Top 10 Boardgame Trends You Should Know About by Duane Banzon
Games are always evolving and with hundreds being published yearly, it should come as no surprise that you are bound to find common links among them. If you have ever played a game that felt suspiciously familiar, don’t worry, It’s not the meeples talking. You have just encountered what we would like to refer to as a trend. Trends by definition are popular ideas or concepts that transcend their origins and get incorporated into other games. These trends can be anything from game design choices, to mechanisms, to even components and naming conventions. So before we digress any further, join us as we list down ten of some of the most pervasive trends in Gaming.
First off the list is one of the more recent mechanisms that have been lauded as innovative and a game changer, deck-building. First popularized in 2008 by Donald X. Vaccarino in the ever popular Dominion series, deck-builders put an emphasis on in-game deck construction and engine-building on the fly by letting players customize their decks as they play.
Deck builders have filled the shelves of gamers for quite a while now but the mechanism is far from done, with a handful of implementations of the system like the dice building/pool building of games such as Dice Masters and Puzzle Strike still left to explore.
Who Should Try Deck-Building Games: Gamers who are interested in engine-building and making Frankenstein combos from a lineup of whatever is available; people who like shuffling a lot.
Deck-Building Games You Should Try: Dominion, DC Deck Building Game, Marvel Legendary, Star Realms, Thunderstone, Tanto Cuore.
#09. Application Support
It may still be up to debate as to whether application-supported games are going to be that step to the future, but these games are making a buzz and slowly taking a small portion of the market. The purpose of the apps can vary from randomizers, to trackers, to timed events programs. Some games offer app-less variants while some games have the app so integral to the game that you can’t play without them.
There’s still a lot of room for exploration in the apps department, but if the support and the curiosity generated by it is telling, then applications are going to stay.
Who Should Play Application-Supported Games: Gamers who don’t want to worry too much about random seeding; players who want to see some technology applied to their games.
Application-Supported Games You Should Try: Alchemists, XCOM: The Board Game, One Night Ultimate Werewolf
#08. Dice Conversions
What do Roll Through the Ages, Pandemic, Ra, Race for the Galaxy, and Bang! have in common? They all underwent the dice treatment. These games basically spun off distinct and separate games that take thematic elements and iconic systems from their predecessors and made them dice-centric. What they ended up with are games that tend to be more streamlined and have increased luck and chance added in, leaving players with interesting decisions that were not available before.
While not all of the games are as successful in translating the essence of their boardgame counterparts, it is a well-known fact that chucking dice is good for any gamer’s soul, even if you get terrible rolls.
Who Should Try Dice Conversion Games: Gamers who want a different approach to their well-loved games and just about anyone who enjoys rolling dice.
Dice Conversion Games You Should Try: Bang! The Dice Game, Pandemic: The Cure, Roll for the Galaxy, Roll Through the Ages.
#07. Expandable Card Games
While not a mechanism and more of a distribution model, the term expandable card game is a way to describe constructed card games that have all you need to create and play competitively in one box. This does away with the blind buy purchase model (booster packs) and creates a more even playing field, given that you have the same pool of cards to choose from.
One interesting fact about ECGs is that a lot of the games being published under this model were once defunct collectible card games that have a strong following, now rebalanced, updated, and repackaged to fit the construction format.
Who Should Try Expandable Card Games: Former collectible card game players who miss the thrill of building decks sans the cost; gamers who enjoy customizing and formulating a personal deck to compete with.
Expandable Card Games You Should Try: A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, Android: Netrunner, Doomtown: Reloaded, , The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, the upcoming VS. 2PCG System.
#06. Dungeon Crawl
Reminiscent of the classic roguelikes and roleplaying games we love to bits, dungeon crawl games offer that same air of adventure going deeper down into the proverbial rabbit hole. Dungeon crawl games follow the basic ideas of dungeon crawling, only this time around a lot of the factors have been streamlined and designed to keep the action going, shortening game time and increasing replayability significantly.
The variety of games also lets you pick from an array of settings and styles with varying degrees of randomness, from card-drawn events to your brother, the dungeon master. Regardless of how you want it played, you’ll be sure that the thrill of the unopened dungeon door never escapes you.
It doesn’t plan to.
Who Should Play Dungeon Crawlers: Gamers who want to play RPGs but wish to take it in small doses; RPG gamers who want to play without people asking if they can “kill the wall for experience points.”
Dungeon Crawlers You Should Try: Cutthroat Caverns, Descent 2.0, Pathfinder, Imperial Assault, Super Dungeon Explore.
#05. The It Role/Judge
The problem with arbiters is that often they just sit out the game waiting for people to play and finish it, occasionally nodding their heads in approval or faint disgust as to how anyone can consider them still part of the game.
The practical solution according to some boardgames was to simply make everyone alternate being “it”. By letting everyone take a turn as the judge, everyone gets to play as both roles, leaving no one out of the whole gaming experience. A lot of the games also modify the role to be more proactive, making being “it” not as bad as your hazy childhood memories would like you to believe.
Who Should Play Games With The “It” Role: People who want to try playing two slightly different but related roles in one; people who would liked to be the boss that everyone tries to please.
“It” Role Games You Should Try: Cards Against Humanity, Dixit, Pinocchio, Sheriff of Nottingham, Apples to Apples
#04. Licensed Games
Having a hard time playing an obscure protagonist fighting a rather generic villain? Worry not, because licensed games have got you covered! Franchises have expanded to boardgaming since a long time ago, but there has been a recent spike of licensed games getting published –and some are really good.
So, take control of your favorite character as you explore the universe he or she resides in or, if you prefer, take part in the games that they play. Whether it be a comic book, a TV series, or a movie franchise, if it’s popular enough, there’s probably a boardgame of it.
Who Should Play Licensed Games: Fans of franchises and those who want to play in a familiar setting; people who are interested in getting acquainted with a fandom.
Licensed Games You Should Try: A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, Legendary: Encounters, Firefly, Spartacus, The War of the Ring, Star Wars: Imperial Assault.
#03. Multiple Victory Point Collection Methods
There shouldn’t be only one way to win. From collecting sets to waging wars, a whole range of boardgames have appeared to offer us interesting methods of winning. Sure, points are still the endgame, but how you get them is often the part you discuss with (or gloat to) your friends about. Choose to be aggressive and take points from other players or have your sets score you endgame bonuses to put you from the bottom to the very top, or even just choose to score victory points flat out to cement your lead early on. Take whatever you can because it just might win you the game.
Just don’t forget to SCIENCE!
Who Should Play Games With Multiple Victory Point Collection Methods: Eurogamers who are sick of competing for the same thing every single time; gamers who like the idea of developing unique and crazy strategies away from the metagame.
Games With Multiple Victory Point Methods Collection You Should Try: Carcassone, Five Tribes, Stone Age, Takenoko, Tokaido.
#02. Traitor Mechanism
It’s never enough to just be a traitor in kind. Boardgames have always carried that risk (or opportunity) of making traitors of our friends: remember that one time your friend traded you his wheat only to get it back with his dreaded monopoly card in Settlers of Catan? That’s baby stuff compared to what you have to do with these hidden traitor games. Pretend to be a good guy before revealing your true self! Give them a defeat you may or may not have done on purpose! Throw them all off guard as you strike behind their back! Sow chaos among a very paranoid team as you lead them to utter failure!
Trust issues guaranteed.
Who Should Play Hidden Traitor Games: Friends. Good Friends. Great Friends.
Hidden Traitor Games You Should Try: Battlestar Galactica, The Resistance/The Resistance: Avalon, Shadows Over Camelot, Ultimate Werewolf.
#01. Cooperative Games
Cooperative games have become popular in recent years among boardgame enthusiasts and causals alike. The fact that you’re finally not toe-to-toe with your fellow gamers offers a unique experience to gaming. Cooperative games tie you up with your fellow players against a sort-of AI usually in the form of a deck of cards or a timer, and, as the name implies, cooperation is the only way you’ll be able to survive. Go up against masterminds, monsters, or even nature itself as you try to survive or lead your team to victory.
Don’t be fooled, though; just because you’re not playing against your friends doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy (or without conflict). Cooperative games are considered to be some of the hardest games to play. Take our word for it.
Who Should Play Cooperative Games: Pacifists and people who generally avoid conflict may opt for cooperative games, but such games are not devoid of arguments; team players and risk managers are more than welcome to apply.
Cooperative Games You Should Try: Pandemic, Defenders of the Realm, Hanabi, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Red November, Robnison Crusoe, Sentinels of the Multiverse.
So there you have it, ten of some of the most pervasive trends in gaming. Trends continue to define generations of boardgames and the gamers who play them, with some of these trends becoming staples and others lasting only a few years before fading into obscurity. The history of boardgaming is a long and interesting one and by knowing how games work and how certain decisions came to be we can better understand, appreciate, and ultimately enjoy the games that we play. So until the next time we discuss gaming, Live to Play!
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