Forget connecting with friends via smartphone for a game of Words With Friends. For some, it's still about the rolling of dice or the shuffling of cards with players at the same table.
In fact, back-to-basics board games are gaining popularity through a more tech-savvy means -- online meetup groups.
"I like the face-to-face," says Kelley Callery, 54, who often hosts such game nights at her Sayville home. "I play some games on the computer, like everyone else. But I much more enjoy getting a group of people together and sitting down at a table to play a game."
It's a friendly but competitive atmosphere at Callery's home when the Meetup.com group Games R Us Board Gaming gathers to play. The group has been together for four years and usually plays three times a week. It has about 20 active members.
"We play strategy games once a night," she says. "They are much more detailed and can last two to three hours."
Despite the competition, friendships are forged.
"I've made some really good friends," says Judy Bowers, 53, so much so that she has gone on cruises and a trip to Africa with fellow board game enthusiasts.
THIS ISN'T MONOPOLY
Many of the group's members say the more intense the game, the better.
"It's good to expand your knowledge and stretch your creative juices," says Stephen Gabriel, 42, of Medford, a country club manager who started the group and hosts games at his house twice a week. The group often ends sessions with a more leisurely "party game." (Think Pictionary.) On this night, it's Off Your Rocker, a game where a player has to guess what other players are trying to describe.
"I hate this game!" yells Teresa Thompson, 43, to peals of laughter from her fellow gamers as she tries to guess "words that rhyme with ill."
Players are often game collectors, too. Callery has 1,500 titles, including some "print-and-play" games downloaded from websites.
Callery, a graphic designer, has even invented her own game.
Mischief Night, with its deck of colorful ghoulish illustrations, is a game of elimination, in which certain cards can make "mischief" of an opponent's hand, such as allowing a player to see another's cards, or asking for the lowest cards to be taken from the deck. She's been working on it for about two years, and the group has tested it for her.
Through her own playing, Callery has seen what makes a game successful.
"I look for the mechanics of the game, and the artwork, too," she says. "Even if the concept is good, if the artwork is awful, I won't go back to it."
Games R Us Board Gaming
WHEN|WHERE 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Sayville and Medford. Location is given when new players register on the meetup.com website
MORE GAMING GROUPS
Other places to meet up and play various board games:
SMITHTOWN BOARD AND TABLE GAME MEETUP GROUP
WHEN|WHERE 7:30 p.m.Wednesdays, Katies Bar, 145 W. Main St., Smithtown
A 21-and-over game night with up to 15 players on any given Wednesday. Games are big on strategy. This group plays independent board games, mostly European games such as Dominion and Resistance. "These games are very mentally stimulating," says Abbey Cooke, 32.
LEGENDARY REALMS GAME STORE MEETUP
WHEN|WHERE Most evenings during the week at Legendary Realms, 1163 Old Country Rd., Plainview
INFO 516-595-7088, meetup.com/Legendary-Realms-Game-Store-Meetup
This retail store sells games but allows Meetup groups to play there most nights of the week. While most of the games are role-playing, such as Dungeons and Dragons, "we do have some people who have come to play Risk," or the newly popular Ticket to Ride, says owner Rich Parla.
SCRABBLERS & WORD-BIRDS
WHEN|WHERE 7:30 p.m. the second and fourth Fridays of every month, Denny's, 371 Old Country Rd., Carle Place. Registration required.
INFO 516-796-7436, meetup.com/scrabblers-word-birds
The group plays Scrabble at each event (participants range from serious tournament players to newbies) followed by other word games, such as Taboo. "People will have a nice, laid-back evening yet compete on their own level," says co-organizer Jay Weisburd.
ALSO TRY A contingent of about 20 people from the above group meets at 5 p.m. Tuesdays at Panera Bread in West Babylon to play strictly Scrabble. Close to half the group's players are "Scrabble addicts," says organizer Bob Krause, 57. (For more details, call 631-328-3118 or visit the website meetup.com/scrabblers-word-birds/events/167156952/)
Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong day for the board game nights at Katies Bar in Smithtown.