Board Gaming

Board Gaming – Explaining Modern Board Games to Non-Gamers

What is your hobby?

How many times have you heard this question?

What is your hobby? Do you play board games? Are you kidding me?

As I began to be fascinated by these modern eurogames, I got a lot of funny looks from people – including my wife, brother and sister. Their response was “Okay, if that’s what you want to do… I’ve never even heard of the Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne.” What they don’t understand is that there is an underground community thriving around this game.

For the last half year, I have had to come up with a description for what this community calls Eurogames. They go by many names, none of which are known to the general public – adult board games. modern board games, designer games, German games or Ameritrash games. None of this explains it well to non-gamers. It really just digs you into a deeper hole.

You Can’t Answer Like This

We don’t actually play “board games” as you might think. We actually play modern designer games from Europe. They tend to be quite complex and take several hours to play. No one usually gets knocked out, so everyone is really having a good time. They tend to be more interactive and interesting, yada yada… Right. Now their eyes have glazed over and you look like a snob.

You are Familiar with Monopoly, right?

When introducing a game, touching the nerves is important. Asking about Monopoly tends to be my first response to them. This is a game that everyone knows. They understand that this is a more complex game than your average 7 year old can handle, that it has aspects of fiscal responsibility, scarce resources, cards, and strategy. They also know that there are no trivial questions, movie quotes, drawings, or strings of words. Good, we have a starting point. You are dealing with a rather serious game and it could last more than an hour.

Now Think About Chess

Then, I went to the other end of the spectrum, chess. Again, this is the game that everyone sees or plays the most. Heck, it even appeared in the first Harry Potter book. They understand that this is a deep strategy game that many people play and only a few master it. They also know that it’s ONLY two players and those watching must be very, very quiet…like golf. They may also realize that if you are good at chess, you are respected and considered intelligent by most people.

Now, you have your two extremes.


This is the third game which is more complicated, and closer to the standard modern board game. And, everyone was quite familiar with it. The thing you should notice with this game is that not everyone has a positive experience with it. It tends to be long and drawn-out with two sides battling into the wee hours of the morning – while the eliminated players go and watch TV or munch on snacks and watch the clock.

So, Modern Board Games Are Like Risk

You can really say that a lot of adult board games are like “Risk on steroids”. But, people really enjoy it and most of the time everyone plays for the whole game. The game is strategy oriented. You can shape countries or landscapes, manage economies, manage energy infrastructure, or tackle political races or micro-manage small businesses.

Unlike a typical board game, the Risk board looks like a world map, with zones that have values. It’s more like a game of euros, than Monopoly – where all you do is walk around and hope to land on GO! or Free Parking.

Also, you can talk to them about the image of the game. This is something that really appeals to my wife. When he saw the level of art involved with Ticket to Ride, he was intrigued. Carcassonne is similar – the art is more cartoon-like, but you build your city as you go along. It’s great to see the last town once it’s done.

Have You Played Video Games?

This is a very good jump because most 30 year olds have, at some point, seen an RTS (real time strategy) game on PC. They may have played Warcraft, Age of Empires, Rise of Nations, Command and Conquer, or Civilization. Or, they may have played games like The Sims, SimCity, Railroad Tycoon, and Roller Coaster Tycoon. If so, they’re in! It is the PC gaming cousin of modern board games.

Sid Meyer, Will Right, John Romero, Chris Sawyer

These names are familiar to PC gamers. They created games like Civilization. SimCity, Railroad Tycoon, Doom, Quake, Roller Coaster Tycoon. One of the cool things about Designer board games is that a good board game designer can be a star in his own right.

If they know the names of the PC designers, you can share your excitement for Klaus Teuber, Alan R. Moon, Richard Borg, and Andreas Seyfarth. They must understand respect.

Blizzard and ID

If you don’t get a note with the designer’s name, just throw these two names away and you’ll get recognition. Blizzard has put out several games (all hits, by the way) like Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft. They are also in charge of the Online Multiplayer game World of Warcraft. ID is the gaming company that broke the door to first-person shooter games with Doom – the most downloaded shareware of its time.

Rio Grande, Days Of Wonder and Fantasy Flight

If you dare talk about PC gaming companies, you can make the logical leap to Adult Board Game Companies. These three companies should be at the forefront of the discussion. Most game “hit” comes from this. Oh, and don’t forget Mayfair with the Settlers of Catan.

Here’s an interesting point you can share with your new connections…

Many PC Games are also Board Games

And, they landed squarely on the modern board game genre. This is what some gamers call the Amertrash game. But, they are games that you can point to that might be of interest to non-gamers. Point them to Fantasy Flight Games. For example, they will recognize Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and Doom. They will also be familiar with Age of Empires and Railroad Tycoon. It shouldn’t be too much of a jump to get them to Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride, Memoir ’44 or Power Grid.

What You Don’t Want To Do

Unfortunately, when people think of board games as a hobby, and they’ve never tried it, they get one image in their head…it’s a bunch of geeky guys with greasy hair in a basement or back room with cute shaped dice, a bunch of metal figures, and lots of paper. This image also usually involves someone screaming “Shoot my +3 Fireball at the hill troll for 2d Damage…roll it for initiative” What?

They had friends at some point who went to Dungeons and Dragons. These crowds are always depicted in the same way as trekkies.

You also don’t act like an arrogant person about how your games are better than their old games since they were young. This will just turn it off.

The Best Defense is a Good Attack

Just keep a few games in the trunk of your car or have it ready. When the opportunity arises, offer to show it and show it. Let them see the rules, touch the game, maybe even give it a try. If they like it, great! If not, then yes. You try it fair and share the gems with one more person.

Not Everyone Will Be A Fan

One thing in all of this that you can’t forget is that you can’t please everyone all the time. Personally, changing my wife wasn’t a hard sell. He likes puzzles. However, my sister and her husband, on the other hand, are running in completely different circles than me and I don’t think they will ever try the euro game. I might ask them to try Pizza Box Football, but it will be over. My sister might actually convert at some point.

Don’t let that bother you. Keep talking about it and we’ll end up making a few more addicts together! Keep playing the best game in the WORLD!