A friendly chat about board games
Kickstarter has been a massive phenomenon within the small board game industry, but even more so with tabletop games in general.
Before we continue, I must warn you of two things:
- This article might be short, time hasn’t been on my side lately. There is so much on this topic that I want to discuss.
- I ask a lot of “Why’s?” and “How come’s?” – if this annoys you, it’s better to stop reading now.
As you may have noticed the title, this isn’t a click bait question, but a question I would like to open a discussion for. It has been ever so obvious to me as a gamer lately that many games released between 2010 – 2016 aren’t being spoken about rarely anywhere in the board game sphere, let a lone the wider tabletop games sphere.
Why is this? Or more importantly, why do you think this is?
Over the last ten months I’ve seen many replies to a similar question in facebook groups, on boardgamegeek.com, and even hearing it mentioned in local game stores / board game cafes.
It seems rather concerning that unlike tabletop RPGs or War Games, that most board games seem to not hold a very long life span. Why is this?
Here we sit in what is currently being deemed as the Golden Age of board games, and yet for some reason, they seem to have a lesser life span than Comic Books.
This hurts my mind. Especially as someone who has been in tabletop for 20+ years.
Sure, we have Hero Quest, Splendor, 7 wonders, etc. the list goes on. However, there are so many other board game titles released between 2010 – 2016 that aren’t mentioned at all.
I could be wrong of course, but it’s hard to tell when so many games are released at this point, and the majority of posts I see are “PURGING MY GAMES.”
Come on now. That’s casual talk.
Okay, joking aside, I have never had to “purge” any tabletop game I’ve purchased or backed. Some may chalk that up to wise financial decisions. Some may also see that as being extremely picky. Some may also realize that there is something wrong here if you’re having to purge your board game collection every 6 months.
To be fair to those of us that use kickstarter to publish games or back games, there is a lot more that goes into this than many know of if they’re not involved – but I believe we’re hitting extreme measures here in this particular small niche, and that sucks.
How is it that this one section of tabletop gaming is hitting so many snags and problems? Are War Games and RPGs ignored so much by gamers that all the focus is on board games? Heck no. That’s not the case as there are household brands in the tabletop games industry that have propped it up for decades – some aren’t even games but accessories, tools, paints, crafts, and miniature companies. Thank you, Reaper , among many others.
Is it because Board Games are simple to work with, information is extremely accessible, and kickstarter is so easy to wield?
Let me be clear here, by no means is game design easy. Nor is art easy, or anything else that we do here in tabletop – but it’s pretty easy to put together a paper prototype in your off time from a full-time job that isn’t a video game. (Speaking from Video Game Design experience).
It would be silly to ignore this elephant in the room.
Why am I jabbing and asking all of these questions?
I ask these questions not because I’m angry or upset. I ask these questions because I’m trying to understand who wins at the end of the day when a game is forgotten about so quickly.
Some would argue that the gamer is paying for the experience, however long that experience may be, it’s only but one experience. Which is true in the most senses of the word “experience”. Where the issue sits with me is that the experience ends, and a new game completely unrelated to this game, is quickly spun up and weaved into a publishers queue with expectations that the gamer is to buy said game and play it.
Which is a pretty odd expectation, but unfortunately happens.
I, as well as many others, are well aware that the reason miniature board games do so well is because we (yes, I said we, I’m in this too) are purchasing or backing a board game purely for the miniatures to either paint it, sell it, or re-purpose it for our other board games, RPGs, or War Games. In some cases art pieces in general.
We might play it, too. Until the experience gets old of course, and then we cast it aside and pull out the minis from it.
Expansions are important
Let me be Frank with you, and you can be Jim (or, if you’re feeling brave and like to explore, pick your own name and tell me in the comments below!) – No matter what anyone tells you, a game needs to expand in order to continue to stay on the table and constantly be played outside of mechanics that are evergreen.
Let’s pause there for a moment. Why did I say it this way and mention evergreen mechanics – and why do they get a pass from expansion? They get a pass from expansion because those particular mechanics are both popular and fun.
Alright, expansions. Yes, they exist in the video game sphere, but they also absolutely exist in tabletop games – literally since the 1970’s. Which dare I’d say make that more relevant than video games, hm? (Dungeons & Dragons, I’m looking at you)
Most tabletop game companies are aware of this which is why publishers of tabletop in general should be looking toward content that helps carry them for a long time. As much as gamers complain about Magic the Gathering, D&D, Pathfinder, Warhammer, and anything from Fantasy Flight Games – it’s still bought.
It’s bought because new releases within the same IP, story, world, thought, game mechanic – whatever you’d like to insert in there – is relevant to their gaming experience. It’s relevant only up until it is no longer cared about by the gamer.
How do we fix something like this?
I don’t know. This is no long a pond of board games, as it has quickly grown into a lake, and now an ocean. There is so many games that go unseen that game designers and some publishers quit altogether. How are they supposed to survive in an industry which they are now nothing more than a drop in the ocean?
Not all hope is lost for them, though. There will come a time where this self-made ocean starts to dwindle due to some droughts that will last for longer periods of time than they should. Those that control most of the water in the desert will be the ones that hold the power to make or break – or hold influence over what comes next. This could take many years of course, which is why it’s important to be talking about this now.
Unfortunately, people are human, and if it’s true that all tides rise together – then I would say it’s extremely important for those to start acting like it, because there are many that are drowning.
How would you fix something like this? Or do you even think it’s broken?
What about you, Smunchy? Will you drown or find yourself without water when it’s dry?
Not at all, to both of those questions. While I can’t predict the future, and my life is constantly changing, the one thing that has always been consistent is that my endurance refuses to break – even in the worst possible situations.
I, personally, went into tabletop games publishing knowing that these things would happen. Again, this isn’t me predicting the future. This is something that has happened many times before in other nerd cultures – and it is a pattern that happens regularly. The cherry on top here is that this has happened before in tabletop gaming, too. There is no surprise to me here. Maybe this is because of my game background, or my business and marketing background (I don’t know which one to be honest) – but regardless of any silly experience I may have, the pattern remains.
Dreams of tabletop games
I’ll leave you with this thought.
Games are meant to be fun. We are meant to have fun with them and enjoy them while we can – but if you have to force yourself to have fun, it’s not fun anymore. If you’re backing, buying, or playing a game you know will not do well at your game store, your table, or within your group of friends – don’t get it. Most importantly, be honest with people, too.
Especially with designers and publishers. It can be hard to make great games if no one says anything about a game. Tell them what you think, but don’t let that overpower how you feel.
This is why it’s important to make and play games for fun. For passion.
As always – I am but one person with my own thoughts and opinions on a matter. Not everyone thinks like me, and I’m grateful for that as this world would be pretty boring without other people. (This is why I play games)
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on this matter – and please, I would love to hear any answers or opinions you may have on any of the questions that I’ve asked above.
I’ll see you at the gaming tables
P.S. Here is a list of the best board games from 2014. I’m sure there are many other lists for all of the other years, too. Best Board Game List 2014 (Board Game Geek)