Tips for hosting a board-game party and great games for all types of players.
We are in the golden age of board games.
At least Kyle Engen, founder of the Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery, thinks so. So does Matthew Hudak, toys and games analyst with Euromonitor International.
“It’s something that has been bubbling up for years now, but 2016 was the most influential year for board games,” Hudak says. “It’s massive. There were more than 5,000 board games introduced into the U.S. market last year.”
According to Hudak, traditional board games are still the bulk of the market, but hobby board games, designed for adults, pushed the category’s growth to the next level. “It’s become a new go-to social activity,” he says.
There’s plenty of speculation about who or what is driving the boom— video games, the Internet, millennials preferring to socialize at home — but Barry Rozas, a lawyer from Louisiana who moonlights as a board-game reviewer, says it comes down to one thing: “Today’s games are better.”
Rozas, a veteran gamer who created the blog Board Game Gumbo to share his passion for hobby games, credits creative game designers with getting people excited about board games again. Some of his favorites for beginners include Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Pandemic.
“Very few people ask me for Candy Land anymore,” says Kathleen Donahue, owner of Labyrinth, a game shop in Washington, D.C. “People come in and say, ‘I’ve been playing Pandemic lately and I love it. Do you have any other recommendations?’”
One of this year’s biggest sellers, Codenames, is a perfect party game, Donahue says. “Everyone who came to my Christmas Eve dinner loved it,” she says. “My stepson, my mom, my college roommate, my 10-year-old son.”
Which leads her to one of the other benefits of incorporating a board game into your next gathering: “Games give that framework to interact with people in an easy manner,” Donahue says. “The rules have already been set up, so you can be in a social situation and relate to people on a non-superficial level without being too serious.”
If you or your guests haven’t opened a game box since middle school, there are a few common pitfalls to avoid, Rozas says.
“Have a set time,” he says. “I remember the first time I planned a game night, some of the participants were worried. They pictured the old Dungeons & Dragons days when we played for 12 hours.”
Rozas also recommends sending out the rules or a link to a YouTube instruction video ahead of the game night.
And who knows: Once you get going, you might just make board game night a regular occurrence.
“Every Thursday night, I play games, and it’s a time I don’t have to think or worry about anything,” Donahue says. “Once people start that, they don’t want to give it up.”