In the past we've this event has been sponsored by a Games or Hobby shop who brings out staff to teach new games as well as copies of the classics like Settler's. We are looking into that option again. Also at this event is a Euchre tournament that has in the past had as many as 20 tables going (80+ participants).
So why has this become a tradition of orientation that we value and invest resources into? I think it's because playing board or card games is one of the easiest ways to make new friends. You'll get to meet new people and find common bonds over particular games that you already like. It's so easy.
But don't worry, if you aren't a (board) gamer than there is going to be a tonne of other types of events going on during launch week which you'll meet all the other non-gamers:)