Nov

30

The Never-Ending Popularity of Board Games

Mark Stephens

The hotel on Mayfair; the rack of letters without a vowel; a stack of armies on Kamchatka… all classic board game problems that have endured for many decades. And the rise of mobile and social gaming hasn’t changed anything in that respect. Most of the classic board games have quite comfortably made the transition to electronic versions – yes, even Twister! And if we needed any more evidence of the enduring popularity of board games we need look no further than London…

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Shut Up and Sit Down!

Recently in the UK the first video blog dedicated to board games called Shut Up and Sit Down started; and London’s first board game café called Draughts also opened its doors.

Both of these projects were crowd-funded on Kickstarter and show the re-emergence of the original social board games, where people sit down to enjoy playing and talking about the ‘flesh and blood’ game rather than the electronic versions.

Also in London is Loading: a retro video game bar that stocks board games, modeled on the popular Japanese gaming cafes.

Draughts takes a step further back in the retro stakes and holds around 400 board games that people pay a cover charge of £5 to pay. The café also plans to host competitions and promote new game designs.

More people seem to be going back to dealing cards, rolling dice, and moving pieces around a board in the classic board game style; but the whole definition of board games is also becoming more expansive. Every few months in London, hundreds of people gather to play Megagames, a game involving teams of up to 300 people and role-playing.

You can’t get much more of a social game than that!

For those who prefer tablets instead of tables…

Of course, while London is doing that, the rest of the world are on their tablets.

From childhood favourites like Ludo, Uno and Monopoly through to Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble_, Chess_, and Risk, legions of gamers are playing the classics; virtually all of these games have made the crossover to iOS and Android and they remain incredibly popular.

Simple board games like Ticket to Ride as well as more complicated games like Pandemic, Game of Life and Scotland Yard have also transitioned to electronic versions. And there is even a game for smartphones and tablets based on Twister; called Fingler, you use your fingers to get into impossible positions rather than your hands and legs!

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There are many other modern electronic board games taking their inspiration from traditional ones, include trading cards games like Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, fantasy board games like Small World and city-building board games like Carcassone and Catan.

It’s worth noting (and plugging) here that Monekybin’s own game BoardRush & Friends (previously MindFeud) remains our most popular game.

Is there room for both versions?

The enduring popularity of board games lies partly in their simplicity, their fun, and their general appeal; but it’s also the social-ness of the gaming experience, the teamwork involved, the element of challenge, and the educational value of some of these games that contribute to gamers’ love of them.

Improvements in screen size, graphics, sound and so on has meant that tablets and phones can host higher definition, more realistic versions of these board games very effectively; the throw of the dice, the moving of pieces, the deal of cards, and the spinning of a wheel have all been made more dynamic with advances in the technology.

Playing the electronic version also means that there is no cheating (yeah I know that’s half the fun of Monopoly) as you are prevented from making illegal moves; and there is no unpacking of boxes or tidying up – making them doubly attractive for kids, mums, and dads!

However, the ventures from London described above seem to hint at another trend – to bring back real tabletop gaming.

This might suggest a counter-reaction to the mobile and social gaming culture; but in actual fact a lot of people play both. They are different gaming experiences and the boxed versions can happily co-exist with the iTunes and Play versions.

That hotel on Mayfair seems to be hanging around quite a while longer – whichever version you prefer.