Board games are booming. Article after article describes a “golden age” or “renaissance” of boardgaming.
In Germany, the home of modern boardgaming, the industry has grown by over 40% in the past five years; the four-day SPIEL trade fair this year saw 1,500 new board and card game releases, with 209,000 attendees from around the world.
What is it about board games that attracts people, and what emerging trends can we see in the latest releases?
Four main elements make board games enjoyable for families and dedicated hobbyists alike.
Firstly, board games are social; they are played with other people. Together, players select a game, learn and interpret the rules, and experience the game. Even a mediocre game can be fun and memorable when you play it with the right group of people.
Secondly, boardgames provide an intellectual challenge, or an opportunity for strategic thinking. Understanding rules, finding an optimal placement for a piece, making a move that surprises your opponent – all of these are enormously satisfying. In many modern boardgames, luck becomes something that you mitigate rather than something that arbitrarily determines a winner.
Thirdly, board games are material – they are made of things; they have weight, substance, and even beauty.
Hobbyists speak of the tactile joy and sensual delight of moving physical game pieces, and of their appreciation for the detailed art on a game box or board. Some go to great lengths to protect their games from damage, even “sleeving” individual cards in plastic to protect them from greasy fingers, spills or wear.
Collectable Monopoly sets and other vintage games can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.
Finally – and this helps to explain the enormous volume of new releases each year – board games provide variety. Beyond “the cult of the new” lurks a desire to have the right game for the right situation – whatever combination of gamers and strategic depth that might require.