressure others to get the games they want too. 

To this end, Ben even helps to organise group purchases of board games and even goes as far as to put it in excel so the group can more easily coordinate their purchases. These little touches keeping the group both excited and keen on turning up for events. 


It is also important as an organiser to keep things within the group relevant as there can be members of a group who might use the group chat or meeting for example to air extreme political views and such and if it goes too far, the awkward job of reigning in falls on the organiser who has to be the "bad guy".


When dealing with conflict in a group, it is never nice to have to tell someone that they have an issue. This is where Ben shines as with consultation from the group, Ben will ascertain the situation and has a knack for saying what he has to say but in a way that is both firm and respectful. Such as recognising that the person has a right to say what they feel about a certain topic but maybe it would be better to keep it out of the group, etc and stressing the practicality of stopping said behaviour rather than flat out saying that the person is in the wrong. 

Ben's recommended game of the day is Hansa Teutonica, which is one of his favourite games. He feels the game truly stands out for its design and mechanics.

In Hansa Teutonica, 2-5 players are merchants in Germany who are trying to increase their prestige, either by being represented in city councils, building a network, having other traders use your businesses, etc. Players will also improve their traders, which will benefit them in different ways such as more actions, earning more money and so on. It is very much similar to a game of chess with almost all the information being available to everybody and has a high level of interaction as you get to "kick" peoples traders out of their routes. 

Ben likes Hansa as its depth becomes greater with every play and is definitely a game of skill over luck that plays within 60-90 minutes. For example, Ben played a game where another player called Chris only had 2 basic actions and still won by a mile, showing him another possibility in the game.  

The hardest part about tabling Hansa for Ben is not only finding experienced players to delve deeper into the strategies but also experienced players who rather play Hansa than a new hotness. This is especially true in a world where thousands of new games are being released every year. 

Hansa, as you can see, is a brain burning board game and thus if you feel up to the challenge and like a game that is full of strategy, do give it a try as every victory is truly yours and earned. 

Zhou Huibin is a smith of words who majored in Philosophy & History from the University of Western Australia and whose life has followed the flow of his hobbies. He seeks continual contentment in his ponders, reading, writing, painting and board games which fills almost all of his time.
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