What Board Games Have Learned From Video Games...

When gaming was in its infancy, it borrowed from tabletop gaming extensively. RPGs especially, with their dice rolls and such like, really looked to games like Dungeons & Dragons for inspiration. Now things have come full circle and video games are beginning to inspire design decisions made in new board games.

It was this topic that was explored in a panel titled, 'The Impact of Video Game Design Techniques on Boardgames', which played host to multiple different discussion points surrounding the parallels between board games and video games. The general consensus was that, as a result of video games, board games have had to develop a new level of depth without having machines do calculations on the fly in the way games can manage. This has resulted in board games having fewer choices, but more meaningful choices.

But perhaps the most interesting point was made by Geoff Engelstein, the codesigner of Space Cadets. He believes that video games have shifted the expectations of the board game audience dramatically.

“I think that one of the key things is that we expect, because of video games, that ease of entry," he explained. "Back in the day video games used to come with these thick manuals. That was part of what it was. The first Civilization game had a lot of literature.

"With Board games you have this stuff you have to learn but now the expectation is, because of video games, that the game will walk you through that initial stuff. You look at XCOM, that is a very complex game but it takes you through that process. People don’t have the patience anymore in a board game setting."

Geoff also mentioned that the popularity of games like Magic: The Gathering, which use cards as a primary mode of communication between players are part of that move to make things easier to explain on the fly, forcing players to make decisions as they come without necessarily having a full and complete understanding of the game to begin with.

It's an interesting topic. I play very few board games but the one I play most — Settlers of Catan — does fall into that definition of a game that has very few choices, but makes those choices meaningful. I'd be keen to hear from some of the enthusiast board game players among you — do you think video games have changed board games and, if so, has it been a positive change?


    Sometimes borrowing from video games is not such a good idea. D&D 4th Edition borrowed a lot from the MMO design playbook and, while the edition has it's fans, the common consensus seems to be it wasn't a wise choice

      It really was a bad choice. We have gone back to 3.5 after only playing 4th edition once or twice. It just doesn't have the depth that 3.5 has.

        I prefer Pathfinder myself. Fixes a number of problems 3.5 had without ruining the feel and flavor of the game.

          I moved from 3.5 to Pathfinder too.

          I actually liked somethings about 4th edition, especially the concepts of magic users being able to cast spells in battle every round. It broke out of the use an Elf for Dex, Bow and Longsword skills Wizard/Sorcerors.

          What I hated about 4th Editon was the complexity of previous editions of skills and abilities being removed. My group quite liked the skills/feats method. I feel like 4th Edition should have been broken into 4th Edition and 4th Edition Advanced and put back a lot of the complexity it lost. I know the game was to get more people into D&D but it felt like a Hollow Apple, looks really nice but once you bite into it there is nothing there.

    I find that one of the aspects of board gaming is that it's a very intimate and social experience, one which usually takes place at occasions where a number of people are not big into board games themselves. Unless you plan an actual "board-gaming" event with some close friends, usually the games are brought along to an event by someone, and then it's decided to play a game.

    What this means is that almost every time you play, you are explaining the rules to at least one person. This means the more popular games are ones which are really simple to explain.
    The example I will use [and a personal favourite of mine] is Ticket to Ride. When it comes to your turn, there's only 3 different actions you can take. A single round of the game, and a new player now knows how to play the game.

    I think it is a positive change. There are still the hardcore tabletop RPG's for those that are really into it. But the move to games with simpler options and faster cycles has made them a lot more accessible in a wide range of social occasions.

      Totally agree. If you can't get people up to speed in a few turns it's probably not going to be as fun.
      To me it's about finding the most interesting and enjoyable (obviously subjective) game while having that accessibility and currently Settlers of Catan fits the bill nicely.

    I tend to play the short and easy board games that I guess would be the equivalent of a Faceboard game... so why am I commenting?

      We played Yahtzee and Outburst on Saturday night at a party :D

        The other week we had a big board game night with three people.

        Scrabble, Rummykub, Pictionary, Master Mind, Word Master Mind, and Yahtzee. Went for about 6 or 7 hours and really did not feel that long at all. We stopped to play a video game for about 15 minutes which ended up being pretty boring compared to the board games.

        I think we're slowly moving over to board games for entertainment rather than modern video games. One day we might even buy a new game! So far everything has come from op shops at about $2 a game. I'm looking at Pandemic so far.

    Maybe I'm just getting old, but I think video games need to learn a thing or two from board games again. I find board games to be faar more fun these days. No video game now day compares to having a few mates round, some beer and a few games of Galaxy Trucker.

      More games need to support same-couch multiplayer for sure.

      I agree with you bro, and I think it's because video games have lost a lot of complexity and their social value. Everything is online now and you no longer have any face time with your mates, so the table top experience is vastly superior in this regard. Also the mechanics and how to play certain games just cannot be recreated in a videogame medium, unless it's just a copy of the boardgame.

    Board games being elegant and easy to explain and play isn't something that video games have brought to the table. There's always been board games that are well designed like that. I find often the stuff that is more obviously video game inspired is a lot less tight and clean. Especially the Fantasy Flight stuff - they write absolutely terrible manuals and you'll often read through everything several times and still come out not knowing how you're actually supposed to play, or get minor but important rules completely wrong and break the game or the like. Several friends of mine have looked at a lot of the more complex games (Twilight Imperium is a really good example) and thought that it needs a computer to track all the housekeeping and number tracking and everything.

    There's some things that have been done in board games which I still haven't seen attempted well in a video game setting. Asymmetric gaming for example. Scotland Yard was an old board game where one player was a criminal trying to sneak out of London and the rest of the players worked as a team of police. Periodically the criminal player has to reveal their location and the other players need to figure out his route and trap him. It would probably work pretty well on the Wii U.

    Another one I haven't seen much of is the co-op mechanic in Shadows Over Camelot or Battlestar Galactica, where one player may or may not be a traitor who is actively trying to sabotage the rest of the team without being caught. I suspect it would be fairly hard to transition it to a video game form simply because you need to be able to see and directly interact with the other players - divorced of that social element you can be a lot more clinical and much more clearly see when someone is playing badly.

    not sure if this is an evolution of boardgames or the influence of videogames, but one thing i have noticed these days is most board games have stunning print visuals. compare this to games even from the mid 90's and you can see that the square blocky graphics of the end of last century have changed to hi-res awesome looking detail extravaganza's...again, could just be board games having competition with each other and/or video games and needing to stand out

      Yeah, Lords of Waterdeep has a really beautiful board.

    Board games don't get fancy trailers and such, meaning they live or die basically on word of mouth.
    This means you need to be able to get people playing as quickly as possible, sometimes by distilling your mechanics down to their purest form, some times by keeping the game short enough that people have multiple rounds in a row, other times by making it easy to pick up and learn as you go.

    I don't know how they were in years past (I've only been getting into them the past few years), but I wouldn't at all be surprised that all the game design theory being thrown around helps board game designers as well as video game designers.

      I just started imagining a fancy trailer for Monopoly done in the same vein as the opening credits for Game of Thrones.

        They're making a Monopoly movie. Perhaps you should e-mail them your imaginings!

        you want epic trailers for boardgames? I give you Fantasy Flight Games.
        Here's one for 'RELIC'

        or 'WizWar'

        or Fortress Amercia....

        *wanders off again*

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