Board Game Myths BUSTED: Misconceptions About Gaming

Board Game Myths Busted
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The fact that you are reading Casual Game Insider is probably a good clue that you’ve already caught the Board Game Bug (sorry, there is no cure...and it only gets worse with age). Whether you own a handful of games or too many to count, you know the fun that can be had with other players around a table covered with items such as folded boards, cards, dice, meeples, and a rulebook. But here’s the thing: not everyone feels the same way about board games. Many only know a few basic games they played in their youth, over and over again, and view the hobby as too simple or repetitive. Others may be quite happy with the classics and are unwilling to try new things. You might even find some who view board games as something for children, or see them only as something geeks do on Friday nights. (To be fair, Saturdays also work great.)

There are myths galore that non-gamers buy into, thinking the hobby just isn’t for them. Below are 10 common board game myths and how they can be addressed. These certainly aren’t the only myths out there, but they are a good place to start the next time someone declines your invitation to a game, or raises an eyebrow when they overhear your discussion about the perfect Settlers of Catan strategies. (Note: some games may not include a board at all, so “board games” will be used as a general term for all similar games.)

10. Newer board games are far more complicated than the old standbys

It is true that board games have evolved with more complex rules and strategies over the last decade, but this isn’t true for every game. Some of the most entertaining games are also the simplest; new games such as Pairs and Sketch It! show that short and fast games can be just as fun and engaging as rules-heavy favorites such as King of Tokyo and Splendor.

New games can often be intimidating with an inexperienced player hesitant to learn the rules of a new game. One way to help would be to point them to gameplay videos online, whether on YouTube or the publisher’s website. These days, many new games will have a handful of reviewers posting video of the gameplay, often in short 5-10 minute segments.

9. Digital board games are the future

While playing digital board games online with distant friends is appealing, it also lacks aspects of the game that draw people to the table. Whether it’s the tactile nature of the cards and components in a player’s hands, or being able to watch a competitor work on a strategy, in-person games aren’t going to go away any time soon. The number of new games that have been developed recently shows just the opposite — the board game industry is growing.

One thing you’ll want to keep an eye on, however, is the mix of technology and traditional board games. New games such as X-COM allow players to use a phone or tablet to view virtual animations and events when pointed at the table, enhancing the physical game.

8. There’s no replay value with board games

There are thousands of gamers out there who would argue that some games never get old. Ask any board game player and they will likely be able to give you a list of board games that they would play at the drop of a hat — anytime, anywhere. Add in the fact that so many games today come with rules variants as well as expansions, and this myth quickly falls apart. Today’s board game designers know that replay is something gamers want, so it’s no surprise to find new games that come with alternative rules or diabolical expert-level win scenarios.

7. You need to have a dedicated group to play board games

Unless you really enjoy playing solo games or digital opponents, having a group of living, breathing human opponents is still considered the best way to enjoy a good board game. In between turns, there’s the banter that includes both game-related talk as well as just catching up on work, school, and life. Good friends don’t need a game as an excuse to get together, but it’s a fun reason to!

But having a dedicated group of friends isn’t required to enjoy board games. Not only are there board games that can be played by yourself, but gaming groups continue to pop up (check online or at local comic book/hobby shops). These are an excellent way to find gamers in your area to play with, and they could even evolve into that dedicated group you are looking for!

6. I'm too old for board games

There is a good reason most board games don’t have an upper-limit on the age recommendation on the side of the box. In the same way that crossword and Sudoku puzzles keep your mind sharp, a good board game will give you plenty of chances to keep your neurons fit and healthy. These titles can include intricate mechanics, difficult puzzles, or abstract thinking that may not appeal to younger audiences. The same can be said for games in the market that have more mature themes: zombie survival, murder mysteries, and complex resource management. Keep in mind that most game designers are adults — they know what appeals to adult gamers and tend to create accordingly.

5. The only good board games are the classics

Most of us cut our teeth on the classics — Monopoly, Risk, and Yahtzee — and there’s no denying that the simpler rules and gameplay can still be useful when introducing our hobby to a younger generation. But as with food, our tastes in board games tend to change as we mature, and the classic board games can become a bit stale. Board game design and development is at an all-time high, which means more variety in themes, rules, and ultimately more options for game night.

4. There aren’t any board games that are good for families of mixed ages

It is true that board games are often divided into kid-friendly or adult-themed varieties, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t games that can fit both. There are plenty of games that families can play together without worrying about adult themes or complex rules. Games such as Apples to Apples and Choose One! can feature simple rules that offer a challenge to both kids and adults.

Likewise, be on the lookout for games such as Flash Point: Fire Rescue with more complex rules but also with fast-play rules or novice-friendly startup scenarios that can give younger players the chance to learn the basics. Plus, the cooperative nature of Flash Point and other titles like Forbidden Island and Castle Panic can create a fun and engaging experience for the whole family.

3. Newer board games are really expensive

It’s true that today’s complex board games can come with a substantial price tag, but keep in mind that these advanced games often come with a larger amount of detailed components. More cards, tokens, dice, and other game elements add to the cost, but they also tend to add to the enjoyment, complexity, and replayability of a board game. Many of these games start off being crowdfunded, and are offered at a reasonable price in the development process.

Even better, many games have shrunk in size and are low priced — just take a look at all the various portable games found in this magazine such as Cover Your Assets and Arcadia. It’s not hard to find new, fun, and very addictive games for less than the cost of a dinner out for two.

2. Newer board games take hours to play

There is something satisfying about finishing up a three hour game session with your friends (especially if you win), but not everyone can set aside that kind of time for a single game. Thanks to the growth of the board game industry and the rise of casual games, games now offer up a wide variety of game-length options. Many board game publishers will now put game time estimates on the boxes. That way, if you know your family or gaming group prefers fast games, you might not want to grab that 90+ minute game this time around. And even if you prefer long-play, you can always squeeze in a game of Flip City or Tiny Epic Galaxies while you wait for your fellow players to show up.

1. Only "geeks" enjoy board games

The biggest myth that hangs over the hobby is that board games are only for geeks. However, we need to accept the fact that everyone is a geek about something: knitting, baseball, classic cars, or even photography. While there are tons of board games that apply to what is seen as the traditional geek — namely fantasy and science fiction themed games — new games continue to pop up that focus on other themes. Surprisingly popular games that don’t fit the fantasy/sci-fi themes include Wits & Wagers, Ticket to Ride, and Off Your Rocker. The fact of the matter is that board games can be enjoyed by all ages and all interests. The days of board games being just for “geeks” is over — we’re all geeks, so find a game that interests you and get playing!

While the above myths related to board games can be argued to be true, hopefully you’ve seen that these myths regarding board games are just as likely to be false. It all depends on the game, right? For every example of a game that supports one or more of the above myths, gamers can provide plenty of examples that completely dispel these myths. Ultimately, the best way to prove to someone spouting a board game myth is to sit down and play a game; busting myths this way will never be easier or more fun.

cpa
cpa's picture

Splendor is "rules-heavy"?  Really?

Elias
cpa's picture

That was my immediate thought too. If King of Tokyo and Splendor are rules heavy, then what is Terra Mystica? Hahaha!

I was thinking the exact same thing.  I guess for very casual gamers or somebody who accidentally picked up the magazine (or click-baited through the link) they wouldn't know the difference.  But calling Splendor and King Of Tokyo is very silly especially when comparing with the perceptions of people who only know games like Monopoly, Risk and Yahtzee.  The degree of complexity is very similar (and in some cases those older games have heavier rules to newbies than the games they mentioned).

Sorry...but that one sentence left me feeling quite skeptical about the rest of the article which is especially a shame since it was so close to the top of the article.

Oh well.

OchreOgre
cpa's picture

Pretty sure that was meant to be tongue-in-cheek...

Or perhaps a genuine error, "rules-light" maybe was intended...

JEmlay's picture
Member Since: 07/15/2013

I don't fully agree with #4.  I have a 3yo and 11yo and the 3yo can only play very basic games to the point that the 11yo and honestly us adults too, are getting very bored.  But any time we try to play something more advanced the 3yo wants to join in to and winds up pitching a fit because obviously it's too overwhelming for her and while we try to "pretend" she's playing she's too smart for that and she fully well understands she's not getting the same experience as everyone else.

Shijuro
cpa's picture

Try something like Gulo Gulo, where players steal colored wooden eggs from a bowl without letting a stick fall out.  Older players have more strategy about which color to go for and when, but smaller children are unbeatable about pulling out the little eggs safely.   My daughter used to win this often, but it was generally a close game that everyone enjoyed.

Chris James's picture
Site Admin
Member Since: 04/27/2012

Sure, King of Tokyo and Splendor are on the lighter end of the spectrum...but I think I side with the author here (hence I didn't edit it out). Remember that this article is addressing the misconceptions of people who don't know much about gaming. Everything is relative — I know several people who would not make it through the rulebooks, let alone play these games correctly, without assistance.

A lot of people have never read through a rulebook, especially not for classic games they were taught to play when they were young. These games may seem easier and less complex than newer games because they are already familiar.

Certainly, both sides can be argued all day. Looks like we found some good controversy! :)

Andrew Birkett
cpa's picture

Great article!