The emergence of board game groups, gaming cafes and multiple mentions in the Guardian document the recent rising popularity of tabletop board games. By chance I was sucked into board gaming several years ago and it opened up a whole new magical world for me. To be an ironic board game hipster, I liked them before it was cool.
And I feel I’ve only just started. I know someone, no word of a lie, who owns 600 board games. I own a lowly 6.
I first started playing ‘hardcore’ board games (none of this Monopoly nonsense thank you) about three years ago. My boyfriend at the time and his friends were big players of the oddly named Carcassonne (yes like the French city). A rather intimidating game to be invited to by your new boyfriend and his friends you’ve just met. Especially as I didn’t really have an understanding then of what tabletop board games were. I associated that name with the Dungeons and Dragons ilk. RPG (role playing game) an unknown term to me, the amateur nerd. At the time that seemed to be a whole dark level of geeky I could not quite step down. How naive I was then! I now adore RPGs.
Despite the deceiving name and appearance, Carcassone is perhaps the perfect gateway board game to begin with, and it remains my favourite to this day. Later games of Ticket to Ride, Ankh Morpork, Dominion and Lords of Waterdeep soon had me fully converted. More recently, it has become more of a regular hobby due to joining a board game group (one of the best things I’ve ever done) and having a board gamer boyfriend who is still pretty new to the scene. That makes for lots of new games to explore and add to the collection!
I love board games because they are adventures in of themselves. Unlike books and most video games, they can be adventures where you and friends are the true protagonists. Your decisions can have major implications leading to success or downfall. You are not guided by storylines or button mashing but by your own strategy, quick thinking, problem solving and that of others. Of course much can come down to luck and the roll of the dice, which is a key element in many games ensuring each and every play is different and engaging.
The Social Life
Playing board games is inherently very social. They are interactive by nature whether that be due to attempting to beat others or work together to beat the game. As someone who is often introverted around new people, board games are brilliant icebreaker for me. They allow you to get stuck in, together. It’s the ultimate conversation starter. Bond over working out the rules of a new game, or teach and learn from others. Generally, I’m a go and have adventures with people person and board games literally bring that element to the table. Many of the games we play are better described as party games. For example, working as a group to work out who the spy is in The Resistance or guessing the right words in time as a team in Codenames.
Board games make you use and exercise your brain, often without you even realising. In the new world of short attention spans and scrolling, board games are literally about focusing on the long game. A great way to achieve mindfulness. Instead of binge watching The Walking Dead I can kill zombies in Dead of Winter, manage depleting resources and decide who to exile to ensure survival of the colony. Instead of tapping mobile screens in FarmVille I can manage different farming methods in Agricola. I struggle immensely with puzzles and have no patience for them. Yet I’ll spend hours labouring over carefully thought out plans in board games which are, essentially, puzzles. Because even if I lose every time (curse you Splendor) I enjoy every experience which changes every time. It’s truly about the taking part. But, of course, if you’re not willing to nearly lose friends over board games, you’re not playing properly!
There’s also so much variety. There’s board games to suit all tastes. The board game bible, BoardGameGeek.com, ranks all board games based on reviews and this rank numbers in the thousands. There’s simple and silly games, party games right through to day long complex saga games. I’m not sure anyone can claim to dislike board games when there’s so many to try!
So if you’ve never tried the more adventurous board game (put away the Scrabble) I recommend you give them a try. I’ll be blogging and reviewing some of the board games I love and play on this blog.