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9 Jul 2014

You Should Be Playing Board Games, Too

There’s little doubt that we in the middle of an indie revolution. One quick look at the most exciting games of E3 this year is proof of that. Indie games are making waves – and they’re shaking up the video game industry as we speak.

Even so, there’s another form of gaming that is seeing its own revolution: board games.

As much as I love video games, there is something about board games that cannot be replicated in video games – most notably the social aspect of board games. Case in point: there’s an awesome game called The Resistance that pits assassins against members of a government as both teams attempt to accomplish or sabotage a series of missions.

It must be noted that no one knows whom the assassins are except for the other assassins.

What’s interesting is a different person has to be a team leader for each mission and has to choose team members for said missions. If one player lays a ‘fail’ card (one of the assassins), the mission is failed and the players automatically become suspicious of whom is the assassin. Thus, the game becomes about bluffing and figuring out whom the assassins are before the game ends.

My apologies for the quick summary, but as you can see, there isn’t a video game in existence that tasks players with truly having to bluff their way out of situations, all the while trying to figure out the real identity behind players in the same room. The awesome Spy Party kind of comes close, but it still cannot capture the true magic of board games.

Are board games better than video games? Absolutely not – and vice-versa. They are completely different forms of gaming. Even so, there are things you can learn from board games that can help you to improve your indie games like never before. Here are a few reasons why you should be playing board games regularly – and the lessons you can learn.


Tight, true gameplay

Board games (the great ones, anyway) are kind of like minimalist games (such as Thomas Was Alone). Great board games feature tight gameplay that just feels natural. When playing a great board game, you know exactly what you have to do to win the game and you slowly learn new strategies for winning. It’s true gameplay at its finest – no gimmicks, no ‘bells and whistles,’ and no features that seem tacked on.

Again, it feels a lot like minimalist indie games (and if I was a betting man, I would bet that many developers of minimalist games were inspired by board games in some form or fashion). Once again, it’s true gameplay at its finest, and it can help you to understand what makes to-the-point gameplay work.


Social elements are on display

If you want to develop a social indie game where you have to take your time, plan strategically, and actually play in the same room with friends, then you need to take a few cues from board games. They’re the ultimate social game (for better or worse), and it’s the type of game to play if you want to truly understand how social elements work in gaming. Will you be able to replicate the 1:1 social elements of a board game to your indie game? Absolutely not (unless you develop a board game app), but you can figure out how to exploit certain social elements to make your  co-op/multiplayer indie game more fun (and of course, sociable).


Measuring true replayability

The benchmark of a great board game lies in how replayable the game actually is. The game should never be the same twice – a great element to have in your indie game. The measure of how replayable a board game actually is stems from how tight the gameplay and social elements are in the game, and if they are top-quality? You can be assured that the board game is going to be replayable for years to come.

When playing a board game, recognize exactly what makes the game so replayable. What’s the goal? What makes it so much fun? You’ll find some lessons to be learned when trying to answer these questions, so answer them for yourself and make your next indie game that much better!

I can’t help but keep thinking to myself that board games are indeed another version of the minimalist indie games we see today, but that’s exactly what they are! Sure, they are unable to tell a sweeping story like a video game can, but if you are looking for pure, sociable gameplay and nothing more? A board game can accomplish this in spades – and again, there are lessons that you can learn from some of the best board games that you can apply to your next project.


Do you enjoy playing board games? Have you applied any lessons that you have learned from playing them to your indie games? Have any favorites you want to suggest for our readers? Let us know in the comments below!

1 Response

  1. Pingback : “You Should Be Playing Board Games, Too” – Game Academy | Roll For Crit

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