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Anthony Wahl
Brian Luckus explains the purpose of the Janesville Pegheads in this behind-the-scenes look at the group.

Janesville Pegheads welcome new people to hobby gaming

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Shelly Birkelo
Monday, March 7, 2016

JANESVILLE—A game of Black Fleet was about to begin at one of a half-dozen tables during a recent Friday night Janesville Pegheads weekly meetup.

“Don't turn over this card yet,” Brian Luckus said as he dealt.

“It's a pick up and deliver game,” Luckus said.

He hadn't played the game in a while and was flipping through the instructions while other players put their game pieces in place on the board.

“Everybody brings their own games, and we play what we feel like,” Luckus said.

“Some of us have extensive collections; others have a game or two,” he said.

Luckus was among about two dozen people at the Friday night open gaming meetup at Kryptonite Kollectibles in the Janesville Mall, 2500 Milton Ave.

Tim Burel, 57, drives 45 minutes to Janesville from Davis, Illinois, for the meetups and has missed only one since the group began.

The retired Spanish teacher uses his games in his U.S. and world history classes at Hononegah High School in Rockton, Illinois.

“Each student plays a historical character and will be able to see if Allied leaders could have prevented World War II,” he said of the board game Origins of WWII.

The gaming group was co-founded two years ago after Rob Plantikow, 43, of Evansville and Brian Luckus, 40, of Edgerton connected through boardgamegeek.com and one of its podcasts, Blue Peg Pink Peg.

“I was building a collection of games and didn't have anyone to play games with, so I took a leap of faith and emailed a guy I knew nothing about to see if he'd be interested in playing a game together,” said Plantikow, a mechanical engineer.

They met, played Lords of Waterdeep and had a great time. After a few more meetings, they became friends and decided they needed more people.

“That's when we founded the Janesville Pegheads on meetup.com,” Plantikow said.

The group's first meetup was July 3, 2014, when five people played Splendor, Citadels and King of Tokyo. 

HAVE FUN. PLAY GAMES.

“We're called Pegheads because when the Blue Peg Pink Peg folks were looking for what to call their groupies, I mentioned 'pegheads,' and it stuck," Plantikow said.

“I'm even in their Hall of Fame as the namer,” he said.

Early on, Luckus, a police officer, and Plantikow decided the group should be welcoming and include everyone, particularly new people learning about hobby gaming.

“Lots of people come to meetups who might be looking for friends, moving to a new town, struggling with hard times in life and not so comfortable socializing. So we want Janesville Pegheads' meetups to be that place to go where you can be assured you'll be treated well, taken care of, have fun and hopefully make some friends,” Plantikow said.

The group adopted the tagline: “Have Fun, Play Games, Make Friends."

“We don't care who wins or loses games. We want to know you had a good time,” Plantikow said.

DIVERSE GROUP

The meetups draw a mixture of personalities—from couples and singles to students, educators, professionals and avid gamers. They range in age from 20-somethings to the semiretired who have been playing games since the 1970s, Plantikow said.

Many of the Pegheads have large game collections and bring a variety to the meetups.

“Usually we see about 10 to 15 people coming together to play games,” he said.

About every six months, the Pegheads plan a big gaming event. Games are played Friday through Sunday night at the Janesville Woman's Club, 108 S. Jackson St.

“We call it the NMA (No Monopoly Allowed) Game Fest," said Plantikow, who described it as the Pegheads' “own mini gaming marathon/convention right here in Janesville.”

More than 50 people attended the two days of the fifth NMA in October and had “an absolute blast,” Plantikow said.

The next NMA is in April and will be the Pegheads' sixth biannual game fest, he said.

NOT FOR EVERYONE

Although the group strives to be inclusive, Plantikow admits Pegheads isn't for everybody.

“You won't see much of the classics like Clue, Monopoly, Sorry! or chess being played at our meetups, although anyone is welcome to bring them and see if they can get enough interest to play," Plantikow said.

You also won't see traditional card games such as euchre, cribbage or sheepshead being played.

“Our group has grown around our own interest in hobby-style board games, going back to games like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and the influx of European-style games like Caylus,” he said.

Visitors could play a new game every time they visit, Plantikow said.

“I feel like I can find a game for anyone once I get to know him or her a little and get a sense of what they enjoy,” he said.

And if you want a brain-burner, Plantikow would steer you to Eric Tewell, the group's euro games expert, for a game of Panamax or Kanban.

For those who prefer a lighter, more social game, Plantikow might moderate a game of Ultimate Werewolf, a game in which lying is nearly essential to win.

“We play a lot of party games as well, if that's what you like best. And there's a huge variety in between. Regardless, we hope everybody has fun—and if you're not comfortable with new games, we have a lot of seasoned gamers who are quite skilled at teaching new games and making everyone feel welcome,” he said.

PEGHEADS POPULARITY

Plantikow said it doesn't take much effort to keep Pegheads going.

“For the most part, we just show up, play games, have fun and try to resist the temptation to buy everything Kryptonite Kollectibles stocks on their shelves,'' he said.

A couple of gamers in the group have started their own blog.

“It has been a wild ride and started just because a couple guys wanted to get together and play games. Now we're a strong meetup with a core group that has become fast friends," Plantikow said.

"It is such a great hobby to share."



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