I have been playing video games since I was able to comprehend their existence. They have the ability to show off wonderful worlds, build an incomprehensible amount of tension and give friends down the street or across the world the ability to connect. But sometimes it’s good to have a change of pace. While most aspects of the world are going from analog to digital, a new trend has been inspiring many gamers to put away the controller and pull out the table top.
That’s right, I am talking about board games, and not Hasbro and Milton Bradley, but craft board games. Like craft beers, they may not be as popular, but they don’t leave a foul taste in your mouth when you’re done with them. Take Monopoly, which requires you to slowly grind down your opponents as the game goes on. Everyone knows halfway through who is going to win Monopoly, but the game keeps going on with little chance of a comeback from other players. Eventually, bitter rivalries form as the winning player slowly engulfs the entire board and everyone else rapidly bleeds until becoming bankrupt. Craft games are a breath of fresh air and the best of them will be entertaining for everyone no matter whose turn it is or who is winning.
There’s a lot of things board games do better than video games and here is a short list about why myself and other gamers like me are going old school.
The Touch Aspect
People like feeling, whether it’s emotion or actual a physical object. Some calculations and complex scenarios are just not possible in board games given the limitations of the medium, but there is a certain amount of charm to laying out tiles and moving pieces on the board. It’s the experience with connecting with an object that can’t be replicated by video games now or in the foreseeable future. Watching a physical representation of enemies getting knocked over as they are killed, collecting colorful currency and feeling the dice in your hand before the roll. Even digital representation of board games don’t have this benefit. Games like King of Tokyo or Mage Knight have beautiful art drawn for them and ogling at the pieces up close just makes it better. Which brings me to my next point…
Board Games are Timeless
We have all been there. Pop in one of your favorite games from your childhood excited to relive the memories, but after nostalgia wears off you’re just left with a game that hasn’t stood the test of time. Go ahead and try convincing friends to play GoldenEye for more than an hour. The once fun game has been spoiled by completely refined console controls and graphics where squinting isn’t a requirement.
When I buy a board game, I know I will be keeping it for a long time, because there is chance to go back and rediscover it. Sure it might get old after playing it with friends over a short period of time, but after everyone forgets it and opens it back up. It’s still fun to play no matter how long you wait. A great looking board game will look great even after the test of time. Even if the pieces get beat up a little bit, it just adds character to the game, which give the game your own personal touch.
In the game of Avalon, the main goal is to seek out the traitors and send teams on missions free from anyone with a foul agenda. When I look at the pieces of my Avalon and I see the wear on the voting tiles, I know that’s from heated games of furious discussion of which player is the traitor. Witnessing friends angrily flipping over disapproving tiles brings back good memories and those memories will stay etched on the game forever.
Ownership means you can do anything you want with it. Don’t like a rule? Change it. Think you could paint a better zombie figure? Do it. No coding required. Anyone can do this. Given the asset the game could take on a whole new form with a different rule set. Heck, some games are even print and play, which means they can be made directly from a home printer. As open as video games are to hackers, board games are even more so for everyone else.
A Different Kind of Bonding
Playing a video game with a friend is different than a board game. In a video game, the rules are set in the environment and there is no going around them no matter what. In a board game, the rules are announced and confirmed by every other player. A turn can’t happen without a player announcing what they are going to do. So many times when playing video games, everyone is focused on their side of what is happening that they forget to talk about what’s going on with their teammates. But in board games everyone is listening and watching.
Not having a constant amount of flashing lights means players can take their time with tabletop games and not feel as pressured to continually play it. More interesting conversations with my friends have happened over the tabletop as opposed to over the microphone.
I’m not saying board games are the best and everyone should box up their consoles right away and head to their local hobby shop. You still need to have friends willing to travel to a place to play and the cleanup of certain board games can be a real hassle. What I am saying is that sometimes the gamer in us all needs a change of pace from staring at a TV or monitor all day. Broaden your horizons and you may be rewarded with a new life long hobby.