SHERIDAN — While it might be tempting to turn to Netflix on dark winter nights, some local residents are gathering to play board games instead, either at home or in other Sheridan spaces.
Board games, which run the gamut from strategic to silly, can be a great escape. There are games that are locally-themed: “Wyoming-Opoly,” made by Late For The Sky Games, features “Cowboy Up,” “Free Trout” and “WY Not?” spaces, and is modeled after a traditional Monopoly game. Even more hyper-local, and designed for the true Wyoming trivia seeker, is the 1982 version of “In Search of Wyoming,” which was made in limited quantities and may only be available at select summer yard sales.
The typewritten riddles featured on the “In Search of Wyoming” cards are at times broad, and others are so specific a lifelong native might not be able to answer. A Sheridan County native could easily answer with the name of “a cave near Dayton that attracts hundreds of spelunkers or cave explorers each year,” but they may not know that the Green River was known to trappers in the nineteenth century as the Sisk-a-dee.
There are also modern games — Carcassonne, 5 Minute Dungeon, Uno Dare and Unstable Unicorns, to name a few — that are growing in popularity. Many are expensive, though, so local businesses and community centers have begun hosting game nights.
“We came up with the idea of hosting a game night when I realized how expensive board games can be,” Zola Shockley, programming coordinator for the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library said. “There are so many fun and interesting games out there that many people don’t get the opportunity to play because of a hefty price tag. Sharing resources like this with the community is the whole purpose of a library in my mind.”
Especially in the winter, having a community game night on the last Thursday of the month from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Fulmer Library’s Inner Circle gives people an excuse to get out of the house, Shockley said.
People seem to favor easy-to-learn, fast-paced games above strategy games like Risk, or even Settlers of Catan, during the SCPL events, Shockley said. The program started off with a good group of regulars and newcomers each month, but since daylight savings time hit, attendance has dropped, she said.
“I consistently have people telling me how excited they are about the program, even if they can’t always attend,” Shockley said. “I really want to stress the point that the door is always open. If people have never attended, each month is a new opportunity.” People are welcome to drop in any time during the two-hour event window on Thursdays, Shockley said.
“I do plan to continue the program for as long as people show up. I think it’s important to have activities like this, especially in a small community like ours,” she added.
In downtown Sheridan, Escapade Escape Rooms & Table Top Games began selling tabletop games including board games, role playing games, party and card games in an attempt to diversify the kinds of social, interactive activities the location offers, owner Travis Parker said. Escapade also hosts a weekly board game night on Thursdays at 5 p.m.
“The board game nights were primarily started to allow people to ‘try before they buy,’ which is a service many hobbyists seem to ask for since it can be difficult to know if one will enjoy a game without trying it first,” Parker said.
Popular games at Escapade include Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride, but also less common games like Codenames, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and the Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective series find their way onto the table. Miniatures games have a strong following in the Sheridan area as well, including the Star Wars: X-Wing and Star Wars: Armada games, Parker said.
Escapade has been hosting game nights for almost a year and a half and has also organized two larger game-day events, including SherCon in October.
“People have largely expressed gratitude for these options, and initially they were well attended,” Parker said.
The first SherCon in 2017 boasted an attendance of 90 people.
Interest has dwindled a bit, and Parker said he has tried to reinvigorate interest by expanding the variety and style of games provided. He has also offered game nights on varying days and at different times, but if game nights only have 2-3 participants, Parker said Escapade will not be able to offer them as often as once a week. He is toying with the idea of a “mini convention” events, though, he said.
And, on the darkest night, or in a power outage with no screens in sight, anyone can dust off that 1970s-version of Risk — or, In Search of Wyoming — and rouse up some friendly competition.
By Carrie Haderlie