Mike Tangedal - From Furnishing a House to Promoters of Board Games in the Twin Cities.
What exactly do you do in the industry?
Well, when my wife, Nadine Sehnert, and I started this adventure we certainly were not thinking of the board game industry as a whole. We were just looking to furnish our house..
We bought a house in Minneapolis just before we got married in 2001 and it needed furnishing. Minneapolis is dominated by bungalow type homes with oak furnishings. We quickly discovered that buying new mission-style oak furniture that best matched our home style was financially unreasonable so we came across a plan to frequent al the estate sales in our neighborhood to procure their oak furniture at a fraction of the cost.
This was a fine plan. A great bonus was all the other fun stuff in these homes. It turns out so many Minnesota grandparents had a closet devoted to board games for the grandkids. We picked up a few just for fun and then found one that had collector value on Ebay. We also added board games to a few of our parties.
However, the real collector magic happened when IKEA came to town. They have shelving solutions beyond the realm of mortal man. Once we converted our basement into a den of IKEA, we had room to really start collecting. For many years after IKEA, we’d be at any and every estate sale in town noting board games. God love the grandparents of Minnesota and their wonderfully weird tastes. Soon we had a few thousand of the best antique board games to be found.
In the mid-2000s we discovered that others in the community were interested in playing board games at events. So we took it upon ourselves to run the Twin Cities Boardgame Meetup group and quickly turned that into the biggest of its kind. As our social circle grew, we learned of all these other new board games that were all actually fun to play and not just fun to collect. So we slowly migrated from collecting the old school fun to playing all the hotness.
In recent years as just a wonderful coincidence, the Twin Cities has become a top location for board game design. So now we integrate our board game parties into board game promotion as well for all our local designers. We run charity events, promote local game designers, and have board game events pretty much every day by us or one of our many board game administrators. So from humble beginnings as just a couple trying to furnish a house, we are now grand promoters of board game fellowship in the Twin Cities.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
I’ve achieved a tiny bit of fame on the internet and the one incident reverberating most in the board game industry is when I went on the Dice Tower show back in the early days to rant about Cards Against Humanity. The focus of my rant was that this game exists primarily to prank unsuspecting people with vulgarity which is neither funny or fun. Although I kept the discourse civil, the nature of the game and the extreme volume of my voice warranted bleeping from the producers. The video went viral and it became quite fun to talk about as I made the rounds at all the big conventions.
What are you working on now?
Since the Twin Cities is such a hotbed of activity in the board game world, Nadine is looking to create a one stop website listing all the board game cafes, meetup locations, and board game designers. Just a one stop shop for all your local board game questions. It’s a great idea.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
Target is a company based out of our town and just per chance they have taken big steps in the board game world recently, A few years ago they make big news when they noted one of the few areas of retail creating double digit growth was board games. Since they are local I did a bit of local digging and found out this was primarily due to just a few games. It was those mass market games designed not so much to be played but to be recorded on your phone as you prank other members of your family. Thankfully the bodily fluid genre in board games is going away and just like Covid 19, I’m sure we’re all breathing easier when it’s gone.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
We’ve had the good fortune to help out at CHITAG for many years now. The toy and game inventor conference preceding the show is filled with enthusiastic new inventors with all kinds of fun new ideas. We are constantly amazed by their energy and creativity. However, we are also constantly surprised at how little some of them pay attention to the whole of the industry. It’s not as if mountains of history isn’t available a few clicks away. I get that falling in love with your own idea is preferable to testing your idea on as many different groups as possible but testing and research are vitally important.
(Mike and inventor Eric Lang)
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Gain self-confidence through playing games with others. Once you’re confident playing with your friends, try playing with a few new people. One you’re confident enough to play and enjoy games playing with strangers, you’ll be amazed at the benefits of this self-confidence.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of being involved with board games is the continued success of great people. The board game industry requires people who create fun. The most successful in this industry are those who best convey this fun to others. What better group to hang out with than people who not only want to have fun but who’s continued success depends on you sharing in that fun? What a great group!
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I had working with a board game designer was dealing with this retired military officer who designed a chess variant. I’m not going to paint with broad stereotypes, but there definitely exists in the world a group of retired military officers who still love a life of discipline and love thinking strategically so a natural extension is the king of strategy games: chess. So it was my job to help him set up his booth at a convention. While walking to his car to retrieve his games he tells me all about his military background and then his inspiration for his game. “I combined my two passions in life: military strategy and rock polishing”. He had taken the rocks from years of work and put them into hundreds of boxes along with a wooden chess board for his game. This was not the worst job I had because of my encounter with this fine man. I’m just saying implications exist from hauling hundreds of boxes filled with rocks and wooden game boards.
What excites you?
The next fun board game idea. I volunteer to teach now classic board games at our local convention. By now Catan, Ticket to Ride, and even 7 Wonders are considered classics. People still love to play them but with all the innovation in the industry, some clever designer is always looking to distill the magic of the classic game and make it fresh again. So I played a new game this year that took everything I liked about 7 Wonders and made it better. The board game industry is filled with excitement and innovation.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Write computer code. Shocking that someone in the computer field would like board games, right?
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
When Nadine and I got married, we might have had one backgammon board between us. Now we have a collection of over 3500 games (all of them registered on BGG by the way). So I loved playing games as a kid but did not collect them. The first board game I can remember playing was also one of my parent’s favorite stories to tell. It was a spin and collect kids games with one of the spaces resulting in a dumping of all you had collected so far. So the day after Christmas when I’m five the whole family is gathered around to play and of course I hit the bankruptcy spot and lose all my loot, I literally flipped the game board and declared “It’s my game! I don’t want to play if I can’t win!” Thankfully this is not my attitude today. If I’m ever lucky enough to every win a game, I apologize profusely.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
When first learning all aspects of the gaming community upon visiting all the big conventions, I definitely had preconceived notions of what a board gamer should be. Now I live by the universal rule separating the geeks from the nerds. Geeks know it’s perfectly fine to enjoy what you love to play as long as it brings joy to you and yours. All RPG people aren’t the same as are the Magic people, the Werewolf crew, the dice bag community and so many others. Celebrate them all; don’t judge.
What is the last time you did something for the first time?
I’m not an RPG player but I jumped into a campaign at a convention recently because it was based on some TV show I was into and thought it might be fun. It was enjoyable but very strange as I quickly realized I was the only participant far more into the TV show than the game play. I was doing all the character voices and catch phrases from the show and they were insistent upon the rules of the campaign. I was respectful and did not overstep but I’m sure they all thought I was the weird one when I was constantly wondering why participate if you don’t recognize every aspect of the show.
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
I’m quite skilled in discerning the inherent geekiness in new people I meet and love to inform my friends when I discover their kids are geeks. I even took one of my friends kids to GenCon since he was a newly discovered geek and why not toss him into the deep end of the pool. Let’s face it – future geeks are the only hope for civilization. Let’s build their confidence as quickly as we can.
Do you have any special talents?
Every 10 years or so I will come up with the perfect zeitgeist concept. A few years ago I had the epiphany that thankfully could be delivered at GenCon. I crossed our local music legend with the most popular movie villain of the time and showed up at GenCon as Purple Bane (The most famous movie from Prince was Purple Rain so this was the joke.) If I had the ways and means and time and talent, I’d show up at this year’s GenCon sporting a helmet with LED lights that also played music. I’d be dressed in a black suit with a white stripe down my back. I would be Daft Skunk