Changing Taste in Board Games
This is a topic that I’ve touched on before. And I think it’s a good one to touch on again, and more specifically only on this. When it comes to board games, there are tons of different types of games out there. From being heavy euro game, to massive minis games, to little card games. Now, I have all of almost all of those on my shelf. I have little card games like Hanamikoji and Claim, bit minis games like Nemesis and Reichbusters, and even a few euro games like Heaven & Ale and Terraforming Mars.
Why Talk About Changing Tastes?
I talk about that some in my article of Filler, Family Weight, and Other Board Game Classifications. The simplest way to put it is that as you game more your tastes will change. For a lot of board gamers, games like Munchkin, Fluxx, Ticket To Ride, Carcassonne, and Catan were the games that got them into the hobby board game areas. Before that, they were playing games like Uno, Skip-Bo, Monopoly, Phase 10, Clue, and Scrabble.
I think that’s a pretty common journey. It starts with playing those classic games that we grew up with, or our parents grew up with. Then when games like Catan came around, I at least had a friend who introduced me to that and then later Ticket to Ride. But now I don’t have Catan in my collection anymore, and Ticket to Ride rarely gets played. What changed or why did things change?
Why Do Tastes Change?
I think that everyone grows and changes in almost everything. I’m not sure if there is anything that people can’t change from. And I think board games show one way and an often way that people do change. Some people will always stick with a more basic game, they have found the level that they like. They want to play the classic games, and that is totally fine. But for myself and others into hobby board games, I think it’s important to remember the journey and how we can help people along that journey.
So I’m going to talk about two games that helped draw me into the hobby and probably did for a lot of people, Fluxx and Munchkin. I could talk about Catan, but I think that Fluxx and Munchkin explain it well. Both of those games are light card games that have you trying to mess over your opponents, take their stuff or stop them from winning. Now, this should sound familiar. That is basically how Uno works. You are trying to stop your opponents from winning as much as you are planning on your own victory itself. Or the game Sorry, you want to stop them from winning.
Why did we stop playing Sorry and Uno for Fluxx and Munchkin?
We stopped playing them, because Fluxx and Munchkin offered more in way of the game. When you play Fluxx , you are creating and changing the rules to the game. Sure it’s very simple draw one card and play one card, unless the rules say otherwise. In Munckin you are trying to make your character stronger to defeat more monsters and your opponent weaker or their monsters stronger, so that they can’t. There is more to think about with your card play.
Both of those games take something that we know and build upon it. They add more to the rules of the game, barely, and they offer more choices. To go back to Catan, I sometimes say that if someone like’s Monopoly they should try Catan. Why, because some of the pieces feel similar, but the game offers more choices. Now that’s a bigger jump than Uno to Fluxx, but it’s about finding stepping stones.
Why did we stop playing Fluxx and Munckin?
And this is a cycle that for hobby gamers repeats fairly often. I stopped playing Fluxx and Munchkin, though I still have both, because I wanted games that gave me more choices yet again. One thing that I find is that the more games I play the less true randomness I want in it.
Sure Tainted Grail might have a random encounter or unexpected outcome in an exploration, but I still make more choices. I play down all the cards for combat. Gloomhaven has a deck AI for the monsters, that is random, but I can plan out what I do and have knowledge on what the monsters might be doing. There is no, will I or won’t I draw the right card, because there isn’t a truly right card. It is how can I make what I have available to me work the best.
This is true for most all the games I play now. Some are smaller and more random, like Claim, but even that is less random and offers more choice than some other trick taking games. And it is an extremely light and fast two player filler game. While Fluxx and Munchkin might be light, they take longer than a filler. When I want that lighter, fluffier game, I want it to be played fast now.
What Do We Learn From Changing Tastes?
To start, I think it’s important to remember that our tastes have changed. They might change again, and those we play with, their tastes might change as well. There can be a disparity between gamers. Those of us who love those heavier games and those who love the lighter or more traditional games. It is easy at times to forget that we started there with more traditional games as well.
Even if you are starting now with a game like Horrified and Pandemic which are more on the hobby side of gaming, you will still have a progression to your gaming. You might not like those games as well in the future because you’ve mined them for what they have and now you want more. And we don’t want to forget, because when we forget, that is when we stop bringing people into the hobby.
And that really is my main point. I know I talked about this as well. When you think about your changing tastes over time, it comes into play with bringing people into the hobby. I am in a bunch of board game groups on Facebook, and I know I wrote an article based off of what I saw in those groups. I can’t find it right now, but let me recap.
A new person to the hobby side of board gaming joins one of these groups. They are all excited because they just got Cards Against Humanity, their group loves Munchkin and Catan, and they want to know what game they should get next.
The first two responses are:
“Those games suck.”
What’s Wrong With This?
Well, there are a lot of obvious things wrong with it, and I know it’ll stand out to most people. Even the people who commented those things, stepping back and looking at it objectively and not in the moment can spot what is wrong. The first one doesn’t answer the questions and belittles the person who is excited about board games for their choice in board games.
The second one is a bit harder to see. Scythe might be a great game, it is on my to play list. But Scythe is a big euro style game that is a massive step up from something like Munchkin, Cards Against Humanity and Catan. That answer might intimidate a new gamer out of the hobby or make them feel dumb because they don’t understand the game. The Scythe recommendation is like giving someone a calculus test after they’ve just learned their multiplication tables, it’s too big a gap.
Both of these answers, the people writing them have forgotten their journey. They don’t remember how their tastes changed over time. And I get it, they are passionate about loving Scythe or wanting people to play what they find to be better games. But for almost every gamer, there is a journey.
So How Do We Be Better?
Staying on my scenario, I think that there are two better responses, though one of them is actually not responding. To paraphrase Thumper from Bambi, if you can’t say anything nice, be quiet. Now that doesn’t apply to every situation, but for someone excited about board games and on their journey, however deep it leads them into the hobby, be nice. So if you can’t be nice, be quiet.
Or, pause, think about your journey. Think about two types of games for the person who asks that question. The first is, when you were playing games like Catan and Munchkin, what other games were you playing? Secondly, what were the games that helped you take the next step? Then give two pieces of advice on what to get next. One for that point in time the person is in, and one for what might be a next step. Then explain why for both of them.
We really can use our knowledge to encourage people along their journey. I know that I want more people to play board games with, and I’m not facing a shortage. Games get played almost every Tuesday and Wednesday. I had people over to game on Saturday for a game night, I’ll have people over this Saturday, and I still want to play more games. And from that amount of gaming, I still want to play more.
But I know that I need to be careful not to push too far with my passion for people I don’t know are as passionate about board games. I want to give everyone them as gifts or to play games with non-gamers. That is amazing when I can and they love them or like them. But I shouldn’t pull Terraforming Mars off the shelf with a new gamer.
What Were the Board Games on Your Journey?
So, a little exercise for myself and everyone else. What has your board game journey looked like? What were the points where you paused and grew as a gamer?
Growing up: Uno, Skip-Bo, Dutch Blitz and the like were very common and got me into the idea of gaming.
Around End of High School: Got introduced to the modern classics of Ticket to Ride and Catan and dove into those.
Post College: Got into Magic the Gathering and introduced to more games like Dominion and Power Grid
First Board Game I Loved: Betrayal At House on the Hill, this really got me into board gaming and buying board games
Since then it’s been a slow and steady trying of different games and growing. Probably should say the final stop I can think of was about 3 years ago when we started playing Gloomhaven and I feel in love with the blended mechanics of Amerithrash and Euro as well as I fell in love with campaign games.