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Why we still love board games (timharford.com)
160 points by ColinWright on Dec 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 135 comments

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German-style boardgames are my favourite hobby. I've played probably 300+ different ones now. Perennial favourites include Agricola, Dominion, Ora et Labora (relatively new), Age of Steam and Titan (played this to death in the 90s, not so much now but I still love the game).

For me these games are a sweet spot between traditional family games (which tend to be largely luck-based and not very "deep") and the truly deep games of Go, Chess and even Bridge, probably even Poker. The former group is (for me) unfulfilling. The latter group is (again, for me) a massive time sink.

You can play a lot of games online now but honestly I don't like that. For me, it is both an intellectual and a social activity.

German style boardgames have been around for many years but they saw a renaissance that probably began with Settlers of Catan in the 90s that then exploded in the 2000s with Carcassonne and Puerto Rico and what came after.

It's a great hobby, particularly if you can find people to play with (physically) in your area, which doesn't tend to be a huge issue in urban centers.

EDIT: to clarify what a "German style" game is (commonly just called a "Eurogame"), it's basically a set of principles. Eurogames:

1. Tend not to be elimination games (all players generally are in the game until the end);

2. Tend to de-emphasize or eliminate direct conflict where your side or units or whatever directly attack those of other players;

3. Tend to minimize luck to varying degrees. Some games (eg Caylus) are perfect information games; and

4. Tend to take 1-2 hours to play;

5. Typically have a central board and a bunch of brightly coloured wooden pieces; and

6. Are often played by 3-5 players but can often be played with 2, occasionally 6, rarely more.

These are not hard and fast rules. Contrast this with what are called "Ameritrash" games (which isn't as derisive as it sounds).

Thanks for telling us about your favorite hobby, how many you have played, where it fits in your personal spectrum, that it has been around for many years, and giving us some titles!

But, what is a German-style board game?

German-style board game is a term that refers to specific game mechanics. The reference to Germany stems from the success of the "The Settlers" board game. In contrast to well known American games, like Risk or Monopoly, the game ends with all players still in the game and it introduces mechanics where players have to interact (trade) with each other to advance.

The Settlers obviously isn't the first game with those mechanics. Magic the Gathering and others might have been available a lot earlier. Still, The Settlers made these gaming principles popular to the broad masses. Interestingly, the German gaming market became huge mostly through the influence of this game as well.

> Monopoly, the game ends with all players still in the game and it introduces mechanics where players have to interact (trade) with each other to advance

This is needed in Monopoly, too. Unfortunately the meta-game is such that most people play the game the way they played when they were 9, and can't handle things like declining to purchase something in order to start a bidding war for a property two other players want. If Monopoly were freshly introduced, clever strategies of what to trade would develop. (I recently won a game with no color monopolies, just the railroads.)

I understand the ire some game fanatics feel at Monopoly, and some of it is deserved. It is using "technology" almost a century old and should do more to accelerate the end of game. But a lot of the problems with Monopoly are because people don't play by the rules, or they expect the game to suck and so it sucks.

German style board games are so named because of the influence of a few designers in Germany, and because of the popularity of some games in Europe.

Luck is reduced. Planning and skill is increased. They can be short fun easy to learn games for a wide age range (Carcassonne; Bohnanza), or they can be harder more in depth games that take longer to play (Le Havre).

Usually there's an element of competing against the game itself, not just against other players. Usually they avoid player elimination (unlike monopoly).

Ticket to Ride is a great game. You have some destination cards. You draw train cards. You use the train cards with your train counters to build routes (for points) on the destination cards. Routes consist of a bunch of shorter routes, and these are limited so other players can claim them. The luck comes in drawing good destination cards, and what train cards come up. You can try to cobble other players by claiming their routes, but you really need to claim your routes. (This isn't a great description. See Board game geek for better.)

Carcassonne is a 'simple' "draw a tile, place a tile" game. You need to build towns or farms or roads, while stopping your opponent doing the same.

Monopoly gets harsh treatment among some people. I tend to agree. If you play it properly (with all the auctions, and with the intent to drive other people out of the game) it's okay, but vicious.

Sort of unrelated: but Ticket to Ride is a great example of how well German-style board games can translate to tablets.

You can either play with friends as pass-and-play, or with bots. Different maps are in-app payments.

We've killed time on some long train rides in Germany with it: http://www.daysofwonder.com/online/en/t2r/ipad/

Update: seems you could also play it between iPads online. We only have one iOS device so haven't tried.

Works well on an iPhone too. My friends and I played it a lot on the trains while travelling through Germany.

I saw the iPhone version, but I think board games really benefit from the larger screen sizes that tablets have.

I think you rather classified "modern" board games, not "german style".

On the other hand, do you know a modern non-german board game?

There are quite a few. From the top of my head: Pandemic. Even non-European is not unheard of. For example my all-time favorite: Robo Rally (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RoboRally)

Space Alert is another interesting one: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/38453/space-alert

Sort of cross-over between Pandemic and Robo Rally... you play and win/lose as a team like in Pandemic, but much of the mechanics is "programming" your actions like in Robo Rally.

RoboRally is one of my all-time favorite games. The only down sides are that it can take a long time to play and finding the original expansions can be difficult and expensive (sadly they haven't been completely reprinted yet).

Fun fact, the inventor of RoboRally, Richard Garfield, was asked to create a game that was more portable and he came up with Magic the Gathering.

Betrayal at House on the Hill (Avalon Hill) comes to mind as one we play often.

Games Workshop - Space Hulk.


As mentioned in the article, and here in the comments, the term "Eurogame" is often used to describe them:


(That term, in fact, redirects to the Wikipedia page above.)

Also, FYI, in contrast to Eurogames, there's a style of game colloquially known as "Ameritrash", which you can read about here:


"Simply put, Eurogames tend to focus on streamlined, well-balanced play, with a mimimal theme and more abstracted game mechanics, while Ameritrash focuses more on theme and dramatic gameplay." -- http://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Ameritrash

Sounds like a reasonable definition.

While not really a part of definition, eurogames tend to have fewer but well thought out pieces, cards or mechanics. Often a great deal of depth comes from fairly simple rules (like Dominion or Tigris&Euphrates). In contrast, ameritrash games tend to have lots and lots of cards and dice rolls which are often poorly balanced. Examples are Arkham Horror and Bang!

Another common trait is that eurogames tend to have less interaction and feel more like a race (Dominion, Seasons) than an elimination game. It has good sides - it's harder to gang up on the leader, making him lose for arbitrary reasons. In games with high interaction kingmaker syndrome can pop up - you no longer have a chance to win, but you can determine who gets knocked down to 2nd spot. On the other hand, sometimes it feels like you can play without looking at your opponents. Some games manage to strike a balance. Cyclades has a rule which makes it almost impossible to eliminate another player, AND it allows a badly damaged player to steal a victory. This is because the first player to own 2 Metropolis wins, but they exist on the board and can be conquered, not just built.

As a german the question is rather what is not a german-style board game? I hardly know any board games not designed and produced in germany. Even the rest of the world seems to play mostly german board games. Like germany has a monopoly on board games (which is ironic as Monopoly is a popular non-german board game).

> As a german the question is rather what is not a german-style board game?


Funkenschlag (Power Grid) is a typical German board game, and great fun. It is well-balanced, and contains map-control, auctions, and resource management: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2651/power-grid

> German style boardgames have been around for many years but they saw a renaissance that probably began with Settlers of Catan in the 90s that then exploded in the 2000s with Carcassonne and Puerto Rico and what came after.

I wouldn't call it a renaissance. At least in Germany it was just steady growth.

> It's a great hobby, particularly if you can find people to play with (physically) in your area, which doesn't tend to be a huge issue in urban centers.

Using a few gateway games, you can also recruit your own gamers.

Something I found quite nice was a web series by Wil Wheaton: TableTop (http://tabletop.geekandsundry.com/) which basically consists of a round of people playing a board game, explaining the rules and generally having fun doing so. The nice part is that you can experience how the game is played and whether you might like it or not – much better than just with a verbal description or review on Amazon.

Of course, for cities that have such a thing, a dedicated board game shop where you can try out games is even better, but those seem to be rare, even in Germany.

Minneapolis has an embarrassment of riches on this front. We have game shops everywhere and dozens of public groups that meet regularly. There's also a monthly gathering that typically runs Friday to Sunday (16 hours each), and sells out its 90 person capacity almost instantly.

The groups are very newbie friendly, which is typical for this hobby.

What's interesting to me is new board games aren't just variants on existing games; there's noticable innovation in board game "technology". If you ever play board games from the 80s and 90s, they often feel dated and clunky, even more so than video games from the same era.

I recently went back and played some classic Avalon Hill games that were popular when I was a kid. I can't believe me and my friends spent so much time playing them when we were younger. Depending on the game, a full game might take 5 or 10 hours. For many games, the majority of the time is spent rolling dice, looking things up in tables, and moving stacks of counters around. And that's when you're lucky enough to have a chance to do anything -- there's often half an hour or more of dead time when you're waiting for other players to make their moves. By contrast, if you play a game of Dominion, it's possible to finish a game in 15 minutes. You'll have to make a larger number of important tactical and strategic decisions than you would in most six hour long games from the 80s and there's zero idle time [1].

Even with games that use modern game technology, you can see a noticeable improvement over time. Puerto Rico introduced a move selection system that allowed for serious tactical planning (10+ moves ahead) in a lightweight [2] game that could be finished in half an hour (with experienced players). But, the game wasn't perfect. One weakness was that the player turn order was fixed and very important. If you play a game with one weak player and three strong players, whoever goes after the weak player is almost guaranteed to win. Conversely, if you have one strong player, whoever sits down to the left of that player is going to get crushed.

Caylus fixed that by building a mechanism to change turn order into the game itself. Caylus was wildly popular for a year or two, but it's rare to see people play it now. Ironically, the game designer was too good at removing the element of luck for the game to be popular. If you ever played on BSW (an online board game service), you probably ran into 'Alexfrog', who had a record of something like 431 wins and 2 losses. You can predict, with very high probability, the outcome of the game based solely on who's playing, and most people don't like being crushed by the same players over and over again. Another issue the game had was that the gameplay was almost purely tactical. There were only a few viable strategies, so games all had a similar feel to them.

Agricola and Dominion fixed the problems Caylus had by adding significant randomization. Not only does that add strategic variety to the games [2], it also means that anyone can win any given game.

It would be fun to sit down and draw out a board game tech tree. It might hard to make a decent visualization, though, because of the huge span, plus a high degree of multiple inheritance.

[1] There may be some idle time with certain strategies on some of the newer expansions, due to the incredible amount of shuffling required. You can avoid this by playing here: http://dominion.isotropic.org/. I tend to play on isotropic even when playing face-to-face games because it's 2x faster normally, and there are some pathological cases where it's over an order of magnitude faster.

[2] I'm using 'light' to refer to how cumbersome and complex the game mechanics are. Examples of 'heavy' games are Enemy at the Gates (which has over 1000 counters) and ASL (which has something like 500 pages of rules).

[3] Both games do this by strongly randomizing the initial state of the game, and adding a small degree of randomization throughout the game. Technically, Caylus also randomized the initial state, but the initial random state in Caylus was minor; it was just barely enough keep you from pre-computing an opening book, the way you can in chess. Even in Dominion tournament games, where most players have played thousands of games, it's common to see wildly divergent strategies, because neither player has played on a board with a similar starting state, so they both have to figure out the best strategy in real time. I always cringe when that happens, and I realize I'm playing an inferior strategy. It doesn't really help that you can see what they other player is doing, because if you realize that her strategy is superior and try to switch, you'll be doing the same thing, but N turns behind, which is pretty much a guaranteed loss [4]. Your only hope, at that point, is some combination of superior tactical play and luck.

[4] Well, not always. A hybrid strategy can work in some cases. It depends on the strategies and the stage of the game. It depends is a safe answer to pretty much any strategy question, which is what makes it interesting.

Hardcore boardgamer checking in. Some random thoughts...

Our gaming group tends to binge on a given game; if we like it, we'll play it dozens of times and then burnout and never play it again. One game that's stood the test of time is PowerGrid. It's rarely anyone's first choice, but it's the second choice for a lot of us, so it comes out often.

Often, at the end of the evening when we're pretty tired, we'll play cards, usually Mu. Mu is an amazingly deep trick taking game that has the advantage of working really well for 5 or 6 players. Also, it's a partnered game, but your partner is not fixed throughout the course of the game, which gives it an advantage over spades/bridge (which can be a drag if you have a weak partner.) It also has some delicious elements of backstabbing and subterfuge. I highly recommend it if you like games like spades/hearts/bridge.

If you have a regular gaming group, interesting meta-gaming manifests itself. For example, we have one person who's known as the "crazy guy", who'll do something random and destructive just for fun. Or certain vendettas will arise, and someone will sacrifice themselves in order to sabotage someone else. You have accept that sometimes folks will be irrational and be aware of meta-game in order to do well in the long run...

+1 for Power Grid. Like most of the best games, it actually gets more fun once you've figured out optimal play. Weak games just get boring.

How many Power Grid maps do you own? I've found Power Grid gets boring after playing the same map more than a few times.

We actually have all of the expansions. They add a small but non-trivial element to the game. The additional powerplant deck also helps; otherwise, you begin to memorize the plants and know to wait until 25/26 hit the board and whatnot.

If I have a complaint with Powergrid, it's that our group has collectively opted into a strategy of delaying the start of phase 2. Sometimes this grinds on interminably such that we skip it entirely, and then enter phase 3 with giant cash hordes and bizarrely high priced powerplant auctions. It's still pretty fun, but sometimes feels a bit broken.

I've seen that a lot. Part of the reason can be plant starvation -- I'm not going to do a big build if I can't power them, so Benelux helps. Also, it helps to select regions with high connectivity (low diameter). If the one player who wants step 2 can't reach the only open space, there's a stall.

I do wonder if the rules could be tweaked to give some reasonable reward to a step 2 starter.

Dominion lets you spend all the time making decisions rather than waiting for other people by having hardly any interaction between players; at times it can feel like a time trial race. I tend to prefer Tanto Cuore; while it's largely a direct rip-off (and the art puts some people off) it gives you more attack options, and the balance shifts to allow a wider variety of strategies (Dominion I find duchies are almost entirely irrelevant, and anything other than going for the high end rarely works). So it's an improvement, but it's so similar I suspect we're converging on the ultimate form of that kind of game.

I still need to try Agricola.

The "flavor" of Dominion play is hugely dependent on the cards you're playing with. If you feel like there isn't enough interaction between players, I'd recommend giving Intrigue a try. Alchemy generally is a weak set, except for Posession, which is just a completely miserable damn card to have in game for the amount that players can use it to mess with eachother.

Prosperity also brings an entirely new way to win to the game: through tokens, which you can accumulate quickly by buying things like Duchies for cheap and then trashing them as quickly as possible.

We have a few house rules that allow us to "tune" each game before it starts, and we've had a huge variety of games as a result: everything from 15-minute time trials like you describe, to Dominion "golf" (most negative points wins!), to hour-long slug fests that leave me wanting to flip the table in aggravation.

(edit: I've done my fair share of aggravating others though too -- ended up abusing a village-king's court-torturer combo badly enough at one game night that torturer was pretty much forever after banned; the same night a different table got me back with a consistent militia-masquerade 1-2 punch that left me flopping around in the game like a fish out of water. Anyway, there are all kinds of ways to play this game, so if you're finding it repetitive, you're probably missing something!)

We've been using the Prosperity, Alchemy, and Dark Ages expansions, and they really add a lot of depth and enjoyment to the game. We use the Platinum treasure cards and Colony victory cards from Prosperity in each game, which can speed up the game and change how it plays. Maybe the game was designed to prevent players from "topping out" by limiting how much treasure or victory they can buy in a turn, but we don't like feeling limited.

Our house rule is we can't play with more than 1 stack of "+2 action" cards, because most of us will just buy those and combo them with "+ draw" cards, which give us "+ action" cards, eventually allowing the entire deck to be drawn, and ~30 victory points gained each turn.

For an interesting variation on this idea, try Quarriors -- it's like Dominion but with dice, with some faces being treasure/currency, and other faces being the creature/attack spell.

I concur about Intrigue, but I don't mind the Alchemy set. During one game with the Familiar, my brother-in-law and I actually managed to deplete the Curse card supply.

Maybe check out Puzzle Strike? David Sirlin claims to have sidestepped several of the problems Dominion has (slightly nsfw pic at beginning):


Well not having played dominion I can only vouch for Sirlin's Puzzle Strike. Another plus it is very easy to play. My girlfriend gave it to me as a present and my little brothers learned to play just after watching us play a couple of times. Plus the mechanics are solid, they keep the game from having a clear winner and then just having to wait for it (I'm watching you, Monopoly). They updated the rules recently with the new expansion but I haven't played the new version yet so I can't comment on the improvement. But it is definetly a blast for 4 players.

His other game Flash duel is also really good. It tries to capture a fighting game (a la street fighter II) with the board game. It succeds in the zoning part imho.

I am personally a fan of another of his games not mentioned here, Yomi. It definitely puts focus in a 1-on-1, competitive aspect where you're not playing time trial and every action you make involves picking the counter to the action your opponent is going to make.

While agricola does have significant luck in the inital game state, this is lessened by drafting the initial cards which almost all advanced players do. This ensures that at most players will only have 1 extremely powerful card, and adds another level of skill with managing the draft. The game itself is extremely skill based, to the point that an experienced player with a poor hand should be able to beat a less experienced player with an awesome hand most of the time. Unlike in caylus, the best players are only able to win 60-70% of the time

Oftentimes old stuff is digged up and reimagined and fitted into new games, too.

A great example of this would be the fairly recent game Trajan which uses a Mancala board as a core piece of the game mechanics.

Computer games started as implementations of board games. But they have gone very far from each other. This comment nails it:


2 points by b0rsuk 4 days ago | link | parent | on: Mining a 1993 game design for innovative game mech...

There's an insightful comment over here: http://crystalprisonzone.blogspot.com/2012/02/whether-they-l....

"""I think one of the very interesting things about modern single-player game development is that it creates exceptionally expensive content designed to appeal to everyone and be played exactly once for 8-10 hours. As anybody who plays European board games will tell you, making a game (read: the body of rules, the mechanics and dynamics) is cheap - all you need is creativity and a lot of playtesting. AAA videogames are entirely different, though - millions are spent on voice acting, scripting, graphics, etc. This is why I'm excited for moderate-budget games like Bastion that can publish interesting and challenging gameplay with a budget lean enough that it doesn't have to sell to absolutely everybody."""


Board games don't just innovate in the rules department. Everywhere outside the computer "game" world, games ARE the rules. Rules is how we distinguish one game from another. If Heroes of Might and Magic III was a board game, people would call it an expansion to Heroes II. It has nearly identical rules. It has 3 extra towns and some extra units and spells ? The same is true for Munchkin Cthulhu. But no one is silly enough to call it a sequel or a separate game.

As far as I'm concerned, 90% of the modern tacticool shooters are the same game, not similar games. They are played in the same way. Weapons and enemies are slightly different.

Board games frequently have mechanics unheard of in the world of computer games

> it also means that anyone can win any given game.

See, I play a decent number of games, and having this aspect in, say, Dominion, really decreases the fun factor. If I can lose/win just by the luck of the draw, I don't have a chance to have skill-based win (obviously with careful card selection in Dominion you can obviate this and drive it more into a build-your-deck game).

The other aspect of Settlers that makes it enjoyable is that it involves a very social aspect, the trading of resources. So you can't just drop out for when its not your turn, or you'll miss things. That always adds to the enjoyment for me.

> Agricola and Dominion fixed the problems Caylus had by adding significant randomization. Not only does that add strategic variety to the games [2], it also means that anyone can win any given game.

While Agricola and Dominion do a pretty darn good job of it, it's often a matter of individual opinion whether adding randomization is a 'fix' or not. I hate playing a game where I feel like I could lose by pure chance no matter what my level of skill is. There's a balance to be had between having guaranteed good strategies, too much of which makes a game feel stale, and real randomization, too much of which makes a game feel like glorified gambling to no effect.

What you really want is just some way of ensuring that you don't play the same situation twice, so that some mental exertion is always required, while keeping the playing field level. One way to go about it is to just devise a game with sufficiently complex positions that players are likely to create new ones on their own- that's what Chess, Go, and Hnefatafl do, despite being very lightweight. Another way is to find some means of randomizing positions that doesn't too seriously impact player standings- that's what randomized Nim does and what Backgammon tries to do. A third is to make game progression depend on player judgments/voting, which magnifies the social aspects of a game; it's a form of randomization, but fundamentally different from, say, rolling dice or drawing shuffled cards, and there are very few popular games I know of that make use of it (Dixit is the only board game I know of, though there are card games like Taboo and Apples to Apples). It seems to me that modern board games tend more and more towards the randomization approach (sometimes with good reasons to do so given the simulation conceits of the game- i.e., agricultural productivity in Settlers). This makes sense because its easy to do, especially in the context of trying to make games that play faster- randomizing starting conditions is a great way to save the first ten or twenty opening moves prior to interestingness that you'd go through in a fully deterministic Chess-style game, even if there's no further randomness- and especially if you're willing to be lax with the requirement to not obviously upset player standings by random chance. But I wonder if we're missing something by not doing more exploration of the space of "interesting" deterministic games.

Incidentally, Tsuro is an interesting edge case- as the board is built during game play, I'm not sure if that counts as randomized initial conditions, or continuous randomization. While Tsuro is the simplest example, there are several games similar to this, like Infinite City or Wasabi. I was recently introduced to a Tsuro expansion that added dice rolls that alter the previously-played board tiles, and it was pretty uniformly considered by the players to be inferior due to over-randomization destroying any real reliance on individual skill.

P.S. Most of my recent exposure to modern games comes from periodic sampling of board game events run by my university SF&F club, so it's entirely possible that there are filtering and selection biases in the kinds of games that I have seen. I would certainly not mind having my entire argument torn to shreds by being introduced to yet more new games that I was not previously familiar with.

> I hate playing a game where I feel like I could lose by pure chance no matter what my level of skill is.

I've discovered this is a crucial element in social games. Because the implication is that someone could also win by pure chance no matter what their skill level is. That makes the game a lot more approachable for people of all skill levels, and makes it easier for a room full of people to have fun together.

Compare with another game I'm particularly fond of, which has absolutely no random element: Go. Considered on its own merits and ignoring any outside factors, it's easily my favorite game. But my usual Go partner moved across the country a while ago, and since then I almost never get to play Go. And when I do, it's really not very much fun. I've been playing it for so much longer than anyone else I know that we both know going into it exactly who's going to win and by how much. There's just no excitement in that. Sure, Go has a fantastic handicapping system and if we wanted to put out the effort of figuring out an appropriate handicap we could even the odds. But for most people that (quite justifiably) feels terribly condescending, so we're not going to do that.

Exactly - it's like the difference between chess and poker. Both are popular but poker is more widely played because differences in skill are less apparent (especially to an unskilled player)

People who don't like randomness mixed with skill just need to stop measuring themselves by the outcome of a single game.

> People who don't like randomness mixed with skill just need to stop measuring themselves by the outcome of a single game.

It's not measuring yourself, it's the emotional experience of playing that one game. If you can play the same game a bunch of times, such that the randomness gets smoothed out, that experience is different from the experience of just playing one game. There is thus something to be said, I think, for games that are explicitly designed to be played in a tournament style. For example, Mexican Train Dominoes- you're supposed to play it in 13 rounds, so even though you may get completely screwed over by bad draws on any one round, it's highly likely that everyone ends up on even footing overall (except for that one time I got a double 6 five rounds in a row...). Or Hnefatafl- it's empirically unbalanced, so standard practice is that you always play two games switching sides.

Hnefatafl has another interesting option for redressing unbalanced skill levels, though; each player can simply bet at the beginning on how many moves they think it will take them to win. If you play beyond the lowest number of moves wagered, that player loses. It's a similar idea to handicapping in Go, but extremely simple and requiring no negotiation such as would seem condescending. Unless, of course, you want to be a jerk about it and just always overestimate your move count on purpose.

> "Mexican Train"

That's offensive to those of us that use that to describe a sexual position!

But seriously, I agree with you. Since I only played it about once a year, I usually forget to play it very conservatively and get a large score. You don't have to win a single round to win overall, but people seem to forget what the real metric is with the excitement of winning a round.

> I hate playing a game where I feel like I could lose by pure chance no matter what my level of skill is. There's a balance to be had between having guaranteed good strategies, too much of which makes a game feel stale, and real randomization, too much of which makes a game feel like glorified gambling to no effect.

One of my favorite parts about Dominion and Race to the Galaxy is how their short play times nullify the downside of randomness; if you can play several games in a hour losing one game because of bad draws doesn't feel nearly as badly as it would if the games took 2 or 3 hours.

> Dixit is the only board game I know of, though there are card games like Taboo and Apples to Apples


> While Agricola and Dominion do a pretty darn good job of it, it's often a matter of individual opinion whether adding randomization is a 'fix' or not. I hate playing a game where I feel like I could lose by pure chance no matter what my level of skill is.

Le Havre (sort of the sequel to Agricola) improves on this. The ordering of the buildings is partly random, and can result in very different games, but it's symmetric to the players and all the information comes at the beginning.

Along the same lines, the game Innovation improves on Dominion by giving players different random decks, many more options for actions, a chance to come back no matter how far behind you fall, and yet still feels like skill is extremely important.

Caylus was wildly popular for a year or two, but it's rare to see people play it now. Ironically, the game designer was too good at removing the element of luck for the game to be popular.

Ah, yes. I had this experience with my card game, Ambition ( https://docs.google.com/document/d/1S7lsZKzHuuhoTb2Wj_L3zrhH... ). I came up with the concept when I was overseas (Budapest Semesters in Mathematics, fall 2003) and had left my German-style games at home, but wanted a low-luck card game (regular deck) to play. Building a trick-taking card game with minimal hand-luck turns out to be really hard, and involved a lot of statistical work, but I managed to get it down to a point where about 3-4% of the variance (in a typical 75-minute game) was drawn cards.

The problem was that it was over-optimized and too complicated and, being a theme-less abstract card game, it still didn't have a fully "German" feel in any case. So I ended up taking rules out and injecting small amounts of card-luck back into the game to make it more fun to play. Now it's closer to 5-6%, which I'm fine with. Scaling back the optimizations made it a better game.

It took some time, though, to convince myself that it's a feature that I (still probably the most experienced player) only win about 45% of 4-player games.

I think Seasons has a low random factor compared to other card games. This is despite the fact the game incorporates both cards and dice. You can play it online for free on http://boardgamearena.com . You can watch people play without registering.

1) Rather than starting with a random hand, the game starts with a draft. Each player gets some random cards, he must pick one of them and pass them to the next player. So even if you get all "great cards" at first, you can only take one. By the time your cards go back to you, pieces of your dream combo might be gone. 2) Dice are used for option selection, not tests of success/failure. Players+1 dice are rolled, each player picks one. The last player usually has an interesting choice too, because the die that wasn't picked determines how much time passes in the game. 3) Cards are balanced very well. Out of 50 cards, there are only 2 clear stinkers: Balance of Ishtar and Idol of the Familiar. The rest are so well balanced the game gets away with "you get -5 points per card in hand at the end of the game" rule. 4) Many card-drawing effects offer you a choice. Amulet of Fire makes you take 4 cards and discard 3 of them. Divine Chalice works in a very similar way, so does Naria. You can even activate a power which gives you a choice between 2 cards when you draw one (draws are very rare in this game, it's entirely possible to win the game without a single card past your initial 9). 5) 3 times per game, for a price of negative VP, you can bend the rules. This is an another airbag against random screwage.

So in summary, there is a random factor but best players keep winning consistently.

My longer description of the game: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?6825-B...

In general, I like games which have randomized options but (pretty much) deterministic results of actions taken. Wesnoth is a bad example, the outcome of your attack is highly random. Neuroshima Hex makes you draw 3 cards each turn and play 2 of them, but apart from that the game is deterministic. Furthermore, if you get bad cards at the start the luck tends to even out over the period of the game, because later you'll be drawing only good cads. Each player has his own deck and the usual win condition is when a deck runs out. I highly recommend the game. You can play it online, too: http://online.neuroshima.org/

Worth noting the article's a couple of years old, as anyone who plays Dominion will realize.

I'm always amazed at how much innovation is going on. With board games you'd think that the best ones would all have been figured out decades ago, but it seems like more are being invented than ever.

The variety and refinement in game mechanics is great. Browsing BoardGameGeek by mechanic[1] can be useful for new board game selection.

[1] http://www.boardgamegeek.com/browse/boardgamemechanic

Love this article. I think the end captures it perfectly - there's really nothing else that gets the same social interaction as board games.

At work we use board games on a daily basis for team building, usually play a 1-hour-or-less game over every lunch. It's amazing how quickly you get to know someone and how those relationships build and blend into your work as well. You can see how someone teaches a new person how to play the game, how they interact with alliances and respond to attacks from other people.

Some 1-hour games we play for reference, if anyone's interested:

Dominion - Already discussed in another post :) (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/36218/dominion)

7 Wonders - Drafting based card game where you interact with your immediate neighbours (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/68448/7-wonders)

Race for the Galaxy - Card game where action choices enable other players (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/28143/race-for-the-galaxy)

Lords of Waterdeep - D&D themed worker placement game (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/110327/lords-of-waterdeep)

Stone Age - Most "german" game of this list, worker placement and resource gathering with dice (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/34635/stone-age)

Space Alert - co-op game where the main game mechanic is "communication" (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/38453/space-alert)

Galaxy Trucker - fun tile-based spaceship construction game (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/31481/galaxy-trucker)

The Resistance - 2 out of the 5 players are secretly spies (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/41114/the-resistance)

I wrote this list out in a bit more detail on my website: http://rtigger.com/blog/2012/12/14/board-games-are-great/

We play a lot of those on game-lunch Fridays... also popular at our lunches:

Core Worlds ( http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/98351/ )

Quarriors ( http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/91536/ )

Infinite City ( http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/46807/ )

We occasionally have a Saturday game day among friends for longer games, but these three are great less-than-an-hour games. Core Worlds is about an hour, the other two will get you 2 to 3 games in in an hour.

I've been wanting to try Core Worlds, and I haven't heard of the other two - I'll have to check them out!

I found Core Worlds to be a disappointment. By the time you can start to build up some interesting combos in your deck, the game is over. Fairly slow-moving, too.

When you are just learning the game, and if you are prone to Analysis Paralysis, it can be slower. We can play a full 10 rounds with the Galactic Orders Expansion (which adds more paths to win and other variety) in 70 minutes with 3 players. (and in fact, just did over lunch today!) Also, the more you play, the better you get at making good combos. Once everyone is up to speed, if the scores aren't at least in the 30s and 40s (base game) you haven't figured out how to combo well.

The BGG description makes it sound like an aggressive form of Race for the Galaxy - same concept, but you have to attack worlds instead of just "settle" them.

Don't get too excited. It strongly depends on the group you're playing with. I like silence and dislike disruptions. I hate people who won't shut up when playing a board game. Playing board games online can dramatically increase the fun factor of a game, especially if the game has a lot of score markers to keep track of (Seasons) or people don't say "end of turn". With many people, playing face to face is just a mess.

Similar situation where I work with a similar list of games but also including Carcassonne, Carcassonne Discovery, Kingdom Builder, Small World, Last Night on Earth (seasonally) and futile attempts to finish Robo Rally in under an hour.

Amusingly enough also in a Vancouver-ish software development office (Richmond area).

Could you suggest a good board game that is playable turn by turn? We are a group of friends in very different time zone, and playing a turn based game, about one turn a day works nicely.

We have played Tigris & Euphrates, and it works great, but would be looking for something different.


Take a look at VASSAL (http://www.vassalengine.org/) and the games it supports - between that and Dropbox, I find that playing turn based games over the internet is made a lot easier.

How many of you are there? How much complexity and/or depth do you like? At the deep (deep) end, 18xx and specifically 1830 plays well as PBeM (with a Java app called Rails), or there are games like Here I Stand that play well PBeM, or war games. Pretty much anything which doesn't need much interaction between players during each person's turn works well (especially if you can trust each other to roll dice for each other where needed).

If you want some more suggestions, feel free to drop me an e-mail and discuss further.

The games in that list that are turn based include Dominion, Lords of Waterdeep, and Stone Age.

We stick to 1-hour games mostly because of the lunch hour restriction, if you're spacing the game out over a series of days it might be more interesting to play some of the longer games since it doesn't matter how long you take anyways.

Wow, sounds like real fun to work there :)

I absolutely love board games and card games. And I love to think about game mechanics. If I would not be a web developer I would love to work with this kind of game development.

I have developed a version of Magic the Gathering which is played with a normal 52 card deck (one deck per person) with much more simple rules and good strategy (better?) and less luck. I have played it around 100 times and the rules are finalized. I think I should translate the rules to English.

A note about Monopoly, the new card game Monopoly Deal is actually quite good as a family game with simple rules and around 20 minutes.

Monopoly Deal is definitely an under appreciated gem. It's a great way to kill 15 minutes with friends. Doesn't require a lot of strategy, but it still somehow fun (I typically enjoy a lot more strategy than luck).

I've done something similar to your Magic the Gathering game. It involved a chess board and using 52-card decks to give your pieces "abilities." I believe the Ace of Spades was a "Resurrection" card that would respawn any one piece you'd lost.

Do you have any URL to show more info about your game? I would LOVE to read :) Here is mine with Google translate: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=sv&tl...

I came up with the modified chess game when I was a teenager, and I've long since forgotten all of the rules, I'm afraid. Sorry to disappoint :)

I'm very curious--is there a way for me to play this game? I'd love to get the rules from you and try it out. I loved the mechanics in Magic when I was younger, and I'd love to not have to buy all the cards and worry about building a deck, and just be able to play the game with my fiance without telling her it's Magic.


Magarena is a GPLed program to play almost Magic: the Gathering. There is only a small rule modification to simplify AI calculations: the defender chooses how combat damage is distributed, not the attacker.

Magarena doesn't have ALL the cards - only close to 3000 - but it has disturbingly good AI. Several AI algorithms to choose from, in fact. It plays like a bastard, and despite having a few flaws (sometimes it performs suicide attacks, it doesn't save cards for later, is bad with activated abilities and doesn't guess what card you might have in hand) you will dearly regret underestimating it.

More cards are coming, but each new mechanic needs to be coded separately.

> [...] I'd love to not have to buy all the cards and worry about building a deck [...]

You might also want to try the booster draft format of Magic.

I will get back to you once I have translated it. Shoot me an email.

Yeah, for 5 bucks and fits in a pocket Monopoly Deal is great. It also has the nice property of having the strategy change noticeably as you vary the number of people which helps extend it's shelf life.

Quinns from Shut Up & Sit Down did a fantastic talk about the current "Board Gaming Golden Age" at GameCity this year!


Haven't seen these mentioned yet, and I recommend both:

Powergrid: Unique because there are no dice involved; a game of economics

Steam: Unique because there is a bank (partly tied to your score) that you can borrow against to build pieces faster

I enjoy Power Grid with a larger group (4+) people, but with a small group, the game really drags. This is unfortunate, because my usual gaming group consists of my fiancee and myself.

Which 'german' style board games do you recommend for 2 people? It's often just my wife and I, and it seems like most popular eurogames are best with 3-4 people.

Take a look at http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/67262/near-perfect-2-playe...

edit: for what it's worth the game my wife and I end up playing most of the time when we have 45 minutes to kill is Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, which isn't on the list.

My wife and I bought Carcassonne because it could be played with only 2 people. But it's one of our favorite games because it's never the same game twice!

Dominion is great for two players, and has excellent replay value.

Settlers of Catan can also work well for two people. You just have the two players control two colors each. This preserves the competition for resources needed to make the game fun.

Edit to add: Race for the Galaxy is also one of our favorites, but we've house-ruled it a bit so that the military strategy is not a guaranteed win.

I love powergrid! I recall the last two turns require a lot of calculations. When I played with non-mathematically oriented people (most people in my life), they got frustrated.

Power Grid has a lot of simple arithmetic. You're adding numbers in your head constantly. Barring a runaway leader, the endgame tends to have a slingshot effect where the person who is "leading" is actually behind those who are currently in 2nd or 3rd place. Timing this come-from-behind win is a big part of the fun for me.

It's the #6 game on BoardGameGeek [1], and well deserved to be there. Saying that "it's filled with math" doesn't make it sound all that exciting, but there's a good spacial element, an auction system that gets quite tense at times, and opportunity for "screw you" behavior that actually pays off. The winner is typically the one who was most efficient and has made some clever plays to keep his opponents out of his chosen markets.

[1] http://www.boardgamegeek.com/browse/boardgame

I found Power Grid to be significantly improved by keeping a calculator on hand for all that addition.

How much of my hundred can I bid on this power plant? Well I need four oil this turn at what might be seven cost each, and I want to buy three houses at fifteen, so that means forty five plus twenty eight is seventy three, so I can spend up to twenty seven in this auction. There's no reason to force all that mental arithmetic, and it really sucks if someone loses because they missed carrying a digit mentally. Just use a calculator to abstract away the math and speed things up.

I carry a stack of calculators around with me, since my gaming preferences lead me toward heavy economic eurogames and titles from the 18XX[1] world. Power Grid isn't bad enough to need a calculator most of the time, but if someone in my group wants to use one no one is going to bat an eye.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/18XX

I would have never expected a thread like this to pop up on hacker news :)

Anyway I have to weigh in and suggest to try a game I produced with some friends (by co-founding a publishing company): Al Rashid (http://www.yemaia.com/al-rashid -- http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/127282/al-rashid).

I think most people with a development background are naturally disposed towards liking eurogames, and in my case to work on one :)

Lately I've been buying some of my child board games like Monopoly, Cluedo, Hotel and such...

I noticed that people are going back at this type of games, and I can see it why. It's an awesome excuse to invite some friends to your house, setup a game, get a few drinks and just play, talk and have some fun.

You can't do this with videogames.

Also, you'de be amazed at how much a good strategy boarding game can reveal of someone's personality.

Seriously, try some modern, German-style boardgames like those described in the article - settlers if you play with people who pay attention, something slightly less interaction-heavy (san juan?) if you don't. You'll be amazed how far game design has progressed since the ones you remember from childhood.

Couldn't agree more. German-style games make Monopoly etc look positively archaic. Two great starter games are Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. I'm a big fan of Ticket to Ride as well.

There are a couple of things that make these games so good. Firstly, they're extremely well balanced - unlike Monopoly, it's rare for one player to pull ahead to the point that it's impossible for anyone else to catch up with them.

Secondly, they tend to come to an inevitable conclusion - a game of Settlers will virtually never last more than an hour and a half due to resources / space on the board depleting over time. I've had games of Monopoly last 6 hours or more, by which time everyone is fed up and wishes they'd never started playing.

I've never been able to stand Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride falls firmly into my "meh" category - with multiple players you optimize your chances of winning by taking a lot of routes, and it's then mostly a matter of luck whether you get a set that overlaps enough to complete. Settlers is good if you play it with people who pay attention, but if not you can easily be waiting half an hour while everyone asks everyone else several times over if they want to sell them any grain for their sheep.

So yeah, I've mentioned San Juan; Citadels is similar and conveniently is playable for 2-8. If you're a group of programmers then Roborally is fantastic (just ignore the life tokens).

> Ticket to Ride falls firmly into my "meh" category - with multiple players you optimize your chances of winning by taking a lot of routes, and it's then mostly a matter of luck whether you get a set that overlaps enough to complete.

You score points if you complete the route. You subtract tat route's points if you do not complete the route.

Thus, taking extra cards is a gamble - do you gain 12 points for completing a route or lose 12 points for not completing a route?

Yep. But if you treat the game as win/lose then your best strategy is to increase your variance, which you do by taking a whole lot of tickets. Since many ticket routes overlap, it becomes a game of pure luck - the game is mostly determined by who happened to get tickets that overlapped, and all your efforts in playing won't overcome such an advantage.

For Settlers I've held firm to the rule that you get to make one offer/counteroffer per player for a particular resource. If you need ore, that gets you 2 times asking each player. If there are multiple things you can use then you get a few more times. It's made the game go so much smoother when a few particular folks get involved since most of the time players only need one or two things.

My girlfriend and I saw Monopoly in the store the other day. We both thought it'd be awesome to play because as kids none of the adults around ever wanted to play with us. After about 2 hours of going around the board waiting for one of us to hit the tie-breaker property first we understood why.

You should buy Lost Cities. It's a good couples game.

Monopoly, it's rare for one player to pull ahead to the point that it's impossible for anyone else to catch up with them.

In playing with 3 or more people, the way to deal with a front-runner is for other players to deal their way into also competing.

I had super-long games of Monopoly as a kid lasting multiple nights, but it was because we were doing stupid house rules, like rewarding people for landing on Free Parking, keeping the money supply way too high.

I'm not holding up Monopoly as the greatest game ever; "technology" has improved and board games should as well. (Here's one rule change to speed up end-game: after all properties are bought, cut the $200 salary to $100.) But a lot of the abuse it gets is undeserved, so I feel compelled to defend it.

Also many people play without the auction rule, which makes the game a lot more fast-paced.

Agreed. For me a big part of these games is that often you don't really know who is going to win until the very last turn. Especially with the games that have a collaborative element, people teaming against whoever is "doing too well" equalizes the gameplay a lot.

There are also a number of excellent collaborative games, such as Pandemic, or the new(ish) and very quick Escape: The Curse of the Temple. These are great if you want a less competitive atmosphere.

I'd add recommendations for Cosmic Encounter, whose mechanic of destiny makes its competitive nature a lot more amenable to my tastes, and Flash Point, which is like Pandemic but about firefighters rather than CDC people and would probably be a lot more accessible to kids.

Dobble is amazing for everyone, and it's great fun to explain it for the first time ("each two cards have only one shape in common, you have to find it") and hear people go "That's it? That's easy!" and then shout in frustration when they realize it's almost impossible :P

Also, Jungle Speed, Cockroach Salad, Halli Galli are pretty fun speed games. Tokyo Train is a classic for four people as well.

Huh? What? Yes you can. I invite friends over for beer, pizza, and video games all the time...

I totally agree, though obviously has to be particular games. I think the whole 4-controllers-1-tv formula works best here. Games like Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Bomberman, Goldeneye, Mashed/Wrecked/Micro Machines make for great times, although they provide a much more energetic vibe than boardgames, which may or may not be a good thing.

Also, LAN parties :).

> although they provide a much more energetic vibe than boardgames, which may or may not be a good thing.

Depends on your boardgames. Some can be rather vicious, and since people usually take longer to think about their actions, backstabbing and then turning the dagger, is even more fun and meaningful. (But I guess, I like the American dinosaur of a game, Diplomacy, way too much.)

I think that Diplomacy is a rarity as being a Board Game which actually plays better on the internet and by e-mail just because it gives you that bit more time to think and plan and communicate.

If you're a fan, then I'm actually running a series of games at the moment on the DPPD judge (http://www.floc.net/dpjudge/) - if you look at http://www.diplom.org/openings/openings.html#USDP for openings on the judge they're the vole_xxx games.

Thanks for the invitation!

I agree, and I was pretty involved with the pbem hobby for a few years now. At the moment, I just moved to Singapore and am still settling in. I've mostly played the 1900 variant recently, and even introduced the Cambridge University Diplomacy Society to that variant and made it their mainstay.

1900 is a definite improvement over standard.

I prefer pbem over ftf, but ftf is a good pastime in its own right.

I have recently player Diplomacy as a board game with some friends. WebDiplomacy.net is much more enjoyable, even if everybody would be in the same room. Never tried pbem, but i believe you would need something like jDip to visualize the map anyways.

Yes, if most of your friends are dudes, most female friends I have don't know/care about video games. However that changes when it comes to board games.

I've got to +1 the "try some other games and be amazed". I'd recommend some cooperative games for family entertainment.

Pandemic is excellent (Forbidden Island is more light if your kids are younger), Ghost Stories and Arkham Horror for the more mature crowd.

7 Wonders and Stone Age are also fantastic "gateway games".

Not strictly a board game (nor German-style), but I'll just mention the card game Set too (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set_(game)). It's quick to play, both adult and children can play together, and you can play against each other or work together to find the sets. We've brought it to a ski trip with two other families, and it was a hit.

Maybe it is well known, but I hadn't heard of it until I read about it here on HN (Peter Norvig had simulated the odds of not finding a set, http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1303797). Having played for a while, I ran my own simulations. The results differed a bit from Peter Norvig's. I wrote it up here: http://henrikwarne.com/2011/09/30/set-probabilities-revisite...

I've always had this hypothesis that if a country has a strong cultural background in games people tend to have good critical thinking skills c.p. The case study for this would be Germany.

Either way I'm pretty convinced playing board games with children is an excellent thing to do to foster their development (sadly in this day and age it almost seems spending any time with your kids puts you way ahead of the curve already as far as parenting goes). It's fun, too.

Crowdfunding seems to work pretty well for board games btw. And I wouldn't be shocked to hear that passionate board gamers make good startup guys (poker players seemingly do)

> Either way I'm pretty convinced playing board games with children is an excellent thing to do to foster their development

Planning. Simple arithmetic. Social interaction. Patience. Sure, that's going to be useful.

Also enjoyable is building and designing a board game from the ground up.

Similar to software development in that you need constant iteration, much different in that it takes forever to implement and test those iterations.

The Ludemetic Game Generator [1] is an amusing, and often inspiring, fictional game generator. It randomly combines BoardGameGeek.com's game category and mechanics keywords to create a new game. Some random examples:

* Web Tycoon in Space: Categories: Expansion for Base-game, American Indian Wars, Mythology. Mechanics: Commodity Speculation, Hand Management.

* Popbid: Categories: Music, Territory Building. Mechanics: Auction/Bidding, Modular Board.

[1] http://kevan.org/ludeme

My daughter has been an avid board-gamer for several years and just started the 3D board game club at the University of Alabama. Look it up if you're in the area and want to find a group to play with!


Junta is an example of a older well playing board game if you have 5-7 people. Especially good for a mature crowd and with appropriate props like hats and sunglasses.


If you have seven people who like that kind of game, and have enough time on their hands, the 1900 variant of Diplomacy is also worth a try. But make sure they can separate backstabbing in-game, from behaviour in real life.

My main problem with board games is that they're too expensive sometimes.

If I'd do a ROI analysis on all my board games most of them beat out lots of other social activities.

If an average game lasts maybe an hour and you play it with an average of 3 players that's 3h of entertainment per play. 10-15 Euros per hour of entertainment seems very reasonable so most games actually tend to pay for themselves after just one play if oyu look at it that way.

And with sites such as boardgamegeek, there isn't as much risk involved unless you're buying just-released games.

I've had my copy of Dominion for over three years. I got it on sale for $30. I've played literally hundreds of games since I bought it.

Granted, I've added expansions over the years. But let's assume I paid full retail price for the game and four expansions: around $225. I've played at least 300 20-to-60 minute games. Conservatively, 100 hours of gameplay time. $2.25 an hour to entertain myself and 1 to 5 friends is an amazing value proposition.

BoardGameGeek also has an active secondary market, lowering the risk of new purchases. Unless the game is utterly terrible, you'll be able to recoup some of your money.

The user auctions there fetch high enough prices that I would not hesitate to sell there as opposed to eBay. They also have their own marketplace where users can sell games at fixed prices, but the organic "hey I want to sell these, who wants to give me cash" lists of games[1] are quite successful.

[1] http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/66420/metalist-for-geeklis...

1. You can play at fantasy/SF club. You will only pay a monthly fee, if any.

2. On http://boardgamearena.com , you can play several dozen board games for free. No flash, it uses HTML5 magic.

I miss playing 8 board, 5 flag roborally marathons.

On iPad: how do I get this in the google cache??

The link to the original content on FT would be easier: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/1aab09a4-8fb2-11df-8df0-00144...

Board games are discrete and closed, often in a well-thought-out and beautiful way. It's generally intended as a social experience, but the discrete world makes the game possible to take apart and analyze, so that if you want to dive deep into the game, you can. It's up to you what kind of experience you want to have. If you want to play today and forget who won tomorrow, that's fine. On the other hand, if you want to get analytical about why starting that external conflict in a game of T&E was such a good (or bad) move, you can do that as well. In a continuous, real-time computer game, you can't as easily reason "to the bottom" because the mathematical microstructure is hidden, and often emergent.

Germany, Hungary, and to some degree, France, have a really strong (tabletop) gaming culture, which is a really cool thing. I tend to think that games confer a lot of benefits not just for "weird gamer types", but for everyone. It's a lot easier to get to know people over a board game than when there is nothing "in the center" to talk about: can people really carry on a 2-hour conversation about the fucking weather? I'm a weather geek and even I would prefer not to (possibly because I know from experience that it bores most people).

I actually think there's space in the world for a "board game cafe" niche. Instead of board games being a fringe activity that require corralling people, I don't see why there couldn't be a revival of the culture where a person can walk into a coffee shop at any time and find a game.

Funny you should mention the board game cafe concept. In Toronto we have Snakes and Lattes, it's very popular and constantly expanding into adjacent buildings/floors. Fun place to go and hang out, have a beer play with friends. I think that somehow in last several years board games begun to be perceived not as a nerdy thing to do but something cool. I have seen people go on dates to SnL.

This is a great idea. Adults tend to become socially retarded once Work gets in and asserts total dominance over peoples' lives, and board games are a great way to build a context that's independent of (a) people trying to hit on each other, which becomes pointless once you're married, and (b) people trying to assess each others' professional status and "network".

One of the things that I see in board games is their subversive potential of breaking down barriers. Adult life is so shit-broken in so many ways, and one of those is socioeconomic stratification. A healthy game culture could kill that by creating cross-class connections.

That's interesting, I'm using games at Work to help build up networks because it's something that draws in people from different departments (developers, product managers, customer support) and makes it easier for people to approach each other outside of the lunch hour games.

There is a "board game cafe" in my neighborhood:


They seem to be doing quite well.

Awesome! This deserves 5 upvotes, but I only get to give you one, so here's this.

Does one just show up and play games, or is there a specific time when it's best to arrive?

I love to analyze games and as a programmer there's quite a bit of neat stuff you can do due to the discreteness. Build DSLs for the game logic or strategy, the whole field of AI, modelling of games as FSM, Petri Nets whatever seems interesting.

There are quite a few of these cafes. They have game collections and you can rent a table+game and pay for the drinks. You can also bring you own etc. the atmosphere is usually pretty nice/relaxed.

I'd love to see some more analysis on "Button Men" - (http://www.beatpeopleup.com/start.html)

Are you taking this Coursera course, in April?


It looks really interesting.

Pretty nice wasn't aware of this course. A colleague of mine actually has a student that is doing a paper on GGP this semester.

I'll sign up for it but will mostly just follow along and not treat it like a real course (that's kind of how I do all my online courses).

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