Minneapolis couple’s board game collection a winning strategy for building relationships

| January 5, 2018 | 2 Comments

From left, Mike Ranniger of St. Michael in Stillwater, April Kennedy of St. Louis Park, Michael Mesich of St. Louis Park, Tangedal and Nate Neu of Richfield play Carson City, Tangedal’s favorite game. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Step into the south Minneapolis porch of Nadine Sehnert and Mike Tangedal, and the couple’s passion becomes obvious.

Stacked to almost shoulder level are dozens of board games, just a small sample of their entire collection.

“There are board games in every room in our house,” Tangedal said. “The main stacks are downstairs in the basement.”

The size of their collection?

“Around 3,000,” Sehnert said.

Their love affair with board games coincided with their courtship in the late 1990s. They bought their first game together in 1999, and they were collecting in earnest by the time they got married in 2001.

“I have seven siblings, so we played a lot of games,” said Sehnert, 55. “So, I had a few games when we met. But, what really happened was we started going to estate sales together and we would see old board games. … We started buying them because they looked really cool. It was cool to have old, vintage board games.”

Nadine Sehnert and Mike Tangedal’s oldest board game dates back to the 19th century. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Four years into their marriage, Sehnert joined St. Albert the Great in Minneapolis, and shortly after started using the church’s social hall for board game parties. By that time, the two owned several hundred games.

They soon discovered that parishioners and friends relished the chance to spend an evening gathered at tables, making new friends and learning new games. Sehnert and Tangedal continue to host the parties at St. Albert, about once a month, with 75 to 100 people per party. Their most recent event was on New Year’s Eve.

They use Meetup.com to promote events at St. Albert and throughout the Twin Cities. Since Sehnert became The Twin Cities Board Games Group administrator in 2006, the number of members has increased from 400 to more than 5,000. Sehnert and Tangedal hosted all of the parties in the group’s early years, and it has since expanded to people’s homes, parks, local restaurants and “wherever we could find space,” Sehnert said.

Their love of board games combines a dual interest — collecting and playing. Tangedal is more the player, Sehnert more the collector. She spends hours scouring the internet for current and vintage games, and she has purchased games more than a century old.

“I do a lot of organizing and researching and studying and reading” about board games, Sehnert said. “We probably buy 60 percent new games [and] 40 percent old games every year. We have games dating back to the 1890s, like an Old Maid game.”

Naturally, they have their favorites. Sehnert prefers word games like Word Thief. Tangedal’s favorite game is Carson City, an old-West themed game named for Nevada’s state capital. The game is nuanced and complex, featuring many opportunities for conflicts and battles with opponents.

Board games

Mike Tangedal and Nadine Sehnert each hold their favorite board game in the basement of their Minneapolis home where most of their collection resides. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Tangedal, 53, plays the game regularly with a group of friends, including Mike Ranniger, who travels from Stillwater. The drive doesn’t bother him in the least, he said, and he made it to Tangedal’s home for a noon game Dec. 29 even though the temperature hovered around zero degrees.

“It’s a unique group of friends,” said Ranniger, a parishioner of St. Michael in Stillwater who has his own collection of 40 or 50 games. “We try to get together once a month to play this game, specifically. So, it’s a special occasion.”

Numbers show that people across the country also are taking an interest in board games. An online industry tracking site, ICv2, reported that sales of hobby games in the U.S. and Canada topped $1.4 billion in 2016. It’s a 21 percent total growth rate over 2015. The article’s author, Milton Griepp, noted that the 2016 increase is part of a larger trend.

“They’ve been growing a lot over the last few years,” Griepp, ICv2’s publisher, told The Catholic Spirit. “Specifically, they’ve grown each of the last eight years. So, eight consecutive years of growth — a really great growth trend.”

He thinks the increased interest in board games is part of a backlash against technology. As people spend more time in front of screens, they have started to seek opportunities for interpersonal encounters, which board gaming provides.

That is one reason Sehnert and Tangedal put so much of their energy into hosting game parties.
“Building community. That’s what we’re all about,” Tangedal said.

“We provide that space, we provide that opportunity,” Sehnert said. “Nothing is better than seeing all the tables full and people playing all kinds of different games, and all different levels of games and all ages playing together.”

One of her most gratifying experiences was watching a mother come to a gaming party with her 12-year-old son and his friend. The first words out of the son’s mouth were, “Where’s the wifi?”
Sehnert persuaded the boy and his friend to sit down and try playing a board game. She helped them select one they found appealing. They played for several hours, to the astonishment of the boy’s mother.

“The mom comes over and she’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. He will never play games with me,’” Sehnert said. “That felt really cool that I got this 12-year-old boy who was only interested in playing video games on his laptop to actually put his laptop away and play [board] games with other people.”

Their parties at St. Albert have drawn the attention of the pastor, Father Joseph Gillespie, who has attended a few of the events, and likes what he sees.

“It’s just good, clean, family fun,” said Father Gillespie, who also has visited the couple and seen their collection. “It really is delightful to see so many different people. It’s a fun, ecumenical night.”

The couple doesn’t plan to grow their collection, but they have high hopes for the future of their gaming endeavors.

“My dream is that we would have our own space [outside the home] that we could store all the games,” Sehnert said. “We don’t have any kids, so eventually we would like this collection to be a public game library.”

Tags: ,

Category: Featured, Local News