Board to Tears
A Breakdown on Board Game Approachability
Week 1: The Good
This month, I am developing a card game. Over the past couple of months, my gaming friends and I have been drawn to board games and card games when we hang out, particularly co-op games. Something about the physicality, the teamwork, and the personal social interactions make these games more alluring than other activities including video games. Our favorites include games like Eldritch Horror, Zombicide, and soon to be Betrayal on the House on the Hill, once there is another production run…
Though one might think that board games have a lower barrier to entry allowing a wider appeal (one being me), I find it difficult selling these games to my less “gamer” oriented friends. Even though my March project is not evolving in such a direction, I would love to dissect these barriers and find “gateway” board games for everyone to enjoy that still hit the same highs.
Before we can find out what is wrong, I find it could be useful to find what is right with these games that I enjoy so much.
First off, there is something… empowering about the physicality of the game. Controlling the movement of pieces, the drawing of cards, and the rolling of dice means we take the place of the computer. It is more work, but it also means everything that happens in the game is at our fingertips. As a result, everything in the game is transparent. Unlike video games, nothing can be blamed on technology. Server lag, connection issues, glitches, and bugs are non existent. In fact, any faults in the game can be fixed with “House Rules”. No MODing or reprogramming is necessary, simply a vote. (I normally don’t like to do this because I have a certain level of trust in Game designers, however, occasionally this is misplaced). The cherry on top is that there is never an electronic barrier to entry. Most of the time, the only thing needed is a copy of the game. No controllers, TV, or consoles are required.
The second appeal comes from the person to person interaction. Sure, multiplayer video games allow me to interact with my friends, but it is over voice chat or next to each other on a couch. Board games allow a face to face interaction. You would be surprised how much facial cues and eye-to-eye contact can add to an interaction. A lot of noncooperative games take advantage of this making social interactions, bluffing, and mind games a core mechanic in the game. These interactions are what define common games like “Monopoly” or games devoted to this concept like “Resistance”.
Last but not least, the teamwork aspect of co-op games strengthens bonds and makes the whole experience more unique. Most games pit players against each other. I have some very competitive friends, this lead to grudges amongst our group. But with co-op games, we succeed together. Even better, with roleplaying games or games with a strong character element like the “Horror” series, we even create a shared experience together, one that is tailored to our styles and imaginations.
So in short, the types of board games I love…
1.Take advantage of the physicality giving the players the ability to control the game, but not too much that it becomes tiring to manage.
2. Encourage the players to communicate, joke, and enjoy each other’s company.
3. Allow the players to strategize, work together, and win together.
So board games sound PREAAAATTY awesome right about now, right? Yet, anyone who isn’t already sold seems to turn a blind eye. At best, one could drum up support for a “Settlers of Catan”. Though the German Oldschool brand of board games are pretty sick, there are more experiences out there beyond economic simulations. Next week, I will explore why some people may be turned off from board games.