1. It only requires a table, a game, and players.
Cold rainy weekend keeping you from venturing outside? Sounds like the perfect opportunity for a lazy Sunday of A Feast for Odin! Stuck in quarantine with your family amid a pandemic? Legacy game My City has you covered! Got a tight entertainment budget? Even 15 dollars can get you a ton of mileage within a game like The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine.
2. It challenges your intellect and engages your emotions.
As much as I enjoy an adrenaline-pumping video game, they typically don’t challenge me quite like a session of Galaxy Trucker or Age of Steam against live humans. And while television and social media is trying its hardest to turn our brains to mush, board games like Curious Cargo and Concordia are the mental trainers who force one’s intellect into all kinds of acrobatics and gymnastics. Fifty years from now, I hope I’ll still happily accept anyone’s challenge to a game of Tigris & Euphrates where only the cleverest can emerge victorious. My hunch is that such activities are much better for the aging mind than the daily episodes of Wheel of Fortune or Family Feud. Moreover, I love the range of feelings that board gaming can evoke including joy, fear, surprise, betrayal, hilarity, pride, paranoia, camaraderie, and more.
3. It removes folks from their screens and brings them face-to-face.
If there’s anything in this world that we need, I’d say it’s less screen time and more people time. Codenames is the perfect solution to this problem. I much prefer the opportunity to get into someone’s head via their careful clues than dive into their internet drama via their latest hot take. My fondest memories with friends are not the back and forth gifs sporadically sent between smartphones, rather, they are frequently the wild goose chases I send them on via Treasure Island or the surprisingly deep conversation we have in Wavelength over the deceptive athleticism of Jack Black.
4. It’s a world of endless ideas and plentiful possibilities
Nothing has stimulated my imagination quite like the wide world of tabletop games. Where else do people get to embody a cult of lizards who gleefully accept the woodland outcasts of Root as they sharpen their diabolical daggers of retribution? What other medium allows plain old humans to simulate a submarine showdown complete with sneaky mines, targeted torpedos, and chaotic communication in a loud, rowdy game of Captain Sonar? From quilting blankets that attract cats to quarreling over the King’s dilemmas, nothing has given me a wider playground of possibilities to immerse myself in. It’s these sparks of imagination that kindled my own creativity, ultimately launching me down the path of publishing games about smuggling soda pop in suitcases and grooming the fur of fellow primates.
5. It teaches us useful lessons and develops skills.
While school is great for learning times tables and capital cities, I’d argue that board games can be even better for developing practical skills. These skills include critical thinking, probability analysis, agency & consequences, risk management, sportsmanship, interpersonal relationships, collaboration & competition, problem solving, listening & instructing, reading comprehension, and much more. Games almost always present a problem and leave it up to their participants to work out the solution. The problem can be adding more odd, chunky shapes to a teetering tower in Junk Art, managing a complicated oil business in Pipeline, or solving a murder mystery in Deception: Murder In Hong Kong. As much as textbooks and lectures love to prescribe solutions, templates, and techniques, life’s problems range far beyond such boundaries. These frequent challenges require quick thinking and reward innovative ideas. Board games are like a micro-simulation of life and its problems, allowing players a safe space to fail forward from one play to the next. And our experiences at the table can have great effects on how we handle the challenges of life.
6. There is a game for anyone and everyone.
One of the nicest thing about possessing a diverse collection board games is that I’m always able to pull something off my shelf that is perfect for its participants. It doesn’t matter what your experience level or preferences are, the wide world of board games has you covered. Not in the mood to think hard about each and every decision? Let me introduce you to a cooperative game that runs solely on gut-feelings, namely The Mind. Or perhaps we can put your catlike reflexes to the test with a rousing round of KLASK. Need a gentle activity for the sensitive souls in your gathering? Why not plan out your perfect neighborhood in Welcome To or guide one another to the hidden word in Just One? Have some siblings who love to give each other a good beating? Go on and take each other to the woodshed with a session of Tournament at Avalon or Cosmic Frog.
7. It’s tactile, tangible, and tantalizing.
There’s something truly magical about the clackity, colorful, chunky components that come in cardboard boxes of various shapes and sizes. Whether its digging into your dark bag for potion ingredients in the Quacks of Quedlinburg, balancing your hard-hatted worker meeples on the girders of Men at Work, or plopping the camel dice out of the plastic pyramid of Camel Up, the sensory experience of tabletop gaming is something that we’ve all more fully appreciated during this past year of virtual conventions and socially distant simulations. It’s the satisfaction of solid physical components that has spawned entire webpages, brands, and markets focused on deluxifying games in a quest to maximize the look and feel of a design. It’s why I sometimes spend more money than the cost of a game itself to acquire Roxley’s Iron Clays or BoardGameGeek’s Root bags or Etsy’s Age of Steam organizer to make future plays of a game all the more decadent.
8. It creates memories, generates traditions, and fosters relationships.
Becoming a hobbyist gamer is like joining a closely-knit club of cultists who are always anticipating another gathering while they tirelessly seek to convert more candidates to their cause. One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “What kind of card or board games do you enjoy playing?” Whether their response is Uno, Gloomhaven, or anything in-between, we instantly have a reason to hang out and become better acquainted. We’ll surely encounter moments to remember such as my ruthless sabotaging of everyone’s investments in The Estates or your crafty manipulation of the group’s focus in Insider. And we’ll have many traditions to treasure including Wednesday night games, yearly Origins Game Fair, and annual Christmas Crokinole.
9. It has a great shelf life and solid resale value.
While fashion has its flings and technology ages poorly, board games forever retain their value as long as the components remain intact and the game can find its audience. We’ve discussed the ins and outs of culling and collecting, purging and surging, and the beauty of this hobby is that I can find and enjoy a playable copy of thirty-year-old Quo Vadis while recouping much of the costs of a played-out deluxified Scythe or an ill-fitting Sleeping Gods. Treating one’s collection like a living, breathing library of curated activities and opportunities is half the fun of this crazy hobby.
10. It utilizes the universal language of play.
Hobbies often reward those who are creative, athletic, courageous, or business savvy, and such required skills can often become barriers to entry. While games always revolve around winning and losing, the tabletop gaming hobby makes winners out of all who are here to play. And no matter who you are or where you come from, play is a universal language of life. Play is what sharpens the working saw and lightens the burdens of life. Play can be found in the uncovered traps of Skull and the colorful clues of Mysterium. It can be felt in the competing coalitions of Pax Pamir and the cascading combos of Race for the Galaxy. It can be heard in the ruthless negotiations of Sidereal Confluence and the painful groans of Stick ‘Em. The act of play in the company of strangers become friends, friends become family, and family become enemies is precisely why this hobby is so relentlessly addicting and endlessly satisfying.
Why do you love tabletop gaming? Share with us in the comments below!
Article written by Nick Murray. Keep an eye out for his first published design, Social Grooming, which will debut in a Kickstarter bundle alongside two games from critically acclaimed designer, Reiner Knizia! Don’t miss out on this killer filler bundle coming in 2021! Subscribe to the Bitewing Games monthly newsletter to stay in touch.