Board Gaming – Explaining Modern Board Games to Non-Gamers

Your Hobby is What?

How many times have you heard this question?

Your hobby is what? You play board games? Are You Kidding?

As I started to become fascinated by these modern eurogames, I got a lot of funny looks from people – my wife, brother, and sister included. Their response was "Ok, if that is what you want to do … I've never even heard of Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne." What they did not understand is that there is quite an underground community developing around these games.

Over the past half a year or so, I have had to come up with a description for what this community affectionately calls Eurogames. They go by many names, none of which are known to the general public – adult board games. modern board games, designer games, German games, or Ameritrash games. Not one of these explains it well to the non-gamer. It really just digs you into a deeper hole.

You Can Not Answer Like This

We actually do not play "board games" like you may think. We actually play modern designer games from Europe. They tend to be fairly complex and take several hours to play. Nobody is usually eliminated, so everyone actually has a really good time. They tend to be more interactive and engaging, yada yada … Right. Now their eyes have glazed over and you look like a board game snob.

You are Familiar with Monopoly, Right?

When introducing the games, touching a nerve is important. Asking about Monopoly tends to be my first response to them. This is a game everyone is familiar with. They understand that it is a game more complex than your average 7 year old child can handle, that it has aspects of fiscal responsibility, scarce resources, cards, and strategy. They also know there are no trivia questions, movie quotes, drawing pictures or putting words together. Good, we have a starting point. You are dealing with a game that is mildly serious and can go for over an hour.

Now, Think About Chess

Then, I go to the other end of the spectrum, chess. Again, this is a game most everyone has seen or played at some point. Heck, it even shows up in the first book of Harry Potter. They understand that this is a deep strategy game that many play and only some master. They also know that it is two players ONLY and those watching need to be very, very quiet … like golf. They are probably also aware that if you are good at chess, you are respected and considered intelligent, by most.

Now, you have your two extremes.

Next Up … Risk

This is a third game that is more complicated, and closer to the standard modern board game. And, everyone is fairly familiar with it. The thing you have to watch out for with this game is that not everyone has had a positive experience with it. It tends to be long and drawn out with two sides battling it out until the wee hours of the morning – while the eliminated players go and watch TV or munch on snacks and watch the clock.

So, Modern Board Games Are like Risk

You can actually say that a lot of the adult board games are like "Risk on steroids". But, people actually enjoy them and most of the time everyone plays for the entire game. These games are strategy-oriented. You get to shape a country or landscape, manage an economy, manage energy infrastructures, or handle political races or micromanaging small businesses.

Unlike typical board games, the Risk board looks like a map of the world, with zones that have value. This is much more like a eurogame, than Monopoly – where all you do is go around and around hoping to land on GO! or Free Parking.

Also, you can talk to them about the imagery of the games. This is something that really attracted my wife. When she saw the level of art involved with Ticket to Ride, she was really interested. Carcassonne is similar – the art is more cartoon-like, but you build the city as you go. It is very rewarding to see the final city once it is done.

Have You Ever Played Video Games?

This is a really good leap because most 30-year-olds have, at some point, seen an RTS (real time strategy) game on a PC. They may have played Warcraft, Age of Empires, Rise of Nations, Command and Conquer, or Civilization. Or, they may have played games like The Sims, SimCity, Railroad Tycoon, and Roller Coaster Tycoon. If so, they are in! These are the PC game cousin to the modern board game.

Sid Meyer, Will Right, John Romero , Chris Sawyer

These names are familiar to PC gamers. They created games like Civilization. SimCity, Railroad Tycoon, Doom, Quake, Roller Coaster Tycoon. One of the cool things about Designer board games is that the designer of a good board game can become a star in his own right.

If they know the PC designer names, you can share your excitement for Klaus Teuber, Alan R. Moon, Richard Borg, and Andreas Seyfarth. They should understand the respect.

Blizzard and ID

If you do not hit the note with the designer names, just throw out these two names and you should get a nod of recognition. Blizzard has put out several games (all of them hits, by the way) such as Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft. They are also responsible for the Online Multiplayer game World of Warcraft. ID is the gaming company that busted down the doors of the first-person shooter game with Doom – the most downloaded shareware of its time.

Rio Grande, Days Of Wonder, and Fantasy Flight

If you have hit the nerve talking about PC gaming companies, you can make the logical jump to Adult Board Game Companies. These three companies should be at the forefront of the discussion. Most of the "hit" games come from these. Oh, and do not forget Mayfair with Settlers of Catan.

Here is an interesting point you can share with your new-found connection …

Many PC Games are also Board Games

And, they land squarely in the modern board game genre. This is what some of the gamers call Amertrash games. But, they are games you can point to that might draw the non-gamer in. Point them at Fantasy Flight Games For example, they will recognize Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and Doom. They will also be familiar with Age of Empires and Railroad Tycoon. It really should not be too much of a leap to get them to Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride, Memoir '44 or Power Grid.

What You Do not Want to Do

Unfortunately, when people think of board gaming as a hobby, and they have never tried it, they get a single image in their head … it is a bunch of geeky guys with greasy hair in a basement or back room with funny shaped dice , a bunch of metal figures, and lots of paper. This image also usually involves someone screaming "Shoot my +3 Fireball at the hill troll for 2d Damage … roll for initiative" What?

They had a friend at some time that was into Dungeons and Dragons. This crowd is always portrayed in the same manner as trekkies.

You also do not act like a snob about how your games are better than their old games from when they were younger. This will just turn them off.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Just keep a couple of games in your car trunk or at the ready. When the opportunity arises, offer to bring it out and show it. Let them see the rules, touch the game, maybe even give it a shot. If they like it, great! If they do not, oh well. You gave it a fair shot and shared the gems with one more person.

Not Everyone is Going to Be a Fan

The one thing in all of this that you can not forget is that you can not please all the people all the time. Personally, converting my wife was not a hard sell. She loves puzzles. However, my sister and her husband, on the other hand, run in completely different circles than I do and I do not think they will ever try a eurogame. I might get them to try Pizza Box Football, but that is where it will end. My brother might actually convert at some point.

Do not let it bother you. Just keep talking about it and we will eventually create a few more addicts together! Keep on playing the best games in the WORLD!