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Board games are back, thanks to lessons designers learned from computer games (1843magazine.com)
383 points by ohjeez on Nov 30, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 235 comments

While it's true that negative feedback either by the game's mechanics or the interaction with other players is a feature of newer boardgames, there are a few other points that are just as important.

These games for the most part lack a player elimination mechanic. When games can last a couple of hours, players see early elimination as a failure in design. Board game designers then strive to keep everyone in the game and actively participating until the end of the game. This pairs nicely with hidden or partially hidden victory point systems.

Direct confrontation is largely replaced with competition over action selection, resources, and softer forms of territory control. Players with bad experiences of being ganged-up on are open to the competition of being the first to gobble up pools of resources, or shut out other players from taking exclusive actions.

I'm not that familiar with video games take on these ideas, but my little experience says they tend to do the opposite.

The 1955 Parker Brothers game "Careers" is weirdly ahead of its time in this way, it's roll-and-move (looks like Monopoly) but each player chooses their own, hidden, victory condition to win. It's the norm for everyone in a 4 player game to still think they have a shot at winning right up until someone reveals that they have won.

I've always wanted a decent Civ-style computer game that did that, it would solve the "diplomatic AI in a zero-sum game makes no sense" problem.

Careers has way too much of a luck component and not enough direct competition for serious gamers but for a light family game it's basically a not terrible version of Monopoly or Life.

Edit: also from the designer of Careers: invented language Loglan. I guess there's something to the "language as cooperative game" theory.

Hidden victory conditions can be great at keeping players engaged until the winning player makes the reveal. Dead of Winter and Archipelago are great examples of this at work.

Your response reminded me of another theme common among designer boardgames: the manipulation of randomness. It's common to see non-replacement probabilities like drawing from a stack of cards or a bag of chits, and less common to see unmodifiable die rolls. Non-replacement randomness is an easy way to include a strategic component to what could otherwise be boring die rolls. If dice are used, often it's possible to manipulate the results post-roll a la The Castles of Burgundy and many other Stefan Feld games.

Yep, I can't think of a competitive video game that does any of these things well. Maybe this is an untapped market?

Twitch controls and player elimination are still huge with video games. Battle royale modes and MOBAs are very in, but any multiplayer game I remember playing a lot of was usually centered around this. FPS games, RTS games, fighting games, they are all about your reaction speed. A lot of modes will at least let you play the whole match of a game, but still require a heavy amount of confrontation and twitch gameplay. Turn-based games are a slog to play multiplayer though, so I can understand why that's the case.

There are a lot of people who enjoy twitch board games though, games like nerts or slamwich (both of which I'm not a huge fan of), so maybe the opposite is true of board games: that there's an untapped market out there for this style. I do really enjoy Spot-It for some reason however :)

Overwatch is a good example of the progression of the FPS genre.

I'm 31 now, and my twitch reaction is nowhere near what it was in highschool, yet Overwatch offers a whole bunch of characters (around half) who don't require (or don't have) twitch / reaction gameplay. There are characters who heal the other characters just by being in their vicinity, characters with beam weapons which automatically lock on to opponents, etc.

If you die, you are out of the game for 6-10 seconds as a penalty, but not "player elimination" in the board game sense.)

I wonder if there's an interesting dynamic there in a board game, where if the pace of complexity is high enough, being out of the game could become a tactical advantage. Maybe that cant work without omniscient or perfect information for those out.

Small World kind of sort of does that.

The game simulates the rise and fall of civilisations, and a key part of the game is knowing when to call it quits with your current civilization and start playing with a new one. You skip a turn whenever you do that, so you can easily shoot yourself in the foot if your timing is off.

It's more a regression. Removed all the skilled mechanics and now playing is like a spectator. It's easier for everyone, a tad like watching TV.

M.U.L.E. is the closest thing I can think of, and I don't know that it's had anything even resembling a worthy successor. There were a few attempts, but as far as I know none of them were very well-received.

Settlers of Catan is practically M.U.L.E. refined. You start by buying land, then the land bears resources. When you sell to other players, you can ask any price you want. You build up by laying down roads, towns and cities, tech up with random development cards. The most common dice result - 7 - is the Thief, which lets the current player rob any other for half of their resources rounded down.

If you liked M.U.L.E., you will love Settlers of Catan.

Just a small correction. The Robber(or Thief) in Catan doesn't allow you to steal half another player's resources, you just steal one card. However, if any player has 8 or more resource cards in their hands when '7' is rolled, they need to discard half rounded down.

Just as a point of accuracy, the Robber only lets you steal one card.

But anyone with 8 or more cards has to discard half rounded down.

I loved M.U.L.E. an unhealthy amount as a kid.

Take a look at Uwe Rosenberg’s games, particularly Caverna or Agricola.

I agree with the recommendations. I love caverna.

Patchwork is great two player game, by that same designer, that I can even play with my mother. She's not particularly into games either.

My game of the year so far is Yokohama. If you like worker placement, I imagine you would like this.

I haven't played it, but they turned M.U.L.E. into a board game recently :)

It's a bit complex to pick up, but it's very true to the original game. If you have experience with the original the mechanics will make sense right away. It's also a lot of fun! Great theme.

I would say that the elimination mechanic is quite rare in conpetitive video games. Battle royale games are recently hot, and pretty much have elimination by definition, but I can’t think of any other popular video games that do this.

Counter-Strike does, but each round is very short. What MOBA features player elimination? All the MOBAs I can think of have fairly short respawn times.

I suppose that RTS games with >2 players have this, but they are mostly know for 1v1 modes.

Friday the 13th: The Game and Dead by Daylight maybe? Left 4 Dead.

Oh..one great example is Bomberman, although some games have dead Bombers fling bombs from the side.

Left 4 Dead doesn't have strict player elimitation.

It's a team game, always 4 v 4. You can still see the game and talk to your teammates when you are dead. Everyone die within a minute usually. A death has not much impact -except a severe sudden disadvantage- since the entire team win or loose, there is no individual play.

It's interesting to look back at just how well designed Super Bomberman was. It is fast-paced but my dad could play it with us and even win some rounds. The mix of skill and luck seems just right. There are many interesting and funny paths a game can take. All this comes from just a seemingly simple premise.

World of Tanks has been my favorite game for years. It strikes a nice balance between reaction speed and strategy.

Due to the game mechanics of 'aim time' this somewhat eliminates the huge advantages of ping time and those with super human reaction times.

Doing well requires good team strategy as well as deep understandings of tank mechanics such as armor weak spots, tank positioning to increase chances of bounces etc and also map strategy.

Therefore, the great players aren't those who have developed better reaction times, they are the ones who have developed deep knowledge and skill around the games many maps and 300+ tanks

>>> Therefore, the great players aren't those who have developed better reaction times, they are the ones who have developed deep knowledge and skill around the games many maps and 300+ tanks

It's the same for FPS at high level. Learn the map and the probably position for anytime at anytime.

They don't spend a lot of time aiming and moving when already knowing where the enemy will show up. Just have to click.

To give a good illustration, top players could almost play blindfolded.

That really doesn't describe the meta game of World of Tanks.

Yes, there are tactical positions, but you can't just camp for most of them. They maps are large enough that your team must be dynamic enough to adapt.

You also can't just click without aiming. Damaging a tank always requires aiming, even if you know where they may show up. Many tanks can only be damaged effectively in small weak areas, depending on the gun of your own tank. This can require that you actually focus for several seconds on the spot you are trying to hit to get a good enough aim to actually hit it.

I know, I just wanted to illustrate that FPS are very similar strategically. FPS at good level has a high tactical component. People think it's all point and click but it's only half the game.

> Twitch controls and player elimination are still huge with video games. Battle royale modes and MOBAs are very in, but any multiplayer game I remember playing a lot of was usually centered around this.

Twitch control yes, but elimination not really, in multiplayer video games it's timeout rather than elimination e.g. in CS you wait for the round's end (2~3mn usually), in MOBAs you have a time-out of variable length (caps out at ~2mn in DOTA).

And when there's an elimination system (e.g. Hearthstone Arena) you're not stuck waiting around for other people to finish, you can just go do something else (in-game).

Actual old-board-game-style player elimination is very rare in video games, otherwise it wouldn't be a defining feature of pubg.

even pubg, you're not obligated to stick around to the end - you just start a new game with new people.

I've found Offworld Trading Company to be basically the eurogame of video games. There is some player elimination, but only in the endgame.

Yes, I am a big fan of that game! It comes fairly close to that eurostyle board game and once I figured out how to play it I was having a great time. Its still fairly confrontational, as in you need to be raiding fellow player's bases to gain an advantage, but otherwise its pretty good.

Making a good n-way game is really difficult. Even for 3 players, either the player in last place can affect which of the other two wins, or they can't; either answer is bad. Videogames these days seem to mostly be one team versus another team, which avoids that problem - there's no such thing as player elimination if there are only two "players" (the teams).

The usual solution for player elimination in online games is the ability to leave the game you've been eliminated from and start another game right away, which is embodied by matchmaking systems and solo queuing.

Doesn't help when you want to stick with a group of players (e.g. friends, team) and brings its own kind if issues.

Just as a side observation about a possible blind spot: arguably the biggest multiplayer game today is Clash of Clans, which is multiplayer and not "classically turn-based" but definitely not real time multiplayer like Starcraft and FPSs (your opponent doesn't need to be online at the same time you are).

Battle Royales work in the video game world because I can just queue up immediately after elimination.

Can't do that when I'm with my friends for the evening.

What about questing with a group on a mmorpg?

That seems more co-operative than competitive though.

Raid boss games where one person plays the monster and the rest play the heroes are pretty viable I find. The problem is getting the mechanics complicated enough to have some strategy but clear enough to not have to lawyer.

As someone who plays a "competitive" first-person shooter (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) I can say that at least one game does the exact opposite. Players compete directly, and elimination is for the rest of a ~5 minute "round", meaning that failure is a harsh punishment. However, other games do it differently--Quake 3, for instance, featured near-instant "respawning", such that a player is never eliminated, only reset (and because the player's starting resources are enough to eliminate another player, it's possible to recover quickly). Strategy games and RPGs typically play much more like early boardgames, with elimination being a major setback or even a "game over" state, and conflict being direct combat. Fighting games are direct and brutal, and typically you lose the game after two or perhaps three eliminations--but the game moves so fast that a whole game may be over in two minutes, so elimination is a non-issue as far as not getting to continue play.

Where boardgames solve it by making the "time to elimination" as long as possible relative to the game, videogames solve this by allowing players to return to the game quickly.

"Lack of a player elimination mechanic" is nearly ubiquitous in action games. Players can be killed, but never bumped out of the game; you just respawn in a few seconds and try again. The penalty is that you're unable to harass the enemy team during the respawn delay and the run back from the spawn point.

Elimination deathmatch modes exist, but they're usually an optional mode, and even then calibrated so matches take no more than a few minutes.

Not so, PUBG is one of the most popular games right now and is based primarily around player elimination. Though they don't make you wait around to see the end of the match.

That is also a defining game mechanic, which sets it apart from other games.

I'm not sure what you are are "not so'ing"? Are you suggesting the PUBG model is ubiquitous? I mean, sure, PUBG is popular, but it's popular because once you are dead, getting another game is less than 60 seconds away.

But saying PUBG model is ubiquitous? No, the die and respawn is in fact the common model, and I don't see that changing outside of battle royale style games.

I was saying not so to this statement and giving a recent example:

> "Lack of a player elimination mechanic" is nearly ubiquitous in action games

Fair enough, although that last is also a good point. Rust matches can last a while, but when you die you can just slot into a new match starting elsewhere, so you still don't have to wait. There's no direct equivalent in board games.

However, one of the most successful and popular action game series, Counter-Strike, is based around player elimination.

The elimination in CS is in the region of 2-3 minutes, whereas in any board game I’ve played, it’s been 30+

I played every CS except CS:GO and despite all the changes and the focus on selling clown guns I'm pretty sure it is still a "complete the objective against the clock" game.

Unless it is poolday.

It is very rare to have the clock run down. The time mechanic is there only to limit the round time. Most of the time either team is eliminated, or the bomb goes off/is defused.

Player elimination is uncommon in so-called "eurogames". These tend to be some kind of race for victory points. "ameritrash" games revel in drama, frequently feature dice rolls and very random outcomes. Both approaches have their fans.

It's a bit sad that ameritrash sounds demeaning. I'm a fan of bringing some randomness into games (big fan of games including dice or card draws). My super-into-boardgames-friends seem to prefer "eurogames", but for me that's often too convoluted. I want to have fun and not plan some grand scheme to trump everyone else (I have enough planning and carefulness in my job already).

There are varying shades of luck and even methods to apply randomness. One way of classification:

  * you can do what you want, but success chance is random
  * action choice is random, success is deterministic
I prefer the second approach. Your options are limited, but whatever you do, works. I think eurogames use the second way more often. Yes, the term "ameritrash" is intentionally derogatory (I didn't come up with it). Can you propose a better term ?

A little bit of luck is really helpful in allowing for diversity in game flow. Something like a mechanic where resources open up on one of 3 random turns means it's harder to reproduce an optimal strategy etc.

Obviously luck is not necessary for a good game, but I do think it makes certain elements of game design easier.

It's a ridiculous term that is just mean, no reason to use it. I'm sad too.

This is often my feeling, if the game is too involved, too technical and requires extensive thinking and manual reading then it feels like work. Similarly, baking also feels like working in the lab (I'm a scientist).

Luck isn't just a matter of taste. A sufficient luck element makes it practical for players of different skill to play together (particularly for 3+ player games, where being uncompetitive isn't so much educational as boring and game-disruptive). Too much luck is unsatisfying for high-skill players, who want close games to consistently go to the more skilled player.

Consider Monopoly: it has an elimination mechanic but it's almost a mercy, because quite often in games you know from a few minutes in that you're not going to win. I'm thinking of race for the galaxy here: whoever's engine gets started first pretty much walks away with the game, but you still have to play twenty more minutes of the game.

The rubber band mechanism in RftG that gives the runners-up a chance to win is that once someone's "engine has started", everyone around the table is going to have a pretty good idea of the phases that someone is going to play. Then you can use those and your own phases to effectively get more actions out of a round. The lead player is still the one expected to win, but it's not usually a done deal by any stretch.

How much RftG have you played?

The dynamic you describe is my experience in approximately 20% of 4 player games, maybe 30% of 2 player games.

Really skilled Race players see a wide variety of paths to victory in my experience, so if someone has a lead on one strategy, you pursue a different strategy and it’s not usually not obvious who will win.

Have you played the latest Star Wars monopoly? It's not simply a reskin - the same basic rules apply but there is a team mechanic (players are on the light side or dark side, and their team must win in order for the player to win) as well as faster gameplay, actions that can be taken during any players turn, and more. It's also much faster - a complete game with four people takes an hour.

A standard game of monopoly, When played according to the official rules, Takes around 45 minutes. Most people introduce a bunch of house rules which prevent money from draining from the economy, making the game last forever.

The two biggest offenders: (1) Money for free parking (sometimes it's a flat $500 or whatever was collected in taxes), and (2) not forcing an auction every time a player declines to buy property.

The first one makes everyone rich and causes rents just go back and forth for ages. The second one makes it take much longer to get monopolies on property groups.

Even without house rules, it depends on the way people play. In my family, monopoly is played in a very anti-social way, where the main goal seems to be preventing other's victory or advantage.

The strategy everybody follows is basically "buy everything you can, and decline all bad trades". Buy everything, of course, to prevent others from making full property groups. Since there is no such thing as an equal trade, no trades are made.

As you can imagine, since nobody has full property groups, the game takes forever, it's terribly boring, and pretty much boils down to luck.

The inability to get an equal trade shouldn’t stop you from trading anyways, as it misses that there is huge relative advantage of having a monopoly, even if it means you have to give someone else a “better” monopoly.

This is because if two players complete two monopolies first, they are basically guaranteed to be among the final two at a 4+ person table, as their early monopolies will quickly drain the other two or more players who refuse to make these trades and are therefore wasting time walking around, during which they’ll grow weaker and weaker due to your monopolies.

Knowing this, it almost doesn’t matter if the trade is equal, so long as you’re trading for a post-jail monopoly (pre-jail tends to be low value), because the winner, once you and your opponent have your improvements, will be decided by chance, as one of the two monopolists will bankrupt one of the other, more behind players first, and then take all their money and property, almost certainly netting themselves several more monopolies and funds for improvements.

House rules is one thing. I know from experience its usually people trying to keep everyone in the game as long as possible

Games that lack meaningful player interaction generally struggle to create interesting rubber-banding. It's a very tricky thing to get right (king-making in 3+ player games is a huge problem that tends to tug against allowing strong player interactions - consider 2-player chess vs. 4-player chess)

Comparing RFTG to Monopoly made me barf up a little, frankly.

Monopoly isn't even a bad game if you do this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15822820

Somehow a particular set of house rules got popular enough to make everyone hate monopoly. It turns a game of high stakes, high commitment resource scuffling, into a game where you either get knocked out fast or are given enough free assets that you can only lose in the slowest, most agonizing way possible.

It's kind of funny how a game designed to heavily favor aggression to make a point had that entire point negated by house rules.

People feel the need to introduce a social safety net into a game of red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism. Maybe the game made its point after all.

I thought you were going to say its a mercy because of how horrible it is to play Monopoly in the first place :)

Board games are back because the Euro game designers kept it alive during what was largely a board game dark age through most of the world. They broke back through into other markets, and re-invigorated creativity elsewhere.

There's been a ton of exciting developments in boardgames over the past few years. Legacy games introduced a whole new element to board games, starting with Risk Legacy, and richly continued by others, including Pandemic Legacy, which has reigned supreme at #1 on BoardGameGeek, the largest boardgaming website, for quite some time.

Dungeon crawlers that are more influenced by D&D and other pen and paper RPGs have been big, with things like Mage Knight, Descent, and more recently Gloomhaven being smash hits.

Board games with "AI" players, like Mansions 2e mentioned in the article, or the automata in Scythe, are influenced by video games in that you can even play single player against a psuedo-player, but not in many other fashions.

Even incredibly niche, boutique, and expensive games like Kingdom Death: Monster which is basically three games and a wallet draining miniature addiction in one very large box have become quite massive.

German here. Board games were never gone so I'm not sure what the article headline is trying to say. I guess this is an American perspective? Most of the "innovations" the article mentioned sound mostly like they're responsible for Americans developing a new interest in board games.

"Legacy" games, while somewhat innovative, sound like they're borrowing from pen and paper games (where characters might come back for new campaigns) rather than computer games (although CRPGs were heavily influenced by pen and paper from the start).

Board games were gone in most of the world outside of Europe - it's not just America. Asia, the Oceanic regions, etc, all had a huge lull in their popularity. This has only changed over the past 10 years or so.

But popularity has increased even in Europe over the past decade. Just look at Essen Spiel - the 2000s were much bigger than the 90s in attendees, and they've had a nearly 30% increase in attendance in the past 5 years.

I was not saying Legacy games are borrowing from computer games - I disagree with the article on that, and my apologies if that was not clear throughout my comment. The only place where I think they have really done any borrowing is in the "AI" components that are more modeled after another player making decisions than static objectives you are playing against.

I think that's right. The OP is on an English site written in American English; the audience is likely that.

> English site written in American English; the audience is likely that

Does the term "lingua franca" mean anything to you?

Considering most sites with an international audience use English and most of those use American English specifically, this does not seem like a foregone conclusion.

HN is an English site mostly written in American English, do you therefore reckon its content is intended for an American audience?

> HN is an English site mostly written in American English, do you therefore reckon its content is intended for an American audience?

Yes. The coverage and topics are heavily weighted towards companies in the Bay Area + local US events.

American here. I don't think board games were even gone in the USA. For a while they had a relative lull in popularity, but all along there were decent games being made by good designers. Many of the best ones from the '70s and '80s are even being re-issued for a new audience.

I'm not even entirely sure that there's been all that much of an increase in the number of friends I have who like to play board games. What's really changed is that the mass market retailers have started carrying these games, and the Lifestyle section of the local newspaper is suddenly talking about them as if they just appeared from out of the mists.

> I'm not even entirely sure that there's been an increase in the number of friends I have who like to play board games. What's really changed is that the mass market retailers have started carrying these games, and the Lifestyle section of the local newspaper is talking about them.

That's because their popularity has increased with the overall public, whether or not that is true of your immediate circle of friends.

I don't know how true this is, but the theory I heard from somewhere is that post-WW2 Germany didn't have quite the same appetite for the Avalon Hill style wargames that were certainly popular in the UK and US. That created a divergence in design lineage.

For a long time in the UK and US board games were for children while wargames were for grown ups. It wasn't until fairly recently that board games have become popular here for adults.

While boardgames experience a revival in Poland, at the start of the millenium they were looked down upon as childish waste of time.

In 1980s Encore Games copied all the American SPI games and published them on the cheap.

I had the feeling they were quite successful, publishing 20 games: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamepublisher/5018/encore-boa...

You seem to be quite knowledgeable about board games, so I'm curious if Stranger Things has led to an uptick in popularity of D&D and the D&D influenced ones you mentioned. Luckily I live in a big city so I was able to find a nice business to try out the game with friendly people, after watching the show.

D&D and the like remain popular, though the latest craze are “RPGs in a box” which require less of the planning / time suck of a good campaign.

There is a board game company that is very popular & uses Kickstarter a lot, called “Cool Mini or Not”, which reminds me a bit of the kids in Stranger Things. There are a variety of excellent minister miniature dungeon crawlers (Zombicide Black Plague for feeling like super heroes vs zombies, Arcadia Quest for PvP) or strategy games (Blood Rage), or tactical combat/thematic games (The Others, which is an all vs. one game of corruption and redemption tactical combat and horror elements like Stranger Things or IMO the Buffy spinoff Angel).

There are also some other great RPGs in a box like TIME Stories, Descent, and Star Wars Imperial Assault (the latter two are nearly the same system , all vs. One style gameplay). The big excitement however is lately about Gloomhaven, which might rise to top game on BoardGameGeek next year (and deservedly).

Descent actually has an app that you can run (tablet or PC) that will play the part of the enemy. Not required, like Mansions of Madness 2e, but a nice way to play cooperatively.

Imperial Assault is supposedly getting an app like this soon as well.

D&D was already in the middle of a popularity surge when Stranger Things came out last year. Fifth edition (5e) came out in 2014 and somehow managed to make the gameplay more streamlined (and appealing to new players) while also being popular with current and past players. In 2015 you had Critical Role (live Twitch show) and The Adventure Zone (podcast) both appear and be hugely successful. I’m sure Stranger Things deserves some credit for showing D&D to a wider audience, but I don’t know if it’s been a significant factor.

Everyone else has covered this pretty well, but since you did ask me, I figure the polite thing to do is respond!

D&D and other pen and paper RPGs have been on the rise since before Stranger Things, and I think ST making it a plot element might be due to that, more than the other way around.

We've also seen a bigger push for some 'simpler' RPG systems that are a less rules heavy to try and entice newcomers to the genre. Fate has been the big one here, but others have stepped into the ring, and Fantasy Flight Games, which is a big name in the board game world, just released the Genesys rulebooks, which are based on their 'Narrative Dice' systems, which uses much simpler rules than a more traditional d20 style system. They had previously used it for their Warhammer and Star Wars RPGs, but Genesys is meant to be general purpose for whatever setting you may like.

Stranger Things has made me want to try DnD but I also know zero people who play in Seattle :-/

Same problem with trying out Pandemic: Legacy. Damn social anxiety.

I have horrendous social anxiety and discovering local game stores has been one of the best things to happen to me. Something about knowing that everyone is there for the same purpose of enjoying a shared experience in whatever board game/RPG/miniatures games world I prefer is extremely liberating and makes my anxiety melt away.

Same here. I feel uncomfortable in informal meetings, and having a clear set of rules (in a board game) makes me much more comfortable, and I gradually relax.

When I moved to Seattle, the D&D Encounters program was just getting started in the local game stores. That was an excellent way to meet other gamers in the area. That program has evolved into the Adventurers' League, which expanded Encounters to include groups outside of participating stores.

Card Kingdom / Mox is very popular; if you have some anxiety, I would recommend one of the other game stores in town. Meeples Games in West Seattle is very friendly and laid back. Uncle's can be chill, too, but I have not attended an event there since the Southcenter store closed.

I recommend checking the Adventurers' League site and visiting a few events at different locations; find which one matches your interests, best. Let the staff know you're new in the area and looking for a group; they'll redirect you to an organizer who will do their best to find you a table.

Alternately, there's a plethora of local gaming conventions around Seattle. Adventurers' Leagues are usually there, too. Same drill -- show up, let them know you're new and looking for new friends.

I had a similar problem, so I just decided to try running my own game. I'd played when I was way younger, so I have some experience, making it easier. If you watch enough online videos or read enough books, you should be able to piece together your own game with existing friends.

In some ways, if the friends are new to D&D as well, it's even easier, since they don't know what's supposed to happen either!

Meetup is used a lot to put together both board gaming and role playing groups. With the amount of tech companies in Seattle, and the overlap in demographics between boardgamers/roleplayers and tech employees, I imagine there are plenty of people out there if you're willing to go for it :)

Have you checked out https://moxboardinghouse.com they have an events calendar and a very friendly atmosphere.

The article acknowledges that the revival started in the 1990s already.

I know he isn't exactly known for his board games but US game designer Steve Jackson has really stood the test of time and has continued to make interesting games for decades.

Munchkin reskins from now until the end of time ;)

Steve Jackson is awesome, and there's definitely room on my shelves dedicated to Munchkin, Chez Geek, and Illuminati.

Despite Munchkin, etc, being very accessible, my understanding is that during the period the article talks about, where board games were "gone", it was very much relegated to the same sort of groups that would play D&D, GURPS, etc.

I disagree with the article's suggestion for Settlers for boardgame newcomers, since the serial turn ordering causes long wait times, and lack of a comeback mechanic causes 1 or more players to be "out of the running" all too often for 30+ minutes of the game.

A small gamespace setup with Dominion, or 7 wonders (parallel turns, multiple paths to victory) are better intros imo.

7 Wonders probably wins for best average popularity among our mixed-interest gaming group, when there are over four people who want to play. It has an intimidating rules explanation compared to some, but plays way easier than it sounds. Would second the recommendation.

Sushi Go! is another good "getting people into not-awful board games" game.

7 Wonders is played to death here. Catan and Ticket didn't spark that much fanatism, people wanted to play but they wouldn't be planning and calling a week ahead. The thing about 7 Wonders is that you keep learning new stuff about the game, every game is different and new players still can win their first game with a bit of help, luck and wits. But if I lose (and I lose plenty of games) I'm always intrigued why I'm lost and what I could do next time, it never really feels bad. Also people that cannot deal with setbacks, somebody else doing something that thwarts their strategy or losing (I shall refrain from naming them ;) ) never get angry with this game.

Looking into buying a dungeon crawler now (cool map and miniatures preferred) and another game like 7 Wonders, perhaps Puerto Rico.

I think the complexity in 7 Wonders is, how should I say, "cheaply" generated. That is, the complexity is right there in the details, and there are so many details. I far, far prefer emergent complexity than that kind of explicitly designed complexity. It's a kind of complexity that rewards nerding out and learning combos and chains.

This is a valid criticism of these types of games, and in worker placement games in general. Most try to get around this by releasing expansions that add more random elements that encourage strategic play more so then just action optimization. Then the complaint is that luck plays too great a role. It really just comes down to how much gambling you want in a game, which usually adds a lot of dynamic play. Some hate that kind of thing in board games for some reason.

> I far, far prefer emergent complexity than that kind of explicitly designed complexity.

Can you recommend any games?

(not the OP, but I feel similarly)

Dominion. The strategy arises from observing how the specific cards that are part of any given game interact with each other.

Agricola. There's a lot of "designed" complexity here too, but a good deal more arises, particularly when you look at planning the critical eight first actions, and the path to the first additional family member.

"Codenames" is a clever word game. It has a downside that it requires at least 4 players. There is a board of words (each word is on a double-sided card and there are a few hudreds). One person on each team has a diagram with certain words (array indices) he must communicate to another team members. He does that by saying a word (word association) and a number, which means how many words he's communicating. For example, if there's a ring, a journey, and a monster you could say "Hobbit 3". Unlike a similar game, Dixit, this one has better longevity as it doesn't promote saying very obscure things only one person in group will know.

Neuroshima Hex! is a bit nerdy looking, but it's simple without expansions. Retro apocalyptic setting with mutants and evil robots. A knife fight in a telephone booth, plays well up to 4 players. You fill up the hexagonal board with your troops (they mostly don't move) rotating them so that they will hit the most enemies. Then it either fills up completely or one of players plays Battle token, and everything goes off like a chain reaction. Units hit in melee or shoot in order of their initiative. High interaction, tight mechanics. Most people prefer it as a duel game though. You can play it online too.

Carcassonne is one of the best examples of this imo.

Lords of Scotland is a fiendishly tricky game that appears simple at first. It's very quick to teach, but there is both strategic and tactical aspect to it and many non-obvious paths to victory. Beware of high player interaction (some people like it, some are hurt). It's rather chaotic in higher player kinds, you need to appear relatively harmless to win.

Tigris and Euphrates is an old classic that has very few tile types to place, but they result in complex outcomes. I can't say very much about it because I only played it once on a game show, but it's on my to-buy list.

I cannot recommend Tigris and Euphrates enough. It used to be at the top of BoardGameGeek in the old days. Some of my friends likes to sell it to newbies as 'its like chess, but for four person'. By the way, author of this game (Knizia) is a master Board game builder and has created many more games worth looking into.

Ticket To Ride does that well IMO. Really simple rules yet I still can't work out any sort of optimal strategy to play.

Blood Rage is great, and unlike many games of its kind player interaction and combat actually works.

Blood Rage is wonderful. The combat is so great since losing can be a winning strategy.

I guess the GP is a fan of abstracts.

Dungeon crawler wise, gloomhaven and Imperial Assault are my favs.

Yeah Gloomhaven is massive...very tempting!

I don't have first-hand experience, but I've heard Mice and Mystics is pretty good introduction to dungeon crawlers.

I play 7 Wonders pretty often, but counting scores at the end is a rather awful procedure. I jokingly say that if I ever design a board game, the rules will grant a score bonus to whoever explains the rules.

(There is no "beginner's luck" in boardgames. There's "rule explainer's curse". The player doing the explaining is distracted, not just by explaining but also watching over anyone and often plays badly).

We have found Sushi No is even a more fun experience for us. Basically Sushi Go! but whoever gets the lower points total wins. It's a bit tense but more fun.

Sushi Go is one of my favorite of the small and easy games. I'd also add Love Letter and Saboteur (no expansion) as great quick intro games.

Great suggestion with Sushi go, basically functions as a smaller game space version of Dominion/7 wonders/MtG draft.

Also not surprised to hear that our group isn't the only ones playing a "Razz" (poker variant where you try for the weakest hand) variant of Sushi Go.

I found reversing points to make the game chaotic and more casual.

Isn't it fairly easy to get lower total points? Just mainly getting chopsticks and 1 pudding (assuming other get 1+ puddings) can give you negative points.

But everyone else is trying to do that too, and players are trying to trick others into taking points.

I'm probably coloured by just not really enjoying drafting games in general, but I have trouble imagining trying to get a bunch of newbies going in 7 Wonders— between the glyphs, the complicated upgrade/borrow/payment scheme, and point salad path to victory, it seems like a lot to talk about.

I'd counter the recommendation with something like

I used to somewhat enjoy Settlers but I now consider it a terrible game. Exponential Growth Cascade Failure games are generally bad, but they are even worse when the aren't over quickly Using die rolls as the mechanic for who gets to make the key play makes it especially terrible because you don't even get to figure out what you could have done better a lot of the time it's just losing a 55-45 situation on whom gets the resources first.

You refer to "Exponential Growth Cascade Failure" games. Is there a TVTropes for board game mechanics?

I don't know if there's a good resource such as TV tropes, but board games absolutely have tropes, usually in terms of mechanics. For example there is worker placement, card drafting, "coints" (coins are points), hidden victory point cards, etc.

There's probably a more comprehensive list somewhere on BGG (Board Game Geek), but the website is so hard to use I can't find it...

Catan has made me very wary of "open trade" games, because they always seem to devolve to "that one player surely knows how to manipulate his friends into handing him the win real good..." It'd be easier to enjoy if trades were regulated somehow.

There are more accessible and more strategically meaningful ways to introduce player interaction into a game.

Dominion is so great for newbies. Unless you're playing online or the game is a blowout, it's difficult to know who's winning. It's also easy to pick up since the cards are basically the instructions. I'd recommend pretty much any deck building game since they're usually very easy to learn as you go.

I found the large number of cards available at once to be overwhelming when playing dominion the first (and only) time. In that regard, Star Realms is better since it only offers a rotating selection of cards to purchase. It also gives you obvious basic strategies where you just take cards of a chosen color or two.

Star realms is good. Hero realms is a titch better. Had a lot of hero realms fun over Thanksgiving.

Dominion actually turned me off of deck builders for awhile. I found the DC and Marvel games to be great introductions. DC one is definitely easier, as there is less going on, but it is still really fun.

I like to teach Splendor to new people. Most people seem to understand game flow by the end of the first game they play (figuring out strategy comes later).

The most promising sign is that most people want to play it again.

Splendor has a high initial spike, but the appeal wears off surprisingly rapidly. I've had a lot more longevity out of something like Carcassonne (measured in years) than Splendor (measured in months), when played every day. Splendor also requires a lot of concentration, which can be fatiguing.

Splendor requires focus? It plays pretty algorithmically in my opinion.

1. Is someone else about to win the game? Reserve their card if possible. 2. Can you buy a card? Buy the highest point value card you can. 3. Will taking two chips win the game? If no, take 3.

Splendor is all about efficiency (Which is why taking 2 chips is baaaad. Reserving is situationally good, but usually bad.) At higher player counts, the most efficient player almost always wins. At 2 players, reserving becomes much more strategic and isn't such a generally terrible action.

Side strategic note: Aim for the nobles with the most overlap with each other.

I agree, it's not very replayable. There is basically one strategy to win - go for the most expensive cards. They have the best action efficiency. You can get something like 5 points for 8 chips this way, or would you rather get 4 for a card that costs 14 ? Good luck accumulating those discounts. Not that it's not possible and you can't luck out with nobles, but it takes too much time.

I got bored of Carcassonne within 6 plays. Build big cities sneak in farmers. Zzzz.

In 2-up games, Carcassonne closely resembles a kind of grappling or wrestling, where you try to tie up your opponent's meeples, usually by making cities incompletable with the set of tiles in the box. Once you have a numerical advantage in meeples, you have an edge on the probability distribution of tiles that come out of the box - you can make more speculative bets. Whereas in 3 or more player games, it's much more rewarding to be more cooperative if you can be, because specific attacking actions are to the benefit of the player(s) that aren't involved.

Then there's the management of liquidity of meeples through the lifecycle of the game. You want to invest a lot, early; but you need to try and get them back towards the endgame, so you can steal fields and place in micro-fields.

There's a surprising amount of subtlety that emerges from the gameplay. In particular, learning how different growth patterns make your resources easier or harder to steal, or worse, block from completion.

The relative straightforwardness is exactly the appeal to me. There are nights when nothing works better. I had people over to play games last week, for example, and turns out it had been a long day for all of us and we didn't really feel like anything too involved. Carcassonne was perfect. Same with playing with extended family at Christmas. You can explain the main rules in a few sentences and everyone enjoys it.

All that said, I almost always use an expansion or two (or three) to keep things varied and add depth.

I tired of it when I realised the obvious way to get better was to learn all the tiles, so I'd know exactly when what patterns I left were blocking or not.

Learning all the tiles, and tile counting, both just seemed too dull and annoying to actually do.

It is a fun game if nobody learns the tiles :)

Randomly remove some tiles each game, without revealing which were removed?

I have a collection of 20 or so games, all well rated and popular on BGG, but for us Carcassonne is the most popular and enjoyable to play. It's beautiful, not too heavy, keeps everyone involved until the end. We just love it. We use three expansions: river, traders and architects, and inns. What a beautiful game!

It's the most "play it again" game I've seen in many years (maybe Till Dawn being another) and usually I can always get 3-4 games in with the same people.

Nice depth of strategy as well. Probably my favorite game in years.

One of my game designer friends recommended it to me. I don't play it as a board game but it's one of my go-tos on both a tablet and smartphone.

Oh but the beautiful pieces are half the fun! The "gems" are high-quality custom poker chips... so much fun to just play with them!

Splendor and Lanterns are the 2 games that everyone I've introduced them to immediately go out and buy them. Most other games... not so much.

From the Splendor editors you have Black Fleet which takes a little more time but is really fun playing with 4 people.

Despite having obsessed with it for a while, for casual players I wouldn't use Dominion. Its main downside is that serious play requires too much strategy, resulting in too much heads-down thinking about your hand and not enough interaction. I'd rather start people off with Carcassonne.

Dominion’s problem as a beginners’ game is that an even somewhat experienced player has a huge edge over a complete novice: even a passing familiarity with the cards will open up strategic combinations. In addition, they’ll have a hunch for when in the game they need to start accumulating victory points rather than expanding their monetary assets. That said, I love the game, and I think that it’s fairly easy to get into it.

How is that ever avoided though? I can not imagine a game where any amount of experience is not an advantage, where the game also has sufficient depth to be interesting.

Good point: unless it’s completely random it’s never entirely avoidable — there’s an element of skill. And I still think that Dominion can be very fun with beginners (that’s my experience at least).

That said, there are games that level the playing field without yielding entirely to chance; such as Dixit, where advantages are rather gained from knowing the other players.

Games can have strategic depth that is only mildly helpful in improving the odds of winning. Arguably Carcassonne is like this.

In games with higher interaction newbies can effectively gang up on the experienced leader. It has its issues, but it works.

I find Tanto Cuore makes a nice sweet spot - it's mostly as parallel as Dominion, but adds just enough interaction. Normally I'll get about 3/4 of the way through a game with newbies and then they'll go a couple of rounds of all buying me bad habits, and I'll smile because they've got it, and end up on a negative score.

Casual players don't see that Dominion requires strategy. Probability calculations blow right past them and they dismiss it as a simple, boring game.

Board Game Geek's gift guide is great for newcomers. The 2017 one is just out:


I found it particularly useful to start with games that are good for two players. That way, you need to find only one other person who can be bothered to learn the rules.

This is what makes Settlers such a balanced game IMHO. You can have a new beginner or experienced players and everyone has a good chance at winning - so long as the newbies are given fair introduction into the different strategies to winning. The scenario you mentioned is one example that makes the game turn into a political one. I have no chance at winning and you weren't nice to me, well then I'm going to fuck with you the whole game and hope someone else wins. If there are 2 people against 1 then that makes it even more fun. On that note, the game is likely an average or median length of 40 minutes, so if you're playing with good people it's always been a tolerable length of time. Seeing and experiencing the dynamics of Settlers is the best way to learn, like anything generally..

>everyone has a good chance at winning - so long as the newbies are given fair introduction into the different strategies to winning

Telling someone how to play a game and then going through the motions of playing isn't really fun. Most of the fun is trying things for yourself and figuring stuff out. If a game (like Catan) doesn't allow players to do this, then where is the fun?

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. I think once you level the playing field knowledge wise as much as you can with a new beginner, then everyone has more fun - because everyone can pick a strategy based on the randomness that went along with their decision making process for their initial placements (for Catan in this example). Perhaps it's my preference as I don't like having an unfair advantage, it makes it boring for me then because I know that without a clear explanation then my chances of winning are far higher; sometimes not because of the randomness with how resources may end up getting distributed. If a new person is getting tons of resources then they'll have aa good time from the sheer excitement of being able to do actions, especially if other people aren't getting many to be able to progress.

> Most of the fun is trying things for yourself and figuring stuff out.

Games have a lot of things that are fun.

If I'm a rookie playing chess against someone who knows the game, I don't stand a chance without some pointers along the way -- no fun, for me. I'd much prefer to be taught basic strategy (common forks, "walking the king" to end a game, traditional openings) than struggle through it on my own. That's because the interesting/fun part of chess, for me, is the execution. Of course, I wouldn't want to be told every move, especially once I learned the basics.

Catan (C&K expansion) has only 3 strategies I can think of off the top of my head: Expansion, Development, and Resource Monopolization (typically Sheep Empire, since if another player gets gets enough yellow cards, your wheat or ore monopoly is suddenly an oligopoly instead). Even with the randomness of the starting board, it's not hard to figure out what the best strategy would be, so I don't mind if someone teaches me. The interesting/fun parts are the politics and improvisation that happen when you add other players and it's no longer possible to execute the perfect strategy.

Dominion has much less PvP (your interaction is limited to attack cards and competition over a limited supply of cards) but a wide variety of strategies[1]. With an expansion or two, you probably won't play with the same exact set of action cards more than once, unless you choose to. So while I'd appreciate a veteran giving me some pointers in general ("Don't forget about coins, even if they're less exciting than action cards", "Don't buy VPs early; they'll just clog up your deck"), I'd prefer to figure out my card combination strategy for that game on my own.

Spider Solitaire is strategic like chess (it's fun to try to spot good moves). However, you're fighting incomplete information instead of an opponent -- there's fun in deciding when to deal and how to arrange the board beforehand. Lost Cities is fun for similar reasons, but includes a bit of PvP, mostly competition like Dominion; Stratego takes the PvP up another notch, putting it somewhere between chess and Dominion.

Risk, like chess, is PvP with static starting conditions. However, like Catan, it has a very limited set of strategies. There's variance in rolls of the dice, but it's mostly luck and adds little strategy, so it's only fun for the politics (ever tried 1v1 Risk? Boring). Lux Delux (Risk computer game) is more fun because it allows you to choose from a wide variety of maps, giving it a similar appeal to Dominion (trying to figure out which countries are best, where to stockpile troops and how many, etc).

Or maybe the simplest example: some people want to figure out how to solve a Rubik's cube on their own; others prefer improving their speed.

[1]: You might nitpick that Dominion actually has similarly few strategies but much more varied starting conditions; either way, the main attraction is figuring out which strategy to use this time around.

I haven't worked out the math (or seen others do the same), but I'm pretty certain that while the resources are basically balanced across the board, wheat has a slight edge and sheep a slight disadvantage. Some initial board states can really skew this as well. This theory has won me probably like 75% o f all my Catan games.

You can usually tell by the initial board state whether the winner will be an expansion player (wood, brick) or a development player (ore, grain, wool).

I have never won a game using expansion alone, but once I did win without ever building a third settlement. I ignored wood and brick altogether, and got largest army and longest road (to nowhere). Everyone else was expanding, and thought I was no threat.

Sheep empire works a lot, especially if you can get a port. It really only works because people really undervalue the commodity. As soon as your opponent considers it as a valuable resource the strategy falls apart. Frequently this happens too late though, and you have to be prepared to build roads and cities out of sheep.

Never played it, so that last sentence got my head full of xkcd style imagery of brick-tiled sheep to drive on... stacked bundles of wool as wall and floor material in multi-story wobbly pillow buildings... thanks for a good laugh this morning!

Another example of a winning strategy, I've seen a purely development card strategy win many times - including myself a few times.

If you like kingsmaking as a core part of a game, then sure.

King of Tokyo is another good game that's pretty simple.

Also it can be over in 15-30 min, so it's easy to play a couple sessions.

In my opinion, stars earned by taking and holding Tokyo should scale with the number of players. Otherwise, the strategy is to stay the heck out of Tokyo, buy cards, and then roll for your stars once you acquire enough power-advantages.

With 4 players, you have to weather 3 rounds of potential attacks to get the 2 stars for endurance, whereas in a 2 player game, you only need to survive one round of potential attacks to get the bonus. Furthermore, as you are yielding more often in order to not-die, other players are getting a star for it, so the advantage is less.

The expansion balances this a little better because of powerups. Though I think it more depends on who you play with.

for a starter, forbidden island is cheap and relatively easy 4 player coop boardgame. I always use it to break in board game newbies.

Pandemic is another co-op game that's easy to pick up for new players. The one bad thing about co-op games is if there are mostly experienced players and one new person then the experience people will usually influence the new person a lot and cause them to not learn much.

That's true with "total information" co-op games like Forbidden Island and Pandemic (or Flash Point, which is another great one).

"Codenames Duet" though is an example of a co-operative game where the two teams are working together but have to make their own decisions - it's also very easy to pick up for new players, I highly recommend it.

Carcassonne is an excellent 'gateway' game for introducing people to the boardgame phenomenon. Simple enough that you can explain the rules to an eight year old and start playing in five minutes. Also, it has just the right amount of luck and strategy to be fun for casual settings. I highly recommend it. You can keep making it more interesting by adding expansions later too.

Co-operative games are a tonne of fun but they tend to have complex mechanics and a bit of a set-up time in the beginning. This may be a discouraging factor but they are a lot of fun because everyone comes out of it with a sense of accomplishment after having done something together (if you win of course).

Our niece and nephew picked up Zombicide: Black Plague, and we love it. Just enough D&D style equipment and effects to feel good, fully cooperative mechanics so everyone is a team vs the spawns, and a chance of getting eliminated individually / team losing if things go awry or there's horrible card draws.

All the good aspects in one.

Umm, dice rolling is in serial order in Settlers, but everyone has to pay attention in each turn.

And any one can get a come back at any time. Hasn't this ever happened to you? You get a lot of sheep/wool, you build a 2:1 sheep port, and exchange all the sheep for stone, etc to upgrade to cities, and so on?

Settlers with more than four is not the greatest.

Ever play Dominion with a kid? Their slow shuffling kills.

I think no matter what, you need a small group to really pique the interest of newcomers. Dominion was definitely what pulled me in, I played it back in 2010, when I believe it was still kind of new on the scene, and though I didn't touch it much afterwards, it really made me want to explore more games.

Also important to highlight the role of Kickstarter. Of the 100 top grossing projects in Kickstarter history, 26 are Tabletop Games. Board game gameplay has certainly become more sophisticated, but we're nearly 10 years into a funding revolution brought about by Kickstarter. It's not too much of a stretch to say that Kickstarter has had a similar effect on board games that YC did on startups.

A decent portion of those 26 are people that don't necessarily need the funding to make games, though. A lot of them are basically just using kickstarter as a pre-order system.

7th Continent, for example. (And this isn't a criticism - I back a lot of these projects!) was produced by an existing board game company that has the resources to make things in a more "traditional" way, or even handle pre-orders on their own, if they truly believe the format is not good for a traditional print run -> retailer strategy.

Sandy Petersen has had some huge kickstarters for his board games, yet he's a big enough name he certainly doesn't need to do it that way.

KS is great for boardgames because it makes it easier for some certain situations, but I am unsure if it's really accurate to say that it's as big of a deal for boardgames as YC/incubators are for startups.

But you might be right and I might just be a cynical asshole.

I appreciate KS made more games happen, but some of these games are just overhyped. Scythe is good but not as great as the hype would make you believe. Zombicide is... well, probably amusing if you enjoy swarms of mindless zombies as your opponents in video games ? Terraforming Mars is quite good though. A bit rough and swingy, but good.

But it shows that there has always been sufficient interest in board games to make it worth developing them, but there wasn't a particularly good way to signal that - at least in America - to the people who would develop them.

Board games have been experiencing steady growth since the 90s, largely due to games like Catan breaking through to the North American market.

While board game designers surely must have learned from video game design, the success of board games cannot be attributed to this cross pollination. Video game designers, of course, have also learned from board games.

One factor that the article mentioned that I do think is increasing purchases is YouTube videos, especially "Let's Play" videos. There, the correlation between video games is clearer, but it's nothing to do with design.

Out of interest, what are the most popular Let's Play videos for board games? The only one I'm aware of is Wil Wheaton's channel, which I've only watched snippets of.

Rahdo Runs Through and GameNight! are both popular Youtube series that are basically let's plays. Dice Tower is mostly reviews but they do stream videos of them playing games from time to time. There's probably a few others.

There are a bunch of other popular Youtube series for reviews, but not as many for let's plays.

Betrayal at the House on the Hill is a pretty social and friendly game. It gives the illusion of making choices, but usually the right one is pretty obvious, and everything after that is pretty random, so anyone can win. It's rare (though possible) for someone to die and sit around waiting for half an hour.

Much of that makes it frustrating for extreme gamerz, but for people who aren't invested in complicated rule sets and deep strategies, it's perfect.

Betrayal is more of a psuedo roleplaying game set in a cheesy B horror movie. It's a lot of fun, but the boardgame is more of a prop than anything, and people that don't get into the theme are unlikely to have fun.

Not a complaint - but something to be aware of.

The only thing that bugs me about Betrayal is that it feels like the game can get "used up"; if you've played a scenario once, a huge game mechanic (imperfect information) is lost on the second playthrough.

There are 50 scenarios, though, and the rules include provisions to choose a different scenario if you'd get one you've already played. That happened only twice to us so far, though. Yes, technically the game is less fun after playing it 50 times. But that's a lot of fun hours until then.

One you've got a group of people who've played a dozen times, it's time to introduce a new game :)

What I like about that game is that you don't /know/ what's actually going to happen in the end. However there's a high degree of random chance. Sometimes outcomes are biased really strongly in favor for or against the "betrayer".

I don't think that's a flaw, I believe it's more intended than not, but it is something to be aware of so that players have good expectations.

I don't think really think of it as a game at all. It's more of a shared narrative scenario generator. To be a game, I think there should be a competitive edge, and Betrayal ends up being cooperative for most players.

That's why it is one of my favorite games. Though we have certain scenarios that we won't play (eg: Hangman). We also let players reset if the haunt hasn't happened and they die.

Though I have not found it to be a good intro game. Even though it is simple I think people get confused with the rules. Also, it really sucks if the newcomer is the betrayer.

The rules state you cannot die before the haunt.

IIRC doesn't it say that you keep your low stats? It has been awhile since I played. We just discard all your items and flip your character card over, returning to base stats, and restart you at the entrance.

Before the haunt, any effect that would lower a stat below the lowest value cannot do so and the stat stays at the lowest value. You cannot die, but yes, you're pretty weak, which can make the time after the haunt fairly deadly.

And this is exactly why we reset people. Because we found that more often than not people tend to have items and more bonuses. So resetting their character tends to still be a disadvantage to the average character. We played a few where we let the character get to the lowest stat and they tend to die really fast, which makes the game not fun for them. Feels a little more balanced, at least to me.

One thing that video games have learned is how to 'onboard' the player.

Portal is a good example. It tells you the bare minimum before hand in the first minute : move mouse to aim, wasd to move and then every other rule of the game is learned along the way.

I just can't stand board games that consist of 20 minutes of explanation followed by one hour of game.

Most of the better games are played more often than once...

Explaining rules is a bit like installing software: you do it once, then you run the software as often as you like. If you have to do that every time, maybe the problem is that you're not using the same computer twice.

One doesn't know if they're really going to like the game until they play it at least once, though.

I'm with on_and_off - modern tabletop games have too much upfront rule-memorization required before one can even start playing. They're actually worse than videogames in that respect, because with a videogame, at least the UI typically implicitly provides some indication of the ways that the player can interact with the game world. i.e. if I click on a unit or building in _StarCraft_, I get a panel of options for what it's capable of doing.

I'm happy that so many people seem to like them, but the amount of effort that needs to be expended before the actual fun starts (and potentially throughout the game) is generally too much for me. I'd probably like them a lot if they were played on some sort of shared table display, where each player would get an interactive list of allowed actions at each turn, instead of having to constantly refer back to the manual.

> One doesn't know if they're really going to like the game until they play it at least once, though.

That is fair, for this I tend to rely on the same thing that I rely on for films and music: a group of friends with varying tastes in "game aesthetics", through which I can get a decent picture of a game by asking different people's opinions. It's easy to forget that this is a luxury not everyone has, though.

RE: comparison to StarCraft: you're underestimating your pre-existing familiarity, forgetting that at one point you had to learn how RTSes work, and that the interface for them has not significantly changed in the last twenty years. Similarly, if you play a lot of board games, you'll notice a lot of mechanics are repeated between different games, and rules are a lot quicker to pick up than twenty minutes (it's kind of comparable to how learning programming languages becomes a lot easier after the first few).

Yes, there obviously is more feedback in computer games, but on the other hand: the only reason you know how to use those units, is because they were introduced one at a time in a campaign.

It is difficult to introduce a slow learning curve to boardgames, unless you start with simple rules and have an "advanced rules for experienced players" section that you can try out after a few games. That only works for a few types of games.

Perhaps this is one of those things where mobile phone apps could help out?

Yeah, this is a good point. Imagine immediately playing a game of Starcraft with no knowledge of the units and how they interact with each other and not even any real good idea of what you're supposed to do with an RTS game in the first place. You'd spend 20 minutes floundering about and get murdered by an opponent that knows what they're doing. You have to learn what each unit does and how they work together and how to get resources etc etc somewhere. Usually it's in a campaign that drip feeds the tutorial at once.

A board game that's designed to be an isolated game session that plays in about an hour simply can't afford to drip feed rules to you over the session, because by the time it finished drip feeding you the rules, the game would have been finished already.

I tend to watch game review videos to help me decide if a game is worth my time ahead of time. I can play a 10 minute overview while I'm doing dishes or something of that nature. Then if it seems interesting I can spend the time checking out the actual game.

Board games can get better at this, sure, but there are some board games that have a tutorial approach that let's you start pretty much right away. Riot Games (funny enough, a video game publisher)'s Mechs vs Minions did this, for example.

Part of the reason board games usually need so much explanation is the game is because there could be some decisions you make immediately or first turn that could have an effect on how you do in the endgame, so you kind of need to know what those effects are right away.

With video games, you often get 20 minutes of tutorials also, but the game itself lasts 5-10 hours. There are board games that last that long, but they're mostly dungeon crawlers or legacy games that are designed to be played quite a few times with changes between games.

Other games that are designed to be completed in a relatively quick timeframe (I tend to prefer playing those games, honestly), don't have that luxury, unless they're dirt simple to teach. Some people like simple rules games, other people prefer the heavier, more complex games.

An unique aspect of board games is how extremely moddable they are. People are making house rules all the time (sometimes because they're bad players who can't handle a certain strategy, sometimes because the game actually is unbalanced). People bring their homemade expansions. Modding a game can be as simple as "let's try a game where everyone starts with X or Y!".

Board games also have very few quitters. A person who quits mid-game is usually labeled a jerk and avoided in future. Players might cheat or turn over the table, but griefers can face anything up to physical violence. Players have power to police themselves as they see fit.

Also, while board games are relatively expensive, a whole group can play a single copy. This is almost unheard of in video game world. One example was Starcraft 1 "spawn" feature, another - Age of Wonders 3, where you can play expansions you purchased with people who don't own it. It avoids splintering the multiplayer community. It pays to do some research before buying a game or trying it out a few times.

The byline "thanks to the lessons their designers have learned from computer games" is pretty much bollocks, and also not reflected in the article.

If anything, computer games have much to learn from board games. Tight, elegant game mechanics. Widespread mechanic innovation.

In computer game world, Heroes of Might and Magic III is called a sequel. In board game world, it would be called an expansion - no joke. The rules are almost the same, almost all additions are incremental.

Yup, complete garbage. Board games are back thanks to the lessons their designers have learned from Sid Sackson and Alex Randolph, and that the German market carefully guarded and nurtured for 40 years.

Someone needs to mention Carcassonne. Far better than Settlers in many ways, for new or experienced players.

100% agree. For me it's also easier to play with the entire family, going from grandparents to grandkids.

IMO it's a good "first game", but after playing for a while and with someone of similar skill and experience, the strategy is less varied than Catan. The benefit of Carcassonne is you can play with just two people.

I don't dabble with video games very much because I find it to be mostly a solitary experience and they tend to have addictive game mechanics.

Board games on the other hand force you to become social and is often times responsible for bringing your groups of friends together more frequently as well as being a toehold into new social circles.

Computer games used to be social, they just found out more profitable ways to milk people.

Dedicated servers in shooter games were social and more exciting. Every server was a mini community for players who frequented it, usually because they had "good ping" there. All skill levels mixed together, so on one hand it could be frustrating when a very good player mopped up, but at the same time you could learn from the best. You don't learn much from people just as good as you.

Local multiplayer (same computer), even split screen games were a thing.

Basically all multiplayer games made before the Internet took off were social. Playing DooM in 4 player deathmatch required bringing 4 computers together.

> Dedicated servers in shooter games were social and more exciting. Every server was a mini community for players who frequented it, usually because they had "good ping" there

WoW was even more social before they changed things for worse by allowing character transfer between servers and random groups over all realms. It went from getting to know other players by stumbling upon them frequently to being able to experience the whole content while avoiding social activities altogether.

There are quite a few video games out there that are fun for groups and don't focus on replay. A good example is "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes," a fun exercise in team bomb disposal.

You're correct that there are exceptions but it's much more endemic to board gaming.

> I don't dabble with video games very much because I find it to be mostly a solitary experience and they tend to have addictive game mechanics.

“Addictive game mechanics” are more typical of (superficially, at least) casual, often F2P, games whose monetization model is pay-to-win in-game purchases. That's a fairly recent phenomenon in videogames, and while it's a huge slice of the market now, there's a lot of other games out there.

One design aspect not mentioned here - I don't know if it has an official name or not - is the idea of sub-goals. By which I mean mini achievements, not always explicit, beyond the main goal that players can achieve.

Dominion is a great example of this. I rarely win but I have great fun building a stupidly optimised deck. For me building the 'perfect' deck is as fun a goal as winning. I once bought two colonies (highest victory card) in once turn, and even though I lost by a few points I felt like I'd won.

This feature is increasingly popular in new games.

Lords of Scotland is a criminally underrated card game that's fun for beginners and masters as well. Actually I haven't seen anyone master it yet. Like many best games (yes, it means 7 Wonders isn't one) it has simple rules and few components which lead to complicated outcomes. I'm frequently asked to pull it out of my bag. It has both tactical and strategic aspects (you don't draw new cards at the start of new round).

The only potential flaw is high player interaction and potential to hurt feelings, but then again it's what many players love about it. Technically it is a bidding game, but most cards you play affect other players, sometimes directly destroying theirs. Kingmaker syndrome is there, but I view it as an interesting puzzle how to win when all other players are out to get me. Except for last rounds, no one is beyond chance of winning.


RoboRally is a very fun game about robots racing in a factory. Each player is dealt 9 program cards (move 2, move 1, turn left, turn right, U-turn, backpedal...) and has to put them in 5 registers. All players do this simultaneously, and a 30-second hourglass is turned over when second-last player finishes. Once done, all players reveal their 1st register and perform the action, then 2nd register, and so on. Robots bump and displace each other, fire lasers at the end of each register phase, move onto conveyor belts, avoid pits, rotating floor, pushers and even collect upgrades. It's a hectic game where making an error results in visually amusing consequences. It's very light on rules, instead it demands more from spatial imagination.

Pandemic Legacy is a real gem. Me and my friends are having a great time playing it. Even if you have played pandemic to death, the twists at every month make each game distinct and encourages you to try different strategies and characters.

Try Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on a Cursed Island. This cooperative game is an amazing story generator, is so difficult it forces you to think hard, and scenarios are highly randomized depending on what comes up. Theme is very strong in that game.

I'm curious if people have any recommendations for good strategy iPad games based on board games. Catan is good. Carcassonne is good. Monopoly is painful.

What others do people play regularly?

  - Puerto Rico
  - Race for the Galaxy
  - Splendor
  - Lords of Waterdeep
  - Agricola
  - Le Havre
I don’t exactly recommend them, because I think they’re hard to understand if you haven’t played in real life, but also:

  - Terra Mystica
  - Steam

I picked Patchwork the board game recently, and then tried PC game -- very good. You can play both against a good computer player and against online players (with ELO rating) -- as many games asynchronously as you want. Its a cute-looking, relaxing game.

I very much recommend ‘Through the Ages’. It’s the board game app I’ve played the most.

It’s very well polished and has a very good tutorial.

Ticket to Ride is good.

My roommate and I play weeks long games of twilight struggle. I like the asynchronous play better than real life, as I have the time to really strategize my hand. The AI also makes it way easier to spin up new people as you need to play a lot of games to start memorizing the cards & it seems easier to do this against a robot.

As someone somewhat new to this genre I must Puerto Rico is an amazing game. The online play is fantastic too (on board game area). Also pretty great is Hansa Teutonica and PowerGrid.

Currently I am pretty addicted to Puerto Rico online. The turn based or real time options are perfect.

Race for the Galaxy is upgraded Puerto Rico. Turns are simultaneous so it's no longer deterministic who wins, development is randomized through cards (highly balanced at that), there are variable player powers. You can check it out with an open source app "Keldon AI", but brutally tough neural networks based computer opponent won't tell you why it plays the way it does. It doesn't know.

Also check out Troyes. Alternating turns like in Puerto Rico, decisions are highly meaningful (more interaction than in PR and RftG) and it always feels like resources are scarce but many things you'd like to do. It's a bit more complex than PR. Each playthrough is randomized depending on what crafts and events come up.

Another game with tight decisions and high strategy is Seasons. Don't get discouraged by cutesy graphics. There is a rock-solid foundation in there and you need to plan well ahead as well as make good tactical decisions.

My friend just put a boardgame up on Kickstarter, was funded within a day by friends. [0]

Board games offer easy prototyping and are enjoyable by a larger audience than computer games (which typically require certain hardware + specific twitch skills)

[0] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1019118800/sun-rush-str...

This article mentions Mansions of Madness Second Edition. It's a good game, but the companion app should be used on a tablet (the article mentions a phone), preferably one with a stand.

If you're into H.P. Lovecraft, Eldritch Horror is an even better game, since it kind of captures the vibe of a number of the stories.

Anyone here use tabletop simulator?

Yesterday this was in the front page, I have it on my "try out list": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15810268

Yep... used it last night for the first time actually and had a great time! Got to play Dice Throne which is currently really hard to get hold of and have a few others on the list that I want to try before buying.

It can be a good way to try out a board game or play one with friends that you can only reasonably meet up with online.

However there's a lot of state and visual density that are just easier to work with when in the real world.


What the hell? It's just an article

What the article does not really go into is how designers iterate on game ideas introduced by previous games, taking the parts that were interesting, and changing the rules that are detrimental to the enjoyment of the game.

Take Werewolves, for example[0]. This is a classic roleplaying game, considered one of the originators of the "social deduction" genre. It pits villagers against werewolves hiding among them, where either all villagers end up eaten by the remaining werewolves, or all werewolves are lynched by the remaining villagers. See link for a full description, but the important bit here is that:

- the villagers can only win by determining who the werewolves are, but there are no in-game reasons to suspect anyone of being a werewolf; it is 100% based on roleplaying.

- the game is played out through a process of elimination, removing two players per turn (one suspected werewolf, one werewolf snack). If the group is ten people, that means some people will be watching from the sidelines most of the time.

Both of these issues can be big hurdles to enjoying the game.

Resistance is a "second generation" social deduction game, which removed player elimination[1]. Players are resistance fighters trying to topple an oppressive regime, with a few double agents among them trying to sabotage their efforts. Each turn, players decide together which two or three members will go on missions. If the saboteurs bluff themselves into being sent, they must try to sabotage the mission while deflecting suspicions that it is because of their doing. Meanwhile, the resistance has to figure out who the saboteurs are, to avoid sending them on missions. Which side wins depends on how many missions succeed or fail.

More recently, the lack of in-game discussion starters was solved in Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, where players are investigators trying to solve an ongoing murder case, and one or two of them are secretly the murderer(s)[2]. It adds a clue system that is a bit hard to explain here, but in practice immediately provokes discussion while still maintaining the social deduction aspect[3].

So over two "generations" of game design, two major flaws were eliminated from an otherwise very innovative game genre. And this kind of stuff happens everywhere: all kinds of new, innovative mechanics to solve specific problems are shared and remixed.

[0] https://www.werewolves.com/werewolf-game/

[1] https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/41114/resistance

[2] https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/156129/deception-murder-...

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDWvHrt6kG0

Draughts is not in Islington it’s in Haggerston... apart from that, interesting article.


boardgamearena.com. That is all.

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