6 Reasons You Should Play Designer Board Games

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Board games like Clue, Scrabble, and Monopoly have been enjoyed over the years, but they’ve fallen by the wayside as video games and online gaming filled that void of competition. Now, there’s a whole new generation of boards and cards known as “designer games” — the creators, not just the publishers, are recognized for their talent. Many people know that Parker Bros. publishes Monopoly, but few know that Elizabeth Phillips made it.

Designer games are becoming more widespread than ever, and now is the best time to become a part of it. Here are six reasons why.

1. It’s always fun to get in on the ground floor.

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Tabletop gaming is growing steadily year by year, and is now entering the mainstream. Wil Wheaton has gained massive popularity for the hobby with Geek & Sundry, which currently has over one million subscribers. More and more ideas are being turned into reality via Kickstarter, and over the last decade more tabletop games have been created than the 30 years before. Names like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan are being thrown about in films and television shows, and there is good reason for it: tabletop gaming offers experiences that are hard to come by in today’s world. Now is the time to grab a game and some friends. Speaking of which…

2. It’s a great reason to meet up with people.

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It’s very easy to keep in touch with people via social media, texting, and more, but the actual time we get face to face seems to diminish. Combine that with the fact that people bury their faces in their phones when together, and it gets worse. Tabletop gaming gives people a way to interact — the way their video game counterparts used to do. Back in the day, it was couch co-op, but now it’s a steady stream of online play. Board games demand your presence and are highly engaging. Have a few friends over, get a pizza and a six pack, and break out those meeples. And it’s not just brainless fun, because…

3. Board games are a great way to challenge your mind.

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In most video games today, the challenge comes from out-performing one another. Quicker hands are often rewarded with more kills, but you cannot out-think a bullet. Board games offer a different type of interaction that allows for a more cerebral experience. Trying to anticipate your opponents’ moves and successfully countering their strategy is highly rewarding. Being able to plan a new road to victory and pulling it off lets you feel like king of the world — and depending on what game you’re playing, it may actually make you king of the world! Or the number one swordsman, or author, or athlete, because…

4. There’s a board game for (almost) every interest.

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The scope of board games covers so many fields that there is a game for just about any idea that interests you. Want to make wine? Try Viticulture. What about leading armies? Mythic Battles, Risk Legacy, and Battlelore are some solid options. Want those armies to be steampunk? Rivet Wars. What about Cthulhu-style minions? Cthulhu Wars fits your bill. Racing? Formula D. You get the idea. There is a wealth of board games available, and most stores that sell these designer games have staff to help you find what’s best for you, even if you’re not the competitive type…

5. It’s not always competitive.

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While many games result in a single winner, there are many team-oriented games too. These allow you and your friends to take on adversaries together, as you try to stop an unspeakable evil or deadly disease. You can fight fires, monsters, and more together with co-op style games. Pandemic, Flash Point Fire Rescue, and Castle Panic are great games to take on with your friends. And if you want to go against each other, that’s fine too. Board games all come down to one thing…

6. It’s just plain fun!

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There are some seriously intense games that go for hours and hours, with only one player being crowned king in the end. There are also games where card tricks (think Spades or Hearts, but this one is called Diamonds) let you claim small gem-like rewards for successful plays. You can catch up with friends in a coffee joint while playing Love Letter or Lost Legacy, engaging your minds or letting them wander as you enjoy the company. Two-player games are a fun way to spend time with your significant other, letting the time drift away as you enjoy each other’s company and get a look into how your loved one analyzes and solves problems. Being able to celebrate a win together — no matter who made the winning move — is a great way to share smiles, laughs, and ideas as you get ready for the next round.

Article by contributor Dan Simmons.

15 thoughts on “6 Reasons You Should Play Designer Board Games

  1. I am an unabashed lover of all forms of board games. So I heartily approve anyone’s interesting in playing more of these games. Hit me up if you want recommendations. I will say, Settlers of Catan and its expansions are probably the best for most people as they are competitive, but not militant, which sometimes allows people turned off by more aggressive combat simulators to play. Again, I cannot recommend board games enough.

    Also finally, this comic is 100% true: http://xkcd.com/1566/

  2. Awesome article! I think everyone will be playing them soon, and this is a great read for anyone thinking about starting. A must read. Dan really knows his stuff!

  3. Also, if there are only 2 of you, I would highly recommend Jaipur, my favorite 2-player designer board game. It can be hard to wrangle 4+ together, and it’s also a great way to learn the basic mechanics of several designer board games.

  4. I now spend way more on board games than video games, it boils down to what I can spend time on without annoying my wife and luckily she likes quite a few board games. Pandemic, Settlers and ticket to ride are all easy to play even for newcomers, and now after having friends over for dinner we will almost always play a game.

    I passed up on getting the Witcher 3 to get 7 Wonders, which is a great card game, and this month I’ve picked up Dead of Winter instead of MGSV. If I want to properly dive into a game then I pass up on spending time with my friends and board games have provided what couch co-op used to.

  5. Austin: Not sure if you heard, but they are in the works for a 2 player 7 Wonders that should be out before year’s end.

    Also I agree, board games are the new couch co-op for us. Some nights we got like 10 or 12 people here and a few tables going with everyone playing something different, switching up, moving around and getting into other games. It really is one of the best ways to spend time with friends. We also got a podcast about tabletop called Gaming Nonsense Uncensored where we explore themes and such. The idea was kind of inspired by how Laser Time explores a facet of culture so we do the same with board games. Games that are about time travel, or larger than life enemies, city building or what have you.

    1. I hadn’t heard about the 7 wonders thing, I’ve been too interested in the dead of winter expansion. I’ll find your podcast and give it a listen.

  6. I’ve played Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, they’re both a lot of fun. Really need to try some other ones one of these days!

  7. Great article, dude!
    Dan is SO into these games, i have not met anyone else with more of a passion for getting together with his friends and gaming. He’s my “go-to” authority on tabletop, card games & board games. I met him while playing War of Light Heroclix and he has shared so many awesome games with me. Then I bring home games for my wife & I to play and we level-up on our quality time. It’s such a great hobby to explore and Dan is the best tour guide you could have.
    I’M SO PSYCHED HE’S WRITING FOR LASER TIME. I WILL BE BACK!
    ::HIGH FIVE::

  8. I would play designer boardgames, but none of my friends or family ever want to play with me. EVER. just a lonely lad, gaming solo. lonely gaming.
    sad.

  9. I highly, highly, highly, highly, highly, highly, highly recommend Cosmic Encounter to anyone with a passing interest in board games.

    Rated “best board game of all time” by both SU&SD and Tom Vasel, arguably the internet’s two biggest/greatest/loudest underground board game enthusiasts (no offense, Dan), it became my first (and so far, only) “designer” board game and holy bananas is it a good time. So much in fact, I’ve been sort of yearning to get something else in rotation but none of my friends will have it. And to their point, there is so much replayability inherent in Cosmic Encounter that there’s a better-than-decent chance that, even without the expansions, you will never experience the same scenario twice, even after dozens, if not hundreds, of playthroughs.

    It’s not at all balanced, but offers systems/mechanics that allow players to compensate, if not take full advantage of that fact. It’s competitive, but also demands hastily formed alliances in order to win (usually). It offers backstabbing and laughter and dynamics that make everyone stop to realize just how crazy things have gotten and how much crazier it will probably get before its over. And it all plays in a very manageable 2 hours (roughly), making each game night an attractive double-header.

    I know I haven’t gotten into how it actually plays but that’s easy enough to find. What I really want to trumpet is the high level of enjoyment had with each and every game played and each and every player involved. Think Risk meets Poker meets MTG with a very healthy dose of maybe-real-maybe-scamming alliance building, all of which is knocked utterly sideways by the game’s “there is an exception to everything” core.

    You will apologize to your best friend for completely screwing him over and in turn he will laugh and say “no big deal” because you have yet to realize that your actions just secured his victory. Along with everyone else’s…minus you.

    Seriously, I’ve bounced this game in front of several varied groups of friends and in each and every case, everyone has had a good time and has professed a want to return to play again soon.

    Cosmic Encounter, champion of board games for many, many good reasons.

  10. This sounds really good! I played a few games like Diamonds and Bruges with my brother and these other games look really fun too. I have to tell him to bring by some new games next time!

  11. Andy did you do Targi? I have yet to play it but I heard it’s a great game for 2 player, looking to increase my collection of those titles. I’m happy to write articles about such great games! I am working on a few more for LaserTime as well, I want to do one of 2 player joys. I got to get my hands on a copy of Targi ASAP!

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