Last week, I was invited, along with my husband, to join a group of board gamers from our local Iowa City area on their annual gaming retreat. For this event, they gather at the Gamers Ranch, for day after day of board games and fellowship.
If you’re not familiar with the Gamers Ranch, it’s a short term rental/vacation property in the countryside, nestled among farms and open pastures, just outside of Bland, Missouri. The site can accommodate groups of up to 20 people at a time and offers activities for indoors (frequently updated board game library with thousands of games including the BGG Top 100, arcade, LAN gaming pc area, Lego library, MTG library, miniature painting workshop area, reading nooks, and several large screen tvs for streaming) and outdoors (disc golf course, miles of hiking trails, a lake with boating, geocaching, fire pits, etc). The sleeping areas inside are well appointed with linens, toiletries, and wifi. Bonus for foodies: the kitchen is fantastic, offering a commercial fridge/freezer, large work area, and all the equipment you need to cook just about anything (they even provide a smoker!). Like other properties of this type, you just need to bring your own food, and you pay a base rate per night, plus a flat cleaning fee. Just a phenomenal property in terms of its amenities. The owner (Dave) has a home literally next door, and while he isn’t always around, he often is, so if you need anything (including some company to enjoy all those activities), he’s got your back. During our stay, because the retreat organizers have known Dave for a few years now, he was often gaming with us.
Our group from Iowa City was about 15 people, plus a couple of kids. My husband and I arrived a day after the event began as we were coming directly from a vacation in the Maldives and had 7 and a half hours of driving to get to the retreat from O’Hare once we got off our flight. Within our group, the arrangement was that one of the folks was in charge of all the meal planning and execution, and the rest of us took turns doing cleanup after. For those of you who know me, you know that I often take on that role, and it’s a lot of work, so I was happy for once to be able to attend a fun event like this and just participate as a guest and not an organizer. The gentleman who handled all the meals (Mike) was an amazing talent in the kitchen, and I’m pretty sure I actually cried with joy the first evening I was there when a delicious pile of BBQ ribs with all the fixings was placed in front of me. I joked that one of the best things about the retreat for me, as a woman, was getting to play the role of the typical privileged American white male where I can just show up at mealtime and something yummy and made from scratch is handed to me. While not a built-in amenity of the Ranch, it was an absolutely amazing enhancement to the whole experience.
Let’s talk about the games. Dave prides himself on having the latest and greatest new releases in the library and he delivered on that. I got a chance to play Mosaic from Forbidden Games, and to my delight, it was the fru fru version from the Kickstarter with all the upgrades (great game by the way, I hope to get a copy and play a few more times to write a review for you).Another recent release – Dog Park – was also on the tables, and this pattern of new games repeated itself many times over the retreat. I spent a good bit of time recovering from jet lag as the Maldives are 12 hours ahead of central time, so I didn’t play continuously as I usually do at game events, but I still got in plenty of games. They included Mosaic, two games of Twilight Inscription (from Fantasy Flight), Tapestry (from Stonemaier Gamers) with all expansions, Brass Birmingham (from Roxley Games), and numerous games of Werewolf. We wrapped up our retreat Sunday morning. I had hoped to get in another game or two before the 1pm checkout time, but as I’d stayed up till 4am playing Twilight Inscription, I needed to sleep in so I could be fresh for driving home. Once we were finally up, we said our goodbyes to all our new friends (before arriving, I only knew one person at the retreat) and were off. I’m home now, already two days into my workweek, and all I can think of is how much I can’t wait to go back with the group next year. I’m hoping perhaps even to organize a trip for the board game group we host at our hose each week as well. I highly, HIGHLY recommend you give the Gamers Ranch a visit with your favorite group of people. Go for the games, or the other activities, and have a great time. I think you’re really going to find it to be an amazing experience, just as we did.
Note: If your drive home from the Gamers Ranch takes you by Hermann, MO as mine did, make sure to stop at the Wurst House for lunch and supplies (bring a cooler and ice packs to take home their award winning brats and summer sausages).