Members of the Table Top Cafe get together every Tuesday and Saturday at the Gloria Hotel to enjoy unlimited rounds of various board games Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/XPRESS

DUBAI While most UAE residents were out at a mall or at the movies last Saturday, a few folks gathered at the Sky Lounge on the 40th floor of the Gloria Hotel in Dubai Media City for some generous gaming. And no, we’re not talking about computer games out here.

On the contrary, those who were present had turned their backs on technology to mingle with family and friends over a hearty board game.

As Matt Wilson, who spearheads the Table Top Café as this community of board gamers calls itself, explained, “Tabletop gaming is a fantastic way for families and friends to switch off from technology and rekindle those social moments together with something that is fun, tactile and challenging.”

The get-together on April 30 may have been a special occasion to mark International Tabletop Day (see box), but group members meet every Tuesday and Saturday to give themselves unlimited rounds of free board games.

If the last event is anything to go by, there are at least 60 board games from which players can choose - from Codenames, Lords of the Waterdeep and Catan to Pandemic, Escape and Dixit. It doesn’t matter how young or proficient a player is, there’s something for everyone.

Wilson said, “We wanted to introduce new people to this fun and varied hobby, where they feel welcomed, can learn new games that they will be able to enjoy and share with friends, family and like-minded people. The benefits of play are huge even for an adult. Not only does it allow you to switch off from your day-to-day stresses, but it engages your mind in new and interesting ways that most other forms of entertainment don’t. It boosts logic, creativity, planning and much more.”

Ka Lei Gaudreau, a core community member, said, “The community has over 40 regulars but is constantly growing. There are probably 15-20 of us at the core, bringing in games and teaching new players.”

Giving a glimpse into how the games help break the ice, she said the Two Rooms and a Broom game, which was the highlight of the International Tabletop Day event, managed to get everyone together. “It required a lot of interaction and co-operation. So at the end of it, people had fun and made new friends.”

Ironic as it may seem, Wilson said the revival of the board game industry owes itself to technology. “Let us not forget that it is the Internet that helps us find like-minded people with the same quirky interests. How else has the board game industry grown so much over the last five-six years?”

But unlike a game over the smartphone, these board games involve real people who are physically present around a table which is what makes it personal and social in the real sense of the words.

For more information on the free meet-ups, visit http://tabletop-cafe.com

Red Letter day

International TableTop Day was founded five years ago as a way for the world to celebrate tabletop gaming together. Every spring, fans post thousands of events all over the world, and every year, the event has grown. TableTop Day 2014 was celebrated in 80 countries and had over 3,000 events. This is a great opportunity to introduce your non-gamer friends to an incredibly enriching and rewarding hobby.