Jose Balderrama has more than 700 board games, and he's not afraid to play them.
His massive collection began in 2008 when a co-worker introduced him to the award-winning German game Settlers of Catan, in which players become settlers and vie to become the most successful civilization on the island of Catan, and the railway-themed Ticket to Ride.
Now he's opening "The Vault" to share those games with the public. The inaugural Pikes Peak Gamers Tabletop Board Game Convention is Friday through Sunday in Memorial Hall at Manitou Springs City Hall. A list of available games is online at pikespeakgamers.com.
"This is not hyperbole - board gaming has changed my life," said Balderrama, gamer in chief of Pikes Peak Gamers. He's also a research and development engineer at Keysite Technologies. "So many of my best friends I've met through board gaming. I wanted to share that experience and provide the medium for that."
Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, attendees can check out Balderrama's games - including classics Clue, Stratego, Trivial Pursuit and Uno - set up a table and play to their heart's content. Single players are welcome, as groups always will be looking for another player, as are newbies who might not realize the vast extent of available games. Balderrama says thousands are created every year.
The convention will occupy the hall until 8 p.m. Sunday. Serious gamers can play through the night should they find themselves in a cutthroat competition. Players are even able to check games out overnight and venture off the premises to play.
Balderrama encourages people to show up even if they haven't played a game since Monopoly in their youth. A board gaming sommelier, as he and Balderrama have dubbed him, will be on hand to recommend games. And don't fret about having to read thick booklets of rules for strange games. Passionate gamers who already know them will be happy to teach beginners. Balderrama has played about 90 percent of the games in his collection.
"If somebody says, 'I like Risk,' that give us a good base," he said. "You like the mechanics of 'Risk' and want to compete in that style, so here are a handful of games."
His compilation was acquired through board game conventions across the country, gaming stores in Colorado Springs and Denver, Amazon.com's selection of specialty games and the go-to online guide: Boardgamegeek.com.
"One of my favorite things about getting into games is I think of them as miniadventures with a group of people," he said. "Most games have a rich theme or story behind them. A lot of games are designed overseas, so there's also a lot of learning that goes on, whether it's the nomenclature of currencies they use or the old-style way or whatever that might be. There's a lot of history."