On Saturday nights, from 7:30 p.m. to practically midnight, the Scripps College student union above Malott Dining Commons is buzzing with student conversation. In the midst of midterm season, the study rooms and couches are full — but instead of reviewing flashcards or editing lab reports, the occupants are laughing over stacks of cards and game pieces.
A table in the corner is close to overflowing with brightly colored and well-loved cardboard boxes; advice for playing The Mind is called out across the room, solicitations are made for extra players and introductions are exchanged across Mysterium boards.
This is the 5C Board Game Group. After a year away due to COVID-19, the club is back and better than ever, with a new meeting space and a dedicated group of officers. Mercy Bickell PO ’22, a club officer who has been in a leadership position since her sophomore year, shared the reasoning for moving the club away from Pomona College’s Smith Campus Center, where it had met in previous years.
“This year we moved to the Scripps student union. It’s a lot more central for people, and more accessible, and has bigger space,” Bickell said. “So I’m hoping that people will lean on the club more this year for stress relief.”
At the 5Cs, especially as classes start to increase their workload and midterms begin, it can be difficult to find time to do anything that isn’t studying. The Board Game Group provides this time, a break that can be both structured and social — whether it be the length of a game of Settlers of Catan or a round of Uno.
“People are able to come in and out as they want,” said club officer Claire Partridge PZ ’23. “It’s not like they have to get there right at the start or stay right up till [the meeting] ends. So if they want to go to the library, study, come take a 30-minute study break and play a game or two and then go back, that’s totally cool with us.”
This flexibility forms one of the key features of the club.
“I think it’s appealing because there’s almost no time commitment,” Bickell said.
Zola Hefta-Gaub SC ’25 discovered the club at Turf Dinner and has attended every weekend since then. With its time slot on a Saturday night, the group offers a lively form of socializing which acts as an alternative to the college party scene.
“It’s kind of nice to have something to do on a weekend that’s not necessarily partying … having an activity on those nights you can go to and maybe not feel as lonely about not going out,” Hefta-Gaub said.
The environment is overwhelmingly a welcoming one, which didn’t surprise Henry Long CMC ’25.
“I usually like the energy surrounding board games, just the people who come … usually, it’s a good crowd that shows up,” Long said.
At the 5C Board Game Group, club officers such as Jessica Mei SC ’22 cultivate that energy with intention.
“I like to think that my main role is, as a facilitator, to make sure everyone’s comfortable and everything’s running smoothly. It really sucks when you’re new, and you don’t know who to play with or how the game works,” Mei said.
Bickell agreed, sharing her strategy for making everyone feel welcome.
“Some people come in groups, and some people come alone,” Bickell said. “If people come alone, we try to reach out to them and include them in a game. I usually play a quick, easy-to-learn game in the first 30 to 45 minutes so that I can easily invite people when they walk in.”
“It’s really where I’ve made some of my best friends.” —Jessica Mei SC ’22
Attendees adopt this welcoming approach as well — Hefta-Gaub experienced it firsthand after attending a meeting alone.
“Last week, there was a group of people who I think all knew each other, but they invited me to join their game,” she said. “And so then it was like, ‘Oh, I’m part of this group now! And we’re all hanging out together.’”
Ultimately, the 5C Board Game Group is an exercise in inclusivity, openness, flexibility and enthusiasm.
“Even if people are kind of nervous or don’t know that many games, or don’t have anyone to come with, board games club is still a space for you,” Partridge said.
With this energy, the club has established a loyal group of regular attendees while consistently welcoming all newcomers, creating connections that last across colleges and over years.
“I never really played board games that much before coming to college … but it’s really where I’ve made some of my best friends. It’s a really great way — a really low-stakes way — to get to know people,” Mei said.
Bickell’s experience exemplifies the club’s connection-building potential.
“This is where I met my long-term partner,” she said. “I think it’s a great place to meet people, and this is definitely a testament to that … you can make some real, long-lasting connections.”