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March 17, 2005

Board games vs Computer Games

Earlier this week we held one of our regular LAN parties - which we've been doing for 10 years or so now. Problem is, there just wasn't anything compelling to play for 8-16 players in a LAN. So I suggested we go back to our roots and have a Board Game party, a technology-free LAN if you like :-)

The day was great, we played Space Hulk, Titan, Settlers of Catan, Cosmic Encounter, Titan - the Arena
- I think thats the full list of what we played, but there were just as many sitting there that we didn't have time to play.

Apart from having a great time we were reminded about a few things...

Cooperation: Boardgames are played for mutual fun, there's a sense of friendship while playing (perhaps excluding tournaments) - to the point of letting people take their turn again if they made a mistake or helping them out with suggestions during their turn. Even though it's player-v-player there is very much a Co-op feel about playing boardgames. I find that both World of Warcraft and City of Heroes generate this same feeling (at times) where some players will go out of their way to help you, not looking for anything in return except for enjoying themselves. The same cannot be said for many other games!

Well balanced games: These boardgames seem to be well balanced, even with players of differing skill levels (possibly also due to the friendliness of the players involved). To be fair, there are many many boardgames that do not have lasting appeal, often due to this very issue (being unbalanced). Cue the CS newbs to yell "TEAMS!!1"

Simplicity: For the most part, a new player can be coached in a fairly short time so that they know how to play the game - the finer details can be explained as the game progresses. Some of my favourite computer games are simple, yet engrossing. It's one of the reasons I often prefer Dungeon Siege to NeverWinter Nights (except when in the company of rules-lawyers who can help me in NWN)
The complexity should generally not be in the rules/controls but in the mastering of the game.

Originality? : One thing that was interesting was the lack of 'new' board games - the newest was Catan which is 10 years old, the others were 15-25 years old. Now to be fair this is mostly because we are all old farts who haven't been playing many boardgames in the last 10 years, but I suspect the peak period of originality/innovation in boardgames has long past. Greg Costikyan said some interesting stuff about innovation in boardgames/computergames in his rant at GDC this year, I don't agree with it all but it is worth a read (also at boingboing)

War Stories: One thing that I noticed seems to be true of many games that are engrossing is the war stories that they create. Players like to tell other players about what happened in the game (e.g. Rimmers Risk Story). This is no different to sports stories, highlight reels, etc. Not all great games do this (Tetris stories anyone?) but many do and it's a telling sign that a game has found a permanent home in your head. What was your last gaming war-story ?

Space Hulk War Story from this weeks gaming, by Zaph: "Jon flamed the tile, I rolled a 1 and survived, then he flamed again, and I rolled another 1. Jon then flamed a third time, using command points, and my asbestos bug rolled a 1 for the third consequtive roll! one-in-216!. Bart then stepped in, dropping a flame to kill his own teammate (Jon) to hold back the bug, but this was the turning point in the game and the bugs went on to win on the final turn"

Posted by Zaph at March 17, 2005 11:08 AM

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Yeah. I was soooo happy when it happened.

Posted by: Jon Eaves at March 17, 2005 10:42 PM

I found your site via Technorati, because you linked to the Board Game Geek. It's nice to see a video game player enjoying board games. I used to be really into them, until I rediscovered board games.

You are *so* wrong about a lack of innovation in board games. Quite the opposite, there has been a renaissance in board game design in the last few years, mostly coming from Germany. It started with Settlers and has not stopped. Check out this list at the Board Game Geek:


All the top 10 have been published since Settlers.

Posted by: Iain at March 17, 2005 10:53 PM

Thanks Ian,
Looks like my first guess was correct then: "this is mostly because we are all old farts who haven't been playing many boardgames in the last 10 years" :-)

Some of those games in the top-10 are intriguing, we'll have to check a few out.

Perhaps reality is that the *mainstream* boardgaming world is lacking in innovation - much like mainstream computer games or mainstream movies, but there is a subculture out there in all of those which is thriving - it's just that the general public are mostly unaware of it. (not that there is anything wrong with 'mainstream' - thats what pays my bills!)

Posted by: Zaph at March 18, 2005 12:18 AM

Looking at the deep interesting games you have written about above, I am confident you will enjoy all the top 10 games.

There is no doubt the mainstream boardgaming market is stagnant. It is time more of the games on that list broke through.

Good luck with your gaming. :)

Posted by: Iain at March 18, 2005 12:33 AM

Simplicity? I don't think this is must for a good game

Posted by: World Weary at September 22, 2005 10:55 PM

Have developed new board game. any ideas on how I get it onto the market.

Posted by: Neville at November 16, 2005 09:40 AM

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