'Board games are dead’ cried the headlines when a recent report from a well-known credit card company received some very decent coverage across the national press.
The media was awash with contradictory coverage. ‘Nobody plays the old classics anymore’ was quickly repudiated by ‘the classics are coming back’.
At times, I wondered if I’d read the same research.
The source of the commotion suggested that chess was enjoying a resurgence, which, in true PR fashion, suited the company behind it as they’re launching a national campaign to get kids playing the game of kings.
I of course have no problem with that – but I do take umbrage at the assumption that all ‘top ten’ lists of board games should now continue to yawningly include chess and other staid classics within their ranks.
With just a modicum more research, anyone can see that the face-to-face gaming category in Europe is thriving more than ever, brimming with innovation and often fuelled by the inventor community.
Board game clubs, pubs and cafes, the huge increase in visitors to this year’s UK Gaming Expo, the virality of the Pie Face video, a plethora of Kickstarter successes: there’s activity aplenty and those lazy lists continually fail to showcase the true breadth of games on offer.
It’s not just that they are ill informed, it’s that they’re just plain wrong.
Traditional games are, I understand, seeing lower sales, but the market as a whole has grown massively, with so many other great titles taking their place on board game shelves across the country.
So I’d like to offer those busy hacks a helping hand with their future round-ups: start with the easy go-to list then do some comparisons and find the contemporary equivalent. There’ll be similar play patterns with slight variants and just enough edge to give readers even the slightest glimmer of insight into the UK board game boom.
Like Monopoly? Try Hotel Tycoon. Swap Pictionary for Telestrations. A fan of card games like Snap? Then try Jungle Speed or Dobble? Connect Four more your thing? Then try Hexagony.
As we see continually at Board Game Club, face-to-face gaming is far from going all ‘geek’ and ‘strategy’. Personally, I steer clear of the marathon-play subculture and favour the more fun, sociable, interactive and friendly world of play.
Some titles offer nostalgia, others proactively grab a new generation’s attention. But as long as people are playing, sharing those experiences, enjoying the new creativity coming through from the expos, crowdfunding sites, big brands and inventors alike, this has got to be a good thing for the sector and I hope the press grow wise to that all the sooner.
I’m not advocating chucking out your chess sets or confining your Old Maids to their quarters – though recent press coverage suggests you already have – I merely hope more people are tempted to travel a little off the beaten path to gaming pastures new.