December 19, 2016
Lauren Lutgens '17
When he arrived at Saint John's University, Jon Zierden noticed a "startling lack of geek culture on campus."
He wanted to change that.
In the fall of 2015, Zierden, a senior from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, founded the Tabletop Gaming (TTG) Club at CSB and SJU. TTG meets once a week, offering students a friendly environment in which they can play, talk about or simply be around tabletop board games.
During his first year, Zierden learned there were many other students on campus who shared his interest in board gaming, and soon had an established group of about 25 that would regularly get together to play.
Getting a group together to play wasn't too challenging. Formally registering the group as a campus club, however, was a bit trickier. Zierden's request to form a club was twice denied by the Joint Clubs Board, the group of CSB and SJU senators and representatives from Student Activities and Leadership Development tasked with approving the incorporation of new campus clubs.
The board was concerned the club might not appeal to CSB students. Thanks to Zierden's passion and determination, though, TTG has been an official club for more than a year and had more than 87 active members during the most recent semester — and many of those are Bennies.
"There's been a huge difference in the attitudes toward tabletop gaming within the last 10 years," Zierden, now president of TTG, said.
Students who have not had a lot of experience with board games walk through the door to a TTG gathering having only played Settlers of Catan, which Zierden said is commonly considered the "gateway drug" of board gaming. An empire building and resource trading game, Catan's gameplay is only slightly more advanced than mainstream board games like Monopoly and Sorry and "opens up a whole new world of board gaming," he said. Members are also encouraged to bring their own games and teach others how to play.
"Our most popular types of games are more party-oriented games lying around deception," Zierden said. "Any game that you get to lie to your friends people think is a lot of fun." One such game is The Resistance, which can be played with up to 10 people, and centers on overthrowing the dystopian government. The catch is that within the group, the government has placed spies, and the premise of the game is trying to identify which members of the group are infiltrators.
"It devolves into a circus of yelling at your friends," Zierden said. " 'I know you're a spy, I can't prove it, but I know you're a spy!' "
Last year, TTG only owned about four games. For the most part, members brought their personal copies of games to share/play at gatherings. Thanks to support from CSB/SJU's Co-Funding Board — a campus group that allocates a portion of the student activity fee to different clubs and organizations — their assortment has since grown to almost 20 games.
TTG also helped the CSB/SJU Libraries start a game collection of its own by sharing a list of game suggestions. The collection is still growing, but will ultimately consist of over 30 board games available for check out by those in the CSB/SJU community. A list of the current collection of games can be found on the CSB/SJU Libraries resource page under the "Games" tab.
In October, the libraries collaborated with TTG to host a kick-off party to showcase the new collection.
With the offer of free pizza, pop and prizes, about 85 students turned out for the event in Clemens Library at CSB.
"We had a startling majority of Bennies, which was phenomenal," Zierden said.
Want to learn more about the CSB/SJU Tabletop Gaming Club? The club meets weekly at 7 p.m. on Thursday nights in Simons 340. To learn more, email the club at firstname.lastname@example.org