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Tabletop games: how board games stopped being boring

Noting a rising popularity for tabletop games, Ash Gomez investigates some possible causes for the new craze.

Photo: Suzy Hazelwood

The genre of tabletop games has experienced a shift in recent years, so much so that they compete with video games in certain realms. Last year, Kickstarter’s largest campaign raised more than $6 million for a board game. Kickstarter used to be an ideal place for indie game developers to receive donations for their projects, but these campaigns have fallen to the wayside. Many users have expressed frustration with Kickstarters for video games, as these projects are often pushed back for years and sometimes never completed at all. Game development, especially when tackled by a small group of people, can experience many setbacks, and it is nearly impossible to predict how long certain elements of game development will take.

Tabletop games, on the other hand, are perfect for a platform like Kickstarter. When a campaign for a tabletop game begins, it is safe to assume that the developers have finalised most of the details about the basic mechanic and gameplay elements, which is the majority of the work in developing a tabletop game. Often, tabletop games go to Kickstarter simply to cover the cost of printing, and the game can be in donators’ homes shortly after the goal is reached. This can act as a huge incentive for campaign backers to gravitate toward tabletop games over video games.


The stigma surrounding RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons is lessening, and more people are willing to engage in high-strategy games over simple time killers.

Moreover, the tabletop game options of today are a far cry from the Scrabble of your youth. Gone are the days of playing a board game for hours even though the winner was made clear in the first ten minutes (looking at you, Monopoly). Many tabletop games have mastered their pacing to keep everyone entertained until the very end, which is no small feat in the today’s world, when departing from one’s phone can seem like a matter of life or death. Furthermore, it is not just board games that are found in the average household, but a variety of tabletop game titles. The stigma surrounding RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons is lessening, and more people are willing to engage in high-strategy games over simple time killers.

One possible explanation for this reinvestment in board games is, like the answer to most modern phenomena, the internet. When a friend group plays a satisfying tabletop game, it is almost guaranteed that at least one player will add it to their Instagram story, or send a Snapchat of it to a friend, or message their group chat about it. Even though these games literally ground players to the table they are playing on, the internet spreads the word of a good game quickly.

Furthermore, it is easier to find interesting tabletop games thanks to the accessibility of the internet. Many people will turn to gaming YouTubers for recommendations, watching their favourite channels test out a tabletop game before they buy it. Or, if there is a specific kind of tabletop game you have a preference for, it is easy to search the internet for titles you would not be able to find at your local shop.

The growing popularity in tabletop games is a great development for our screen-reliant society, as we could always use more activities that encourage us to focus on enjoying each other’s company.