A Sommelier of Board Games: Dallas E. Caldwell
“I like to think of myself as a Sommelier of board games,” Dallas E. Caldwell says, surrounded by shelves of neatly stacked board games. Just as a sommelier recommends wine to a dinner party, Dallas has his own recommendations for board games. After considering experience level, game difficulty, and player interest, Dallas is able to browse his selection of board games to find the perfect pairing. His motto being, “there is a game for every player and a player for every game.”
“Fandom and passion are better when they’re shared. I was into nerdy stuff all my life; now lots of people are into it,” says Dallas. With more than 400 games, his collection runs the gamut. Dallas has a refined palate, he likes games with a theme and favors the worker placement genre: a game style where each player has a team of workers, which they may choose to place on different actions. His wife Jenny says, “Dallas explains games in a way that’s easy to understand. He’ll even lend strategy tips at the expense of his own.”
Connection through Competition
Dallas and Jenny have three children Evy, Aya, and Norrin. They’ve watched their kids go from novices to expert strategists when it comes to role play board games. Their kids benefit from the counting, reading, and problem-solving necessary for playing. Games engage the mind, invite friendly debate, and provide a unique form of connection among those who play.
Dallas is the Southern Regional Champion of the game, Wordsy. He won this title at Tokencon which included an invitation to compete at Gen Con, held in Indianapolis in August. He has also designed three games inspired by his fantasy novel series, 144. Dallas will soon host his own annual board game convention, Dallas Caldwell Board Games (DCBG). This year is particularly special as it is his fortieth birthday. Dallas enjoys being the host and facilitates an environment that ensures everyone has fun with the game at play.
Reviews, Rants, and Raves
In 2019, Dallas started a platform called 90 Second Nerd. He and Jenny, along with close friends, Nick and Bekah Shipley, play a game and offer a 90-second recorded review. They’ve reviewed games of their own choosing and have received games from companies and board game startups. In addition to finding great games through the process, Dallas has discovered a new way to connect to board game enthusiasts like himself.
There are some games on the shelves that haven’t been played, but most have been played at least one time. Dallas and Jenny hold a yearly ‘ten by ten’ challenge. They play ten board games ten times. This allows them to get to know the game and sharpen their strategy. Dallas says with a wide smile, “A common question alluded to and not directly asked is how much I have invested in this.” He compares the cost of a night out to the movies with his family where they’d each sit in a seat watching a screen. “A game costs far less than that, plus we get to keep the game and board gaming is all about connection around the table.”
90 Second Nerd board game reviews and Dallas’ musings can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube under @90secondnerd.