Eleven years ago this month, The Wife (then The Affianced) and I moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in the north east of England. The Affianced went off to University again and I started working with my current employer.
At the time, I wasn't in to boardgames (I know, hard to imagine, considering how obsessed I am with them now!), instead, in my spare time, I wrote bits of computer games. All that changed eventually, when I started designing my first game: Border Reivers.
There's only so much fun you can have playtesting a board game by yourself, so I enlisted friends from work to try it out so I could work out what worked and what didn't and tweak it accordingly. I chose the theme (and the name of my company) from local history and Newcastle became a favourite city of ours.
However, we move around a lot and three years almost to the day after moving to Newcastle, we found ourselves heading south to York where I joined Beyond Monopoly and made friends through gaming for the first time. York is only 100 miles south of Newcastle, and for the first year we lived in York I continued working for the same company, three days a week at home and two days a week up in Newcastle. I made some great mates at my employer and even after I got a job a bit nearer to home in York I remained in contact with them, occasionally hosting events in York or heading up to Newcastle for a weekend.
With gaming now such a large part of my life I introduced my friends in Newcastle to other games and frequently playtested games with them, and in fact when I decided to attend Essen for the first time, Mal (the world's second most capped Border Reivers player, and Reiver Games proof-reader extraordinaire) came out with me.
After four years in York it was time to move on again, this time another 150 miles further south to near Bedford, where again I made my friends through my passion for gaming. Newcastle was a four hour drive away now, but we still popped up a couple of times, and Mal made a couple of trips down.
By this point I'd been running Reiver Games as a full-time concern for two years and it was clear that it wasn't going anywhere, so I was looking for paid work again. I was looking for work as a Software Engineer as it was the only thing I knew how to do, but I was a bit rusty after three years out of the business and I was struggling to find work. I contacted the guys I had worked with in Newcastle for four years, five years previously and they agreed to take me back four days a week one summer as a contractor to get some recent experience on my CV. It was not like starting a new job at all, more like coming home! Most of the same people worked there (in fact there was only one face I didn't recognise on my first day!). After that summer, I found a job down south that didn't excite me, so The Wife and I decided it was time to stop saying 'It would be nice to live in Newcastle again' and actually do it instead, so I contacted my old employer again and they offered me employment there for the third time.
Photo via Wilka again
It took The Wife a couple more months to work out her notice down south, so there was a couple of months where I was camping inside the rental place we'd let for while we found a nice house to buy. I had an empty house with no furniture and very few belongings to myself during the week, so I made sure to take up several of my favourite games and with some collapsible chairs and a folding camping table, set up my own Games Night for the first time (previously I'd always had mates with larger collections than me, and just gamed at their houses).
I invited several of my friends from work and some ex-colleagues, and Gareth who ran Newcastle Gamers. To begin with it was just Mal and I, but slowly more people became interested and it has now grown to the point that we regularly have six or seven attendees and once we had ten! (that camping table comes in handy again most weeks!). Pretty much all the attendees are either friends from work, old friends who used to work there or partners of people who still work or used to work there - my gaming life revolves around the only employer I've ever had in Newcastle.
Why is all this relevant? It's not really, but I've been working on a new game idea for a year or so and was having difficulty finding the time to get it to the table (more so, now that I have a two month old daughter). I'd been avoiding getting it to the table at Games Night for fear of spoiling people's fun with a crappy half-arsed game. Then it struck me: I'm at work all day every day as are half the attendees of Games Night. Let's put them to work! So I invited them to join me of a lunch time for a game of Codename: Vacuum. I've played it 5 times over the last few weeks and still have more games booked up in the future. I've had to limit myself to one or two games a week so that it doesn't knacker my hours too much (a game at the moment lasts around an hour either for me and a newbie or three players with at least one game behind them). This is working really well, a great chance to play regularly and build up the information I need before I can make the next version (which is nearly ready!). Long may it continue.