Board Gaming has long been a Great British past time, bringing friends and family together for some hard earned quality face-to-face time, but the board gaming scene has drastically changed in recent years. When most people think of board games they think of a slow, dragged out game of Monopoly where everyone eventually hates everyone and it feels like most of the fun you have happens in spite of the game, but there are now thousands of different board games around which offer an extreme variety of gameplay ranging from quick 10 minute games, to weekend long trials of galactic conquest.
What type of board games are there?
Board games range from maddeningly complex with a plethora of tiny pieces, to devilishly simple ideas with only a handful of things to look out for. Like video games, board games have themes such as Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror and the like, as well as different genres (but i’ll come back to this in a moment). There are games exclusively for 2 people, and games that can involve 40 or more people, board games have evolved, and are becoming as divergent as any other form of entertainment.
Now when I said there were different genres, let’s take a look at the video game market. Most games can easily be categorized with a glance. World of Warcraft is an MMORPG, Half-Life is an FPS, Fifa is a Sport Sim and so on. There are a select few that use multiple genres, and even then it’s easy to point them more towards a single label. Board Games are a bit harder to do that with. There have been a few terms thrown around, and some games definitely fit firmly within those categories, but the great thing about board games is that as long as the rules are well written its easy for a game to take concepts and idea from multiple genres and mash them together.
Let’s take a look at these labels:
This is a very common grouping that is often accredited with being the genre that made board gaming more mainstream again. To begin with these games were mostly developed around Germany, where board gaming is still enjoying its largest market (hence the name). German-Style games (also refered to as Eurogames) often have a few very key game mechanics that make the game accessible, easy to learn, and hard to master. These games will involve no form of player elimination meaning everyone is always playing until the game is over, and they tend to avoid direct player interaction, meaning you don’t usually directly attack each other, opting instead for out maneuvering or blocking other players from strategic locations. The big important difference is that most German Style games will have a very low emphasis on luck of dice rolls, meaning if you lose a German-Style game, it’s not because you just got unlucky, but your well laid plans didn’t work out. This makes the games feel fairer and is often said to be a key point of bringing board games into the limelight.
Examples to look at: Settles of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne
Settlers of Catan – Image courtesy Randy Robertson
– My personal favorite. Social Games have made me fall head over heels in love with board gaming because it does something that is so very rare to video games. Social Games are about you as a person. They will thrust you into a situation of distrust and force you to concoct a web of lies, or work out who is lying and who is telling the truth. Social Games often involve an informed minority against an uninformed majority, which means there is usually a small team of traitors, liars, spies, werewolves, or cylons against a large team of bystanders, villagers, and everyday people. The larger group will have to use their wits and cunning to sniff out the foxes, and it’s often the aim of the small majority to sneak things through, get away with lying, and often, its is their sole objective to make the game fail. This in itself is glorious, spending an entire game trying to make sure the objectives are NOT met, to make sure the bad things happen, and to make sure everyone dies. These games are sometimes done as small quick games where cards are quickly used to achieve objectives, to tense long lasting games where the traitors must bide their time until the moment is right to strike. My first ever non traditional board game was Battlestar Galactica, a game where the small number of Cylons must make as much of the humans actions as possible fail. But it’s hard, everything you do leaves a trail, only certain people can play certain cards so if you fail an objective for the team they could find you out at any second, and as a Human player the paranoia leaves you questioning every single word that comes from your supposed friends mouths. Social Games can create an atmosphere of tense subterfuge that I’m yet to experience in Video Games, and is one of the reasons I love board gaming as much as I do.
Examples to look at: The Resistance, Spyfall, Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica – Image courtesy Thaadd
Who says Board games need to be an ultra competitive free for all? There are some games out there that pit you the players against the board itself, where you have to work together to keep the board mechanics at bay in order to win as a group. Co-op games create a great sense of camaraderie, and are a great way to get even the most stubbornly competitive players to get along with each other. Co-op is nothing new in terms of gaming, and board games are a fabulous addition to the idea.
Examples to look at: Pandemic, Zombiecide, Eldritch Horror
Pandemic – Image courtesy yoppy
There are so many different types of board game out there that are difficult to categorize with just one title. There are deck building games, war games, word games, abstract picture games. It’s so hard to nail down one specific thing that links some games together because they’re all just so varied.
Board Games are like any other entertainment form out there, there is now so much choice there is something for everyone, and there are still things coming along that surprise even veteran board gamers. There is currently a consistent flow of new ideas, mechanics or concepts that are so different or unusual that you can’t help but me intrigued and often end up captivated.
Title Image Courtesy Eugene Kim