Demand is growing for board games once again

There has been a surge in popularity for all things dice writes Rita deBrún. But new gamers are moving away from most of the traditional favourites

Do you get a high from the role of a die, or a thrill from a win on a board? Are you a secret geek at heart? If so, you’re in good company, as gaming — of the board, card and console kind — has never been more in vogue.

To promote board and card games, International TableTop Day is being celebrated across seven continents on April 30. In Cork, it’s being celebrated at the Rising Sons Brewery. While that’s ironic given that the event promotes gaming as an alternative to boozing, it’s also perfectly proper, given that games have and will always be played by drinkers and teetotallers alike.

Acknowledging that some who will attend the Rising Sons event will enjoy a pint while they play, duty manager, Aoife Conway, says: “There’ll be plenty who won’t be drinking, but that’s not the focus. What’s central is that players sit down with a group and interact.” On the day, the Blarney girl expects a good show of seasoned gamers, with families with kids welcome up until the 9pm watershed.

“To attend, there’ll be no need to be an expert or even a regular player,” she says. “The idea is to get everyone playing and enjoying themselves.” Confirming that there’ll be bog-standard favourites such as Cluedo and Monopoly, Conway says there’ll also be ‘all sorts of nerdy games; games into which the creators seem to have put a bit more love.’

“We’ll be playing Carcassonne, a board game, Elder Sign a dice game, and Love Letter, a card game. We’ll also be playing Colt Express and Cards against Humanity, which is definitely a late-night game.”

Explaining the broadening appeal of gaming in Ireland she says: “Credit for that must go to the Marvel and DC Comics’ films and to the popularity of the Gaming Cult podcast channel and The Big Bang Theory sitcom.”

Credit must also go to Glanmire- based Greg Dooley, the creator and developer of the Irish edition of 30 Seconds, a board game that he says has outsold Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary.

“The only game it has not outsold in Ireland is Monopoly,” he says proudly.

While admitting that he was never a ‘hardcore gamer’ himself, Dooley, who formerly worked on the leasing and asset finance side of Anglo Irish Bank has, with his business partners, sold almost 25,000 games in Ireland to date.

Acknowledging that his is a popular drinking game, Dooley, a pint-drinker himself, made a conscious effort to promote it to the people behind alcohol and drug free clubs such as Cork’s Funky Seomra.

While Dooley says that the ‘feelgood’ aspect of encountering easy-to-guess cards is central to the game’s popularity, sometimes feel-good is not what the players want. When that happens the gang in our house play their own version of the game. On learning what’s written on the card they endeavour to speak as Gaeilge to describe it so the others can guess what it is. And it is an ‘endeavour’ as their collective command of the native language is pidgin at best. This leads to their willingly receiving an unmerciful slagging by their fellow players, a lengthy process that means they take well over the 30 seconds allowed to get their team to guess correctly.

Greg Dooley, managing director of Woodland Games, manufacturer of 30 Seconds.
Greg Dooley, managing director of Woodland Games, manufacturer of 30 Seconds.

For sure their version entails breaking the core timing rule, but doesn’t detract from their enjoyment of the game, which for reasons never anticipated by the creators, is fast becoming a family favourite.

Acknowledging that players often make their own rules, Garvey says: “Some play on the move rather than at a table. They don’t use the board at all. They use only the small box of cards and a timer on a mobile phone to play the game their way.”

Asked what board games are most popular among student members of UCC’s WARPS (war-gaming and role-playing society) auditor Stephen Prinn lists Betrayal at House on the Hill and two deck-builder games Dominion and Star Realms.

As for why they’re more popular than traditional family board-games, he says: “Monopoly forces players to be cruel and competitive. Board-players who long ago gave up playing games like that because they are not fun, assume that board games aren’t fun. This of course is not true. Massive amounts of them are exciting and far better designed and that’s why we play them every Thursday at UCC.” According to Prinn, a popular aspect of many of the newer games is that they don’t pitch players against one another. “In Pandemic and Shadowrun: Crossfire, players play as a team against the game,” he says.

Pat Garvey who runs the Other Realms games store in Cork City confirms that demand is growing for board games. “Dungeons and Dragons is particularly popular,” he says.

“That’s a fantasy role-playing game in which each player creates a character and is bound by a series of rule books.” While he knows of one such game that has been running for over three years, he describes demand for 20- or 30-minute games such as Munchkin and The Resistance as ‘huge.’ Insisting that chess is ‘the best game of all,’ he says: “Old games such as Ludo and Snakes and Ladders have largely fallen by the wayside because of smart phones and iPads.”

He’s right of course; but more’s the pity. I remember being as inanely exhilarated (as a kid, mind you) when sliding my counter down a snake as I was while pushing it up a ladder. But then again those were simpler times. “Those games aren’t quick enough for kids today;” agrees Garvey. “They don’t like having to wait their turn.” At the mention of bad losers and, heaven forbid, cheaters, the gamers insist their community tends not to attract that sort. Most of the board game community behave in a friendly way towards one another, so if it’s going to happen at all, bad behaviour usually only happens at tournaments,” says Prinn. “I’ve never come across it in this community,” agrees Conway.

But that’s not how Garvey remembers it: “Many’s the board was thrown in the air in frustration when I was playing with my two brothers long ago.”

10 popular board games you may not know

Star Realms: a deckbuilding game of outer space combat Shadowrun.

Crossfire: a deckbuilding game set in the fantasy world of Shadowrun.

Colt Express: a game set on a three-dimensional train.

Euphoria: Build a better dystopia — players lead teams of workers and recruits to claim ownership of a dystopian world.

Carcassonne: a tile-based game in which the board is a medieval landscape

Dominion: a deckbuilding game of kingdom expansion.

Catan: a game of resource management in which players trade and build settlements

Pandemic: players unite in an effort to save the world from life-destroying virus strains.

Cards against Humanity: a politically incorrect party game.

The Resistance: You’re either a spy or a member of The Resistance.  


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