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Board Gaming as a Hobby - What's it all about?

Updated on August 11, 2012
Agricola - One of the Top Rated Board Games
Agricola - One of the Top Rated Board Games

Board Gaming as a Hobby

People have played board games socially and for fun for well over a century, though board games only started to be widely played with the introduction of games like Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble & Cluedo in the early to mid twentieth century. People have enjoyed board gaming as a hobby since then, however Hobbyist board gaming only really started to take off in the 1990s, thanks in no small part to a German board game called 'Settlers of Catan', which was a well made, smart looking strategy board game with a healthy dose of luck. There had been some games of this type before, but Settlers of Catan broke through to something close to the mainstream my selling millions of copies. Expansions for the game followed, as did lots of clones and other games trying to piggyback of the game's success. The board gaming hobby was truly born.

What, like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit?

One of the biggest problems I have when trying to explain my love of Board Gaming, is that people immediately ask the question above, referring to Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, probably the two most commercially successful board games ever, and possibly the only ones that most people remember playing. The problem with that is the fact that they are potentially two of the most boring board games out there. Monopoly tends to go on for many hours with almost no strategy other than trying to not go broke. It's all based on luck and one or two people usually take an early lead, and then it is only a matter of time before the rest of the players go bankrupt and exit the game. At some point this usually descends into a family argument.

Trivial Pursuit isn't much better. You either know it or you don't and there is generally a know it all smart alec - usually the person who suggested playing - which is probably going to win comfortably.

So immediately when you mention board gaming, most people will bring to mind two not particularly fun experiences from their past which will discourage their interest. Even if not, they'll ask what Board Games are about. They can be about anything! Medieval farming, building railroad, curing diseases, breeding animals, fighting, fishing, sailing, trading, you name it, they can be about anything. The sheer variety of games is part of the delight of board gaming. I would say that all that links them is a board, but even that isn't true. Many games don't have a board as such, and there's a lot that are just card games (so technically the hobby should be 'board and card gaming' but that doesn't trip off the tongue as easily).

Some Board Games to Get You Started

Most people get started in board gaming because there's someone they know who introduces them. This is the best way to get into the hobby. Others just turn up at their nearest gaming club. You don't have to start that way though. I heard about some good games including Settlers of Catan, got several for Christmas and Birthdays and played mainly wife my wife, and occasionally with other friends.

So if you are starting out and want to try it out for yourself, here are a few games to go for first.

'Ticket to Ride' - This is a rail route building game across America. You secretly get allocated routes which you have to complete by collecting sets of train carriages. Sounds simple but there's a lot of strategy in there as you compete to get vital train lines built first. This is a 2-5 player game, just as good with 2 as 5, so a good game to play with your significant other. There's various versions, including a European one, but the American one is the best (and easiest one to pick up) in my opinion.

'Settlers of Catan' - The classic game that kickstarted the board gaming hobby. It is for 3-4 players, so not one you can just play with your spouse (there are actually two player variants you can read about online, but not ideal if you are new to board gaming).

'Stone Age' - This is a 'worker placement' game, where you take the role of a stone age patriarch looking to collect food, build huts and advance your level of technology. You take turns to use your workers to collect resources to building things and collect civilisation cards. It is for 2-4 players and works just as well with 2, 3 and 4.

'Bohnanza' - This is a great little card game where you grow different types of beans in your bean fields to sell for gold coins. A quite simple game, but great fun and strategic. Easy to learn and teach. It is for 3-7 players, so great for when friends are family want something simple and quick to play.

'Coloretto' - Another simple little card game, which is fun and easy to play. It is for 2 to 5 players and is all about set collection and denying your opponents.

Pandemic - Another good 'gateway' Board Game to get you started on the hobby
Pandemic - Another good 'gateway' Board Game to get you started on the hobby

Clubs, Podcasts and Board Game Geek

There are lots of clubs, all over the world and there's a good chance that there will be one near you. And if there's not, you can always start one. Clubs are a great place to meet new similarly minded people and to try out lots of new board games. The first few months after I started going to a club, I'd tried about twenty new board games, most of which I loved.

Lots of clubs organize Board Gaming Days where anyone is welcome. There is a particularly good one near me where you get 12 hours of board gaming packed into a single day, with 100 people usually in attendance, and hundreds of games to choose from and play.

There's a lot of online content, but by far the best is the website BoardGameGeek, which is a database of all available board games, forums, marketplace for buying and selling, and even some games you can play online through the site. That brief description doesn't do it justice, if you play board games, you've got to go on BoardGameGeek. It also has a searchable database of just about all Board Gaming clubs around the world.

One of the best ways to find out news, reviews and trivia about Board Gaming, other than BoardGameGeek, is Podcasts of which there are several excellent ones including The Dice Tower, Royal Society of Gamers, and Ludology.

Where to Buy Board Games

There are lots of specialist online board gaming stores in operation, all over the world. You can find out about them on BGG, but the one retailer which sells a decent range of good games and is available all over the world is Amazon. They are particularly good for 'gateway' games, games that are not too complicated and are good introductions to the world of Board Gaming.


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