Category: News

What the heck is a board game, anyway?

In my first post, I touched on the idea that what board games are these days is pretty far removed from what the cultural idea of board games is.  I mentioned board games without boards, which… like, is that even a board game, at that point? I mean, the word “board” is literally in the term “board game”. At that point, we’re just talking about “games”, surely?

And, yeah, kinda. There are three main factors in play: first, there’s a lot of crossover between people who like board games, tabletop RPGs, wargames, card games etc, so although we’re a “board game” group, we actually get lots of different people wanting to play lots of different things. Secondly, an increasing number of these sorts of games  fall under multiple of those categories (or none at all!); there is really clear dividing lines between RPGs, and wargames, and board games, etc etc etc. Finally, a lot of those individual terms are themselves pretty distant from what pops into people’s heads when they here them… Something like Aye, Dark Overlord! is technically a card game (in that it’s a game played with cards), but it feels far more like a fast and loose RPG than anything like the box of cards that it physically is, while X-Com is a board game and card game and  world-wide miniatures wargame, all at the same time.

I can’t do much to change the language. What I can do is help show just how wide the gulf between the word and the meaning is. To that end, lets look at some fun, genre-defying “board games” that stretch the term far beyond breaking point. Let’s see how far board games have come.

Board Game Cafes: new and closing

So good bye Alchemy on the Wardwick here in Derby. We still have one board game cafe, Games Knight left up at The Spot.

I was reflecting on Alchemy yesterday when I went into Treehouse, a new board game cafe in Sheffield. It was  a lovely space, light and airy, down a back street on the edge of the city centre. There was an impressive range of games well displayed. There was also an impressive number of people inside playing at midday. It came across as very professionally done but still it seems to be run by gamers for their community. The model was different Alchemy, tho perhaps more in keeping with other cafes. After 7pm at night and at the weekends you could not just have a drink. You have to pay the £5/ head cover charge but you do get use of the library and a table for 4 hours. At the other times it does operate as a normal cafe. We had a ask for a pass on paying to be able to have a hot drink as we didn’t have time to play and it was Sunday morning.

Only time will tell why Alchemy didn’t work. Derby has a lot of gamers. The size of the building was ambitious,  the food was very good, the range of beers less so. The marketing, promotion and decor seemed more a labour of love by enthusiasts than a hard headed commercial venture. The fact that you could play your own games for free down stairs was great for us with lots of games to take down. I wonder if it wasn’t so good for their revenue stream.

It would interesting to hear reflections on other cafes and also on Alchemy.