A Guide To Playing Board Games At PAX Australia

There’s a month’s worth of excitement packed into the tabletop section this weekend at PAX Australia. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s going on and how you can squeeze as much joy from it as possible.

To The Library!

PAX Australia’s board game library is ridiculous. They have everything from the shiny new games released at Essen earlier this month to the polished jewels that have defined modern board gaming and they’ll let anyone at PAX with a photo ID borrow from it. The rules are simple: hand over a photo ID when borrowing a game, don’t take the game out of the tabletop area and be respectful to the game (and staff).

It’s a great service with only one problem: it’s hard to judge a board game by its box.

Thankfully, there’s a solution. Several solutions, in fact. The enforcers in the tabletop area are incredibly helpful. I’ve wandered into the board game library countless times in the past and struck up a conversation with an enforcer about what’s available to play. Just look for the yellow shirts. At the very least, having a few suggestions thrown your way can stop you being overwhelmed by choice.

If you don’t feel like chatting with an enforcer, or can’t find one because they’re overwhelmed by the sheer mass of people in the tabletop area, you can always pull out your phone. A quick search of any game title and “board game geek” will bring you to the Board Game Geek page for the game you’re looking at. This page contains a wealth of information; particularly the playing time and recommended amount of players. When you’ve got five friends waiting for you to return with something you can play quickly, knowing that what you’ve just picked up takes two hours and is best with three players can be very useful information indeed.

There are also a Tabletop Teachers program in place to help players learn games, for people that prefer the human touch instead of poring through rule books.

Finding Players

Sometimes you just don’t have enough people to play the game you want to play. Finding people at PAX is easy. “Looking for players” signs are available to help you find enough players to fill up your game. Just sit down, pop the sign in front of you and you’ll have enough players before you can take all of the pieces out of the box. It’s like magic but without the sparkles. Similarly if you spot someone with a “Looking for players” sign in front of them, you’re welcome to succumb to the summoning power of the sign.

The signs aren’t the only way to find people to play with. PAX is a social event. Talk to people. People are great. Nervous about interrupting someone’s fun by barging up to their table? Act like a waiter with a pepper mill. Wait for a lull in the action, approach the table and be polite. It’s that simple. Don’t grind pepper over their games. That’s both messy and requires you to carry a pepper mill.

Designers, Publishers and Retailers, Oh My!

Not only is PAX Australia full of people, it’s full of board game designers, publishers and retailers. Their booths are loaded with games to poke and prod. You might even be lucky enough to play with the prototype of an unreleased game. This year, there are even two Meet the Designer events; one on Friday at 7pm and another on Sunday at noon. I’ve yet to meet a designer who doesn’t welcome the chance to show off their latest game.

Tournaments & Other Events

Already an old hand at the tabletop section of PAX? Know your way around Catan? You can prove just how good you are at the many tournaments hosted throughout the weekend. Just check the schedule to see when you can beat everyone at your favourite game.

Speaking of the schedule, there are countless events to take part in. From Magic the Gathering tournaments to RPGs and everything else in between. Walk into the tabletop section at any time and there will be something going on for you to take part in.

Follow Adam Wells on Twitter at @trjnrabbit to hear about board games, Spelunky and how much of a muppet his dog is.


    I haven't really gotten into the heavy boardgames, I more prefer the lighter style card games - exploding kittens, CAH etc.

    I guess it depends if you have the right friends to sit down, learn heaps of new rules and invest a few hours. Kind of impossible with little kids!

    If you don't have the "right friends" and can negotiate for an afternoon or evening away from the kids, there are several boardgame events going on almost everyday of the week where you can just attend and jump right in. There will always be someone happy to explain the rules to you.

    Played Werewolf a few times over the weekend with people and, my god, that game is so much fun to play with strangers. I think the tabletop/board games are really a fundamental part of the PAX experience.

    I was very happy to see that they actually had some fun, silly games for kids to play. We borrowed a Mattel game called "Pile Up Parrot", and Mr 4 and I had fun balancing crates, barrels, pineapples and bananas on a parrot riding a raft. Also, Ticket To Ride: Santa Edition (aka Nordic Countries) was a lot of fun, and I lost horribly after missing one single link between cities. D'oh!

    Summary: The Tabletop area was fabulous!

    I was busy doing my own thing and didn't play much (but I play with a weekly game group anyway, and played heaps on the wednesday and thursday at games laboratory), but I was impressed with the wide variety of games. There was enough there for every taste - getting a game was smooth, and it didn't take long to find people who wanted to play.

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