Don’t know anything about modern boardgames? Here’s a quick intro.
Modern boardgames, designer games, non-traditional games
I used the phrase modern boardgames above to distinguish these games from traditional games, such as chess and backgammon, and older boardgames such as Monopoly and Scrabble. Not that there is anything wrong with these other games (although many people think Monopoly puts a lot of people off boardgames), they are just not what we are about.
Unfortunately there is no commonly used term for these games (which is why I am using ‘modern boardgames’). Some people refer to them as ‘designer games’ because the designer’s name will be often be on the front of the box and people who play boardgames regularly will have favourite designers and will look forward to new games from those designers. However, this usage is not very widespread and some people restrict its usage to eurogames (defined below!).
Boardgames, dice games and card games
When we say boardgames we are including dice games and card games. We could say “boardgames, dice games and card games” but that is a bit of a mouthful.
Some people prefer the phrase ‘table top games’ because these games are generally played on a table (rather than, say, a computer). However, this just confuses most people! Table top games are usually taken to include miniatures games, such as Warhammer, as well, and sometimes role playing games.
Another phrase sometimes used is ‘analogue games’, ie games which are not digital (computer) games. This may be a cool phrase but will really confuse people.
Types of game: Family, Party, Eurogames and Ameritrash
There a number of ways to categorise boardgames. The most common is by the circumstance for which they are designed, ie family games for playing with your family, party games for at a party and so on. Sometimes people will categorise games by theme: a wargame is about war, a train game is about trains – you get the idea. You might also hear people referring to games being light or heavy. A heavy game is difficult or involved. A light game will generally have easy to grasp rules and maybe a less involved strategy.
If you hang around with boardgamers or start reading reviews or blogs you will soon hear people referring to Eurogames or Euros. This is because boardgamers often divide games into either Eurogames or Ameritrash. This is more about the philosophy of design of the game. Eurogames tend to be about the mechanics and gameplay rather than the theme. They are more likely to involve trading than war. They will tend to have less dice rolling and luck, and will rarely have player elimination (where someone can get knocked out of the game). Interaction between players will usually be indirect, ie you may be able to block another player from doing something but you usually can’t directly attack them in any way.
Ameritrash games are sort of the opposite. The theme will be the main thing with the mechanics trying to support that theme. There may be lots of dice rolling and player interaction. It may be possible for players to be knocked out of the game.
One of the big advancements in boardgames recently has been the number of Co-op games which have become available. In a co-op the players all co-operate to defeat the game. A great example of a co-operative game is Pandemic. Here the players co-operate to fight diseases which are spreading across the world. All players win or lose together, dependent on whether they can bring the diseases under control.
Co-ops are great for many reasons but particularly for two reasons. Firstly, they work well with mixed abilities and a mix of new and experience players. This is because the more experienced players can help the less experienced or less able players. Secondly, because you are all in it together it takes the sting out of losing. This can be particularly helpful when you are playing with children as losing this way is less upsetting than being mercilessly crushed by their mum/dad/sibling or whoever.