Tabletop Gaming - An Adjacent World

In this season packed with holidays, many of us feel like our emotions and energy are depleted and we’re left seeking recovery.  In light of the heaviness of this season, I thought it might be nice to take ourselves a little less seriously this week and talk about a lighthearted topic.  Today we take one big sidestep to a world adjacent to the DIY music universe and talk a little bit about the tabletop game renaissance. For the sake of simplicity, let’s refer to board games, dice games, card games, paper and pencil games, etc all under the title of tabletop games.

Many of us grew up with Monopoly, Sorry, and The Game of Life but as of late we’ve witnessed the rise of a new generation of games that I expect will be the new classics.  These new games have swept through my friend groups and have pulled us away from the MMORPGs of my high-school era that kept us all safely locked in our bedrooms and revitalized the idea of the ‘game night’.  One place I see tabletop games becoming prevalent is in the DIY music scene. Since community is very important in the music scene it doesn’t take much imagination to understand the tie between DIY music and tabletop gaming.  I find that tabletop games offer a good way for folks to extend the hang-out and spend time together before and after shows. Tabletop games embrace the in-person-ness and the being-together-ness of the live show experience in a different format.  

A new development that has affected the tabletop gaming world is the establishment of crowdfunding websites which allow folks across the world to support DIY game development.  Game start-ups have always existed but now we have greater opportunity to discover and support new creations from afar. This network of support has allowed game designers to afford large-scale, professional printing much earlier in the game’s lifetime. We supporters of crowdfunded tabletop games get to play a part in this Cinderella story time and time again.

For those of you who are not familiar with this tabletop renaissance, hopefully this post has sparked some new interest.  You may find a few different types of games that are currently popular: party games that take little to no strategic skill but may rely heavily on comedy, quick wits, or knowledge of random facts; casual games that include a fair amount of chance but rely heavily on players to make good decisions with the ‘cards’ they are ‘dealt’; and then deep strategic games which rely heavily on the players knowledge, strategy, and problem solving skills to put forth a heavily calculated plan of execution. You also will find cooperative games that allow the collective to work on a common goal.

Here are some recent favorites from my shelf that I would recommend.

Carcassonne - Build your cities, roads, farms, and more with tile picking and careful meeple placement. Quick to pick up, great for younger crowds, can be thick with strategy if you want it to be.

Dominion - Maybe the strategically heaviest game on the list. Dominion is a deck building game with lots of expansions and variants.  This game holds a special place in my heart as it’s one of the first modern tabletop games that my touring friends introduced me to. And promptly kicked my butt at it.

Bang - Good for a bigger group as you take random pot-shots at your neighbors while trying to figure out everyone’s secret roles.  This style of game can spur people to be aggressive and it may not be fun for people that take games too seriously and personally.

Nevermore - Great for a large group without being a party game. Nevermore includes a very cool set of rules that allows people to continue to play even when they ‘die’.

Munchkin - Very silly with arguably loose rules. Many variants are available and the card art/flavor text is half the fun of the game. Content may not be appropriate for all ages.

Sushi Go - Moves quick and uses patterns that are easy for younger people to pick up and be competitive.  Drafting style game that may be familiar and comfortable for people that are used to playing deck-based games.

Ticket to Ride - My wife and I brought this along on our honeymoon road trip and played almost every single night.  Great gateway game into the new generation. Quick to learn though you won’t recognize your strategic shortcomings until the end of your first game, which means you’ll be eager to play a second time.

DC Deck Builder - Not one that I own personally but many of my touring friends travel with this game. Lot’s of variants and expansions and the rules get more complicated with the additions but the base game is easy to grasp for new players.

Happy new year and be a good sport!