How Cardboard and Dice have Replaced Digital and Disc
It was around two years ago that I heard of a new YouTube show that would be focused solely on internet celebrities playing boardgames. It was something of an alien concept to me at the time; boardgames still meant nothing but Risk, Cranium, Monopoly and Scrabble. I’d tried Catan once when I was young, but to me boardgames were nothing but a slow, dull version of videogames. Regardless, I gave TableTop a go, somewhat tentative and not sure what to expect. In the end I think I must have watched that first ever episode about five times in the space of a week, and it was only a few days after first watching it that I bought Smallworld, the game featured on the show. TableTop opened my eyes to a whole new sector of gaming, and a whole new hobby with which to spend both my time and my money (far too much of it). More than that though, I have no qualms with saying that TableTop, and boardgames, have changed my life.
Since buying Smallworld back in 2012, I’ve developed both a large boardgame collection, and a rather unhealthy addiction with both buying and playing the things. In just two years I’ve accumulated around 30-40 games spanning different genres, styles, complexity levels, number of players and themes. I’ve got boardgames about WW2, pirates, space colonies and Westeros. Games about catching fish, agricultural management, wild west shootouts and zombie infested cities. If those concepts all sound familiar, then don’t be surprised. Boardgaming and videogames are intrinsically linked, largely because they both have strong links with the early days of Role Playing and War games. Indeed, a lot of videogames are based on boardgames’ systems and mechanics. There’s also the fact that the two mediums tend to attract a fairly similar audience - although I’d argue that boardgames are a lot less sexist.
What’s interesting to me is how, at least in my eyes, boardgaming has stolen the limelight from digital gaming. I love videogames, always have and always will, but while I once got excited for a game just about every month, there are nowadays only a few titles every year that I get properly hyped for. I take a look inside a boardgame shop, however, and I feel like a 12 year old all over again. In fact, that’s a good analogy on the whole. Buying boardgames (not playing them, although I’ll get to that) feels like walking around GAME when I was younger. For one thing, there’s always something new to discover; you can pretty much guess how a videogame is going to play by looking at the front of a box, boardgames are a little more mysterious, and that’s exciting.
What’s more, boardgames look fantastic. The different size boxes are colourful, generally well-illustrated and picking one up feels substantial. They almost always feel as though they’re worth the money you’re spending, especially when you open the box and find a plethora of little pieces to play around with and physically feel. That’s something boardgames have over videogames right from the off; people talk about preferring a physical game disc over a digital copy, but you get that physical satisfaction almost every time when buying a tabletop game, the big ‘ol game boards in particular are real treats. My board map of Westeros from A Game of Thrones: The Board Game is pretty much my favourite thing ever.
It’s not just the buying process that’s won my favour, because boardgames are just the most awesome playing experiences available right now. It’s funny though, because the best thing about boardgaming is also one of the great things about videogaming: friends. The difference in phrasing there is the key, friends and general social interaction are a very, very large part of what makes tabletop gaming so fun, and of course it’s a complete necessity. I wouldn’t recommend playing boardgames alone, as that social element is what makes them even better than videogames. Sure, you can play digital games with friends, but there’s just not the same level of interaction and therefore enjoyment. It’s certainly down to the individual, but as someone who has always prefered playing with friends over playing alone (as my whole series about couch co-op can attest), boardgames offer an amazing social experience.
It’s also worth mentioning, for those who aren’t familiar with the medium, that there are a lot of fantastic boardgames out there designed by some real geniuses. The best games are strategic, attractively designed and fun, although there are also simpler games for shorter play times and friends that aren’t willing to play complex games. In fact, some of those more simplistic games are up there with the best. There’s not a person on this Earth I wouldn’t recommend a boardgame to, and unlike videogaming they seem to have a very wide, general appeal. My Nan is just as happy to play a game of Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride as my best friends are. If you’d like some personal recommendations for games to try, then I’ll list some below.
Look, this isn’t me renouncing videogames, I’m just accepting that I’ve discovered the medium’s older, wiser brother and I’m having a great time getting to know him. Digital gaming still has a very, very big place in my heart and I’m happy to say that there are a few videogames that I’ve enjoyed far more than any tabletop game - although if The Creative Assembly could work out how to make a Total War boardgame then that view might change. Regardless, I’m just happy to have both of these brilliant forms of entertainment in my life. They’re both fantastic, and while boardgames have my attention at the moment (they are still relatively new to me after all), it’s always great to know that I’ll be able to pick and choose from both medium’s moving forward. On-screen or on-table: gaming is great.
As promised, here are some games I’ve tried and would personally recommend:
-A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (my absolute favourite)
-Memoir ‘44 (a fantastic two-player WW2 themed game)
-Cosmic Encounter (amazingly diverse and near-endlessly replayable)
-The Resistance: Avalon (a brilliant game for those unfamiliar with boardgames, lots of hilarious bluffing)
-Smallworld (my introductory game, a great next step for those only used to Risk)
-Munchkin (one of the most famous ‘underground’ board/card games, and it’s famous for good reason)
-Ticket to Ride (amazing game for just about anyone)
-Some more: Suburbia, Skull, Twilight Struggle, Merchants & Marauders, City of Horror, Carcassonne, Dixit and so very many more.
Acelister - 10:57pm, 24th February 2015
Can you play board games by yourself? I've always viewed it as - if I want to play something with friends, do a board game. If not, then videogames are king.
Platinum - 04:42pm, 25th February 2015
Anything LAN worthy?
RGDfleet - 07:17pm, 25th February 2015 Author
As Kyle said, there are some, but if you ask me playing boardgames alone takes out 90% of the fun.
Ewok - 07:01am, 26th February 2015
Munchkin a big favourite of mine. I have vanilla, zombies and cthulhu, plus a couple of expansions.
Junta is probably my favourite game. Not well known, surprised to apot it in the header image! It's a game of political intrigue, assassinations, embezzlement and rebellion.
azrael316 - 10:57am, 2nd March 2015
Lords of Waterdeep is a current house favorite. One of the many excellent D&D based games.
RGDfleet - 03:00pm, 2nd March 2015 Author
Haha, I actually played Lords of Waterdeep just a week ago. Had a nice long game of it. Top stuff.
Foulerfire - 07:04pm, 3rd March 2015
I've found that over the years my enjoyment of board games has resurfaced, especially when I'm with my group of friends in which there are some who don't play console games. These can also be good for a solid night of laughs, Quelf is definitely at the top of my list and recommend it for anyone looking for a good laugh with friends!