Unplugged: A Different Kind of Game

There’s a fun game out on the market that I would like you to know about. It’s 3D, multiplayer, and runs on a platform you probably own. It came out in 1995, and sold over 2.5 million copies in its first six years. With expansions and follow-up games, the franchise sold over 6 million copies of games by 2001, and it continues to be a strong seller. However, I suspect you might not have heard of the game or even the publisher, before. That is because the game I am referring to is a board game.

What’s a board game discussion doing on Gaming With Children?  Board games are a great form of entertainment for families and friends, but not every game is suited to every gamer. There has been a bit of a renaissance going on in the board game community in the past ten years.  If “rolling your dice and moving your mice” is your idea of a board game, you are in for a very pleasant surprise.   In recent years, board games have changed and improved almost as much as video games.  There is now a wide selection of board games available for gamers of all tastes, ages, and interests.  By regularly posting updates on “Unplugged Gaming”, I’m hoping to provide assistance to people so they can find board games suited to their needs.

This boardgame-review service does not come from some altruistic goal of bettering society, but the self-serving goal of increasing the number of board gamers in the world.   I migrated into the world of computer and video games from my own desire to play games. I love playing games of all types, but I often found it difficult to find a ready human opponent. Computer and video games were the next best thing. I enjoy the challenge and the entertainment I derive from a quality video game, but it is even more refreshing to spend an evening with friends parked around a table (be it a circle or a square) playing a board game. I will sometimes regret spending a bit too much time playing the latest video game release, but I have yet to regret time spent with friends playing a board game.

When compared to video games, board games are relatively inexpensive. A typical board game runs $30 to $50 new. While older video games often sell for less, used board games in good condition will hold their resale value better than a video game.   Since there is no technology depreciation, board games can have a much longer shelf life in your home.  Since the “platform” for a board game is any flat surface, there is no need to ever upgrade your gaming system.  This sharply contrasts with the continual upgrades required for computer gaming or the regular rotation of new console systems.

Computer and video games continue to offer increasing multiplayer options, but board games have always been about multiplayer interaction.  Some of the best board game designers in the world today are in Germany where board gaming is a common occurrence around family dining room tables.  In Asia, there are a growing number of board game cafes, similar to internet cafes.   People come in, pay a few dollars an hour, plop down, and can enjoy some light refreshments while playing a selection of board games with friends and acquaintances.

The very nature of board games encourage player interaction.  Many of the best board games are great since each player’s actions directly affect all the other players.  This sort of tightly woven player-player interaction is seldom found in video games.  This is due, in part, to the complexity of video games.  There are so many small decisions and calculations in the background that any one decision made by a player during a video game is usually minor, leading only to small improvements or setbacks.  Board games have far fewer rules so there isn’t a constant stream of tiny decisions to be made.  The decisions in board games come at a slightly slower pace but have farther reaching consequences, keeping players interested in the game.

Board games are great for kids of all ages. There is something to be said for playing with physical toys. A board gamer can play with colored blocks, roll dice, or arrange little tiny army men without feeling guilty about acting their age.  Since all the equipment and supplies can be laid out on the table, a board game can often be easier to grasp and understand than a video game, especially for beginning gamers.  You can hook them into playing video games with you later.  Many board games also foster decision-making skills, conversational skills, negotiation skills, logic skills, and math skills, making an easy argument for their educational value.

Not every board game is right for every person.  Some are complex, involved games that will challenge your ability to plan strategy and negotiate.  Other games are excellent examples of the simple and silly genre that are still fun to play.  In future posts, I’ll try to fill you in on a wide range of games that might be of interest to you and your family.  With all the possibilities out there, we should be able to find a game that’s just right for your situation.

PS. For those dying to know, the game mentioned in the first paragraph is “Settlers of Catan” published in the U.S. by Mayfair Games.  In a few days, I’ll post a review and analyze just what makes it such a fun game.

5 Responses to “Unplugged: A Different Kind of Game”

  1. I’m looking forward to your reviews – they have definitely impacted what has ended up on our shelves over the past several years!

  2. Excellent! I can’t wait to read the reviews. I’ve started putting my own reviews for parents up on Board Game Geek because there just aren’t alot. Great job!

  3. Matt,

    I’ve loved your reviews ever since I joined GamerDad and have hunted for several of the games I’d never heard of that you reviewed. I’ve found 1 or 2 and have had fun with them. Of course, there are also the ones I do know and I have stacks and stacks of board games. Our family’s favorite is still Sorry (I feel like I should apologize for that ;-)), but Settlers of Catan is right up there, too. For your review fodder, have you seen the imitations Settlers of Canaan and Zarahemla? Each throws bare ripples into the resource, road, settlement, city core of Catan (and don’t have the add-ons), but they are really great for Sunday play!

    I can’t wait to read your next review!

  4. Thanks for all the nice comments. There will be a short period where I am reworking some of my GamerDad Unplugged “greatest hits”, but I hope to toss in some new reviews in the mix as well.

    As for Settlers of Canaan & Zarahemla, I’ve heard pretty good things about Settlers of Canaan, but haven’t been able to try it myself.

  5. Continuing to heap on the praise–thanks to one of your reviews Matt, my family discovered Ticket to Ride, and it’s become a staple at the various extended family get-togethers for the past 18 months.

    We’ve always been big gamers, but I was always a fan of a good board game and your column was a great resource to find new ones to try out. Keep the new stuff coming!

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment

Tired of typing this out each time? Register as a subscriber!