Board Games 101

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Many Cardboard Bits.
John Fox - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Board games. When those two words come to mind for most it conjures up the names Risk, Monopoly, Scrabble and Clue. But that it all there is to the hobby, right? It is all family and children games, like the ones I find at Walmart. I can have more fun playing video games. Wrong. The board game hobby is a highly diverse one, with games appealing to a wide range of ages, skill levels and interests and offering a unique experience that can not be found in any other hobby.

There are many different types of board games. Gateway, sometimes known as casual, are games that are simple enough to bring new people to the hobby. These games are lighter on the rules and complexity and can be appealing to a wide group of people. Games in this category include Ticket to Ride and Forbidden Island.

Forbidden Island is a gateway game where players have to seek treasure before the island sinks!

Games known fondly as “Ameritrash” are very thematic and usually combat or conflict orientated. Those wanting to fight dragons, battle aliens and save the world like in their favorite video games look no further. Not surprisingly these games tend to be published by American publishers. Examples include  Legend of Drizzt and Arkham Horror.

Euro games are the antithesis of Ameritrash. They are less conflict based and players are usually never eliminated. They tend to have less theme than Ameritrash games. Wooden pieces are also used, the most well known being the “meeple”, a small wooden person. Most of these games are developed in Europe. Examples include Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne.

Miniature games are strategic games using detailed miniatures. They could be fantasy, sci-fi, ancient or modern warfare. They pit two or more players against each other, each controlling different figures or armies.  Examples include Warhammer and Warhammer: 40k.

That is not all there is, there are strategy games, tactical games (think short term strategy), dice games, party games and a plethora of others, including hybrids of the genres.

But why should you care? Can’t you get some or all of these experiences by playing video games?

No you can’t. Playing board involve physical pieces and face to face player interaction that can’t be found playing online or alone with a video game. Physically interacting with the pieces is an entirely different experience in itself, something that can’t be duplicated by any other hobby. Playing with friends and family (or even complete strangers) is a much more fulfilling experience than playing with someone online as you are actually interacting with that person. This interaction can lead to much more camaraderie, or friendly rivalry with the cooperation or competition the games bring. The diverseness of the hobby also means that it is much easier to find something appealing to almost any group of people.

The cons of the hobby? Some board games can be quiet expensive, averaging around $50  MSRP with some more elaborate ones going to $80 MSRP or more. Thankfully online retailers usually discount this by a large amount and you can easily find many good games well under $50. Are they gouging you with the prices? Not really. Board games are expensive to print. One report I’ve heard said that it costs from $2,500-$5,000 for each mold for each different plastic playing piece. Does the game have 10 different plastic models? That is $25,000-$50,000 right there and that does not include what they paid the sculptor or how much it cost for the plastic.

Also games go easily out of print. There is not a large used market like video games and publishers seem to favor smaller print runs. Unless the game is highly popular and the publisher keeps it in print, odds are you won’t be able to find a game a couple years from when it released.

Where to start? My suggestion is to try popular games of different genres to see what you like. Try out a game with the number of players, complexly and playing time that best fits you. Once you find out what you like work from there. Also many publishers have the rules of games on their websites that will assist you in your search.

When I discovered the board game hobby I fell in love. While they be replacing any other hobby in my life, the hobby has a place to stay. Board games offer a unique experience that is not found in any other hobby. I stopped worrying and loved the many cardboard bits.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Answers Network.

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