Boardgame Basics: An Introduction to Modern Boardgames

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“Modern” boardgames… What does that mean?

If you’re like most people, a number of images might come to mind when you think about boardgames.  Maybe you remember playing Monopoly, Candyland, Sorry, Battleship or other “kid’s” games in your childhood.  Or perhaps your mind turns to games that are a little intimidating or stuffy, like Chess or Scrabble.  Or you might just be thinking of a number of fun party games that you play occasionally with friends; things like Taboo, Balderdash, Cranium, Pictionary, or Trivial Pursuit.

Well, those aren’t the games I’m talking about.

China_9Not that those games are all that bad or anything (heck, I’m quite fond of a party game every so often), but my games, the ones I’m so passionate about, are on a whole other level.  In general, modern boardgames strike a balance between the fun and excitement of the classic kids’ games and the brain-burny strategy of Chess or Go.  It is an industry where game designers are followed because of the quality of their work much like we all keep up with the writing of certain authors.  Where adults can get together with each other or with their children and all actually enjoy the game and each other’s company.  Where you can be surprised by the creativity and ingenuity of what a board or card game can do, and where you can be rewarded for thinking rather than because you just happen to know the answer or roll a certain number on a die.

The Modern Boardgame revolution began in Germany, where playing games as a family is far more ingrained in their culture than most other places. Games there were developed both to entertain and to educate; to stimulate social interaction while also exercising the brain.  And thank goodness, the concepts born there have spread all over the world in the last 10-20 years.

This new breed of boardgames are designed  to be both challenging and fun. Most of these games are very simple to learn, give players lots of control over what happens in the game, and involve a significant amount of thought and planning.  Traditionally, these “German games” concentrated far more on the mechanics of game play than on the setting or “theme” of the game. While this is still true in many cases, the blending with American game design philosophy has produced a fantastic variety of wonderfully-themed, well-designed games that can appeal to people of all ages. Some games are just for children, some are for families, and some are aimed at bringing challenge to even the most intelligent and competitive adults.  That’s the cool thing here – not every game is just another version of Monopoly with yet another pop-culture logo slapped on top of it.  These are mostly all unique pic246641_mdgames that, as a whole, can appeal to almost anyone.

So, in this series of articles, I’m going to go into more detail about some of the facets of modern boardgames that I mentioned here.  Bookmark or subscribe to this site and check back regularly for more updates!  Welome to this amazing hobby, and feel free to email me at gamerchris@bellsouth.net if you have any other questions.

Boardgame Basics

Part 1: An Introduction to Modern Boardgames
Part 2: Game Categories
Part 3: Theme and Setting
Part 4: Game Mechanics
Part 5: The Role of Luck in Games
Part 6: Conflict and Competition

2 Comments


  1. Good start. I just wish we could have all gotten together and called the hobby something else – like ludography – instead of board games, with its association with children.

    Ah well.

  2. Chris Norwood

    Thanks, Yehuda!

    I agree, it would be nice if we all used the same terminology.  And I think that I’m going to address that issue a little in my next installment of this series, where I’ll cover game categories and terminology.

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