Mixed in among the rise of mobile and social gaming, a more traditional medium has been rising to prominence again. Standard, sit down board games have been gaining in popularity again for the past couple of years and are really starting to take shape again. Not only are people putting their mobile games and controllers down to sit around the table with friends but you don’t even need to do it at home. Board game cafes are becoming a thing too, with many inviting you to bring your games along and play with friends while ordering dinner and drinks.
Why have board games taken such life again?
It wasn’t long ago that I was ready to acknowledge that traditional board games were probably going digital forever. I would play Uno and Monopoly over XBox Live with friends, but the “human” element was missing. Very few of us trusted that the decks were being shuffled with the same approach a person would and that we wouldn’t just win beauty contests with every single Community Chest draw off the Monopoly board. There is also something really satisfying about being able to actually set up the board and get people around the table to learn the rules and get at it.
But if you ask me, board games have really taken shape again because they’ve dared to challenge their own status quo. Board games no longer have to be confined to a table and tokens. Games now encourage you more than ever to use yourselves as pawns and move around. There are still plenty of traditional games out there that work, but if you want to get really creative within the spaces of the game itself, there are tons of games that challenge you to improv everything from music to even job cover letters. One of the reasons I believe Cranium was so popular when it first came out was that it tried to break the constraints of the usual board game by asking you to be a jack of all trades. It was exciting and it was very unorthodox. A lot of today’s games go that way too.
Board gaming for various attention spans and skill levels
One of the most interesting things I’ve seen with today’s board games is the fact that the creators are focusing on the time investments involved. While you will get games that can last up to half your day (Game of Thrones from Fantasy Flight is a really good example of one I’ve been up until 3 AM playing, despite starting the previous day), you can look on the box of most games out there and it will tell you how long the average game takes. Shorter burst games like Sushi Go may only take 15-20 minutes and most games now fall within the 45-90 minute category. One of the biggest complaints I hear about traditional board gaming is how long it takes to complete a single game. Life in general has transitioned past the family games night we remember of old where everybody was confined to fighting over the last Monopoly property and nobody could go to bed until the game was done. Maybe that was just my family?
On Co-Op vs. Competitive Board Games
Another interesting complaint I hear from my friends that are a bit hesitant to play board games again is the competitive vs. cooperative aspect. We remember back to when just about all board games out there made us compete against each other and how draining that was every single time. Manufacturers today balance cooperative competitions as much as they do competitive ones. You can build an amazing library of cooperative board games before you even need to touch the competitive ones. If you look at a title like Cryptozoic’s Ghostbusters game, you take on the roles of the 4 heroes to try and capture as many ghosts as you can. You’re encouraged to be just as creative and just as thought-provoking, but in a way that supports your team. Fantasy Flight has a lineup of games based on HP Lovecraft’s books that are challenging and completely cooperative.
A lot of today’s board games just can’t work in online formats
While I spent years with friends playing Uno and Monopoly (and there are many versions of this classic available now), I started a few years back to wonder how the board game market would survive with the increasing variety of online game options. However, they all continue to do a great job of bringing friends together—in person. Granted, you can still find apps for many of these games and can still find traditional card and strategic gaming online, but when games challenge you to play your opponents’ abilities as much as board games do, it can’t work anywhere but in person. With some of the clever strategic aspects of games like Cosmic Encounter, you’ll be challenged to form silent alliances and strategies that might not be so successful speaking over an Xbox Live headset.
Keep an eye on all of the up and comers too!
For most of my life, I could tell you some of the staple board game manufacturers out there – Parker Brothers, Pressman, Milton Bradley, etc. They’re all still around, but a lot of the variety in the market today is driven by people like you and me. We all have that family or friends story of somebody that sat in their basement and hybridized the perfect board game or came up with a game idea so crazy that it worked. However, nobody ever played the game outside of that circle of people because there was no way to develop the idea. Crowdfunding has led to some of the most fun board games I’ve ever played and now, everybody is free to channel their ideas and turn them into something amazing. You’re beginning to see games that have started on places like Kickstarter get picked up and published. While shopping for a friend the other day, I happened to see a crowdfunded game called Funemployed on the shelf and started telling a curious staffer about what it was about and how often I’d played it.
However, at the end of the day your fun with a board game is really driven by what you enjoy most. Even if you still crave a game of Monopoly or Scrabble, it’s all good and it’s still around. The next time you do get the craving for something new though, challenge what you’ve done before and check out the nearly 1000 board games and expansions for ages 3-103 now available online at BestBuy.ca
Share your favourite board game in the comments section!