Amanda Lashua works in the Scientific Software industry in New Hampshire. While she has only been playing ‘heavy, euro-type games’ for a few years, she certainly isn’t new to gaming as a hobby in general.

“My parents separated when I was four, and I would go to visit my dad every other weekend, one of those deals. And we would always play Monopoly, and five-card stud. Some of the skills he taught me were important: like how to play against other players, and how to psychologically get them to do what I want.”

Those skills, coupled with sessions of penny-Poker during family gatherings, and her experiences playing D&D 3rd edition in middle school, ended up feeding a curiosity that eventually shaped a huge part of her grad school experience.

“I’ve taken a lot of the skills that my dad taught me and incorporated them into modern gaming. It wasn’t a big leap for me.”

At a ‘getting to know each other’ party at Syracuse University, she was introduced to Settlers of Catan, and liked it so much that she tracked down a friendly local game store that sold it. It turned out that the FLGS held regular Settlers and Munchkin Tournaments, so she and her friends signed up and started participating regularly (she even won a few times!).

“People see strategy games and think, oh, I’ve got to get points. I’ve got to build my engine. I’m not into sabotaging people, but I’m not above manipulating them to do the things I want them to do in order to help me. Sometimes if you stack hands the right way, you can force opponents to pick the card that you want them to pick – one that benefits you.”

In addition to her involvement with local tournaments throughout grad school, Amanda also took part in a two and a half year long Dungeons & Dragons campaign with her friends.

“We were really nerdy about it. It incorporated rotating DMs, and time travel. We went back in time and invested in a tavern. We even calculated the compound interest on our investment. When we got back to the future, we had so much gold that we could buy anything.”

After grad school, Amanda found herself surrounded by a new crowd of hobbyists, some who even design their own games. They mostly spend their time playing titles like Great Western Trail and Terraforming Mars.

“I prefer board games and RPGs over other games, really, because it forces people to be together and honor commitments. It’s a social obligation, and it’s been really good for maintaining our friendships. Even though we’ve all gone in our separate directions, it’s something that keeps us in contact and meeting every month.”

When we sat down at PAXU in December, Amanda was making the rounds and enjoying the growth that the convention had seen in the last year. She had a lot of positive things to say about attending conventions solo.

“Going to cons alone forces you to meet new people, make connections, and join games that you might not be able to if you have someone else with you. Breaking away and doing your own thing is a completely different experience.”

She mentioned that she sees people wandering around in groups and can’t help but wonder if they miss out on some of the experience by staying within their bubbles and comfort zones.

“I like playing games against people I don’t know because they usually underestimate me…. to their own peril.”