Unofficial club uses board games to build community and heal the mind


Nicole Goodie

Members of the Kingdom Builders including founder and President Richard Spark, pictured second on right, meet in the cafeteria on Thursdays to play various strategy games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride.

The word gamer typically brings to mind the image of people sitting at their computer or television, fighting off an array of nightmarish enemies out to get them. For some, those images and plots can be too intense because of what they have experienced in the real world.

Some of those individuals at Cosumnes River College have come together to form their own group of gamers called the Kingdom Builders who focus on a different type of game: board games.

Although they are not an official CRC club, the Kingdom Builders are just as passionate about their purpose as any other club.

“The board games can be used to really bring people together,” said Kingdom Builder’s founder and president Richard Sparks. “The people are more important than the games.”

Sparks said he and the other leaders of the club make sure that anyone who joins them feels welcome.

Sparks said he is a veteran of the Kosovo war in Yugoslavia, which was a time of genocide and depression for the Serbians and Albanians. Because of what they had to witness, many veterans develop post-traumatic stress disorder, including Sparks.

“One of the things that helped me deal with PTSD is gaming,” Sparks said. “Not the gaming that has demons and spells and witchcraft and sorcery, none of that darker side stuff.”

Kingdom Builders usually play strategy and worker placement board games of all types. Some are based off historical places or points in time.

Sparks said these types of games are healthier for the mind and bring people together. They also help with critical and strategic thinking as well as resource management.

Sparks said his main reason for starting the group was to help people who are struggling with disorders such as PTSD and suicidal thoughts.

In the six years the group has been meeting, Sparks said they have transformed into a safe place for anyone looking to kill some time, relieve stress or make new friends.

Sparks said that students who are not a part of the mainstream find themselves in a battle to move forward.

“Bullying is something that can ruin kids,” Sparks said.

Bringing the game Settlers of Catan to the cafeteria and playing with friends is what Sparks said started the group.

As the group of gamers began to grow, Sparks said the original members began forming the club into what it is today.

Angelo Naboa, a 19-year-old accounting major, said his friend would bring him to the cafeteria after class to play with the club.

“We started just playing board games and it was so much fun,” Naboa said. “I actually had something to do in between classes. Every Thursday I look forward to it just because it is a relax day.”

Naboa said even though strategy games require a lot of thinking, it actually helps relieve stress.

“If you’re stressed out because of school work, or just life in general, every Thursday there’s a board game club here that pretty much helps relieve stress and it’s a good time killer,” Naboa said.

Members of the club said that no one should be afraid if they don’t know how to play the games. They are more than willing to show people how to play and even share a helpful trick or two.

“I would love to see the club grow,” said 20-year-old Gavyn Anderson, a biology major. “These games are really fun, and not too many people play them.”

Anderson said that compared to enduring socially-awkward group projects, the Kingdom Builders help with social communication.

“It’s a good way to get out of your comfort zone but in a very friendly and fun way,”  Anderson said.

During a lively debate between Sparks and the rest of the members, they said the club’s three most popular games are Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. All three are worker placement style games that originated in Germany.

They also play classic strategy games like Risk and Go. The latter of which was developed in China over 2,500 years ago.

Shane Rigsby, a 20-year-old architecture major, is one of the leaders of Kingdom Builders and said he works hard to advance the club.

“I try to give general ideas of what games we can play, figure out the guidelines and basically give a specific idea of what to obtain,” Rigsby said.

The Kingdom Builders meet every Thursday in the cafeteria from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and said they welcome anyone.