How designer board games won my heart

Chutes & Ladders is my earliest board game memory. I remember the game so vividly, but I don’t  recall where I used to play it. In some memories, I see myself playing it at my old Catholic school or at home or at my relatives’. I just remember playing a ton and having a lot of fun.

I can recall the frustration of going down a chute and the rewarding feeling of going up a ladder. Those were the two things I remember from the game because, well, those are the only two things that take place in Chutes & Ladders. Looking back on it, the game is ridiculously simple. In terms of complication, it’s probably not great that the title describes the whole game.

My family mostly bonds by going out or eating together. Playing board games was not a family activity at my house. I heard about board games, but never really played them. There was Monopoly, which I played half a game of during high school, and then there was Clue, which is an amazing movie””oh, is it a board game too? I did play a gross amount of Mancala because my family stayed at a beach house for two summers.

Then, in college, I ventured out and tried to make friends from different groups. I was introduced to Settlers of Catan, Munchkin and Telestration by some people during an Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) game night. I played a couple esoteric, foreign board games with some friends of a friend. I thought these games were cool but they just seemed like toys or novelties.

Then last year happened. I got the opportunity to play some Settlers of Catan (again) and Pandemic in ACM. Also, I ended up playing Settlers of Catan (again, again) and Lords of Waterdeep in my game design class (plug to Dr. Delwiche). In the  span of a few weeks, I had an unexpected””but fun””game night where I played Betrayal at House on the Hill and Resistance.

After playing the last two sessions, I decided  to look up all these games after I got home. Down I went into the rabbit hole of designer board games, and farther down I went into owning and collecting designer board games.

Admittedly, I am not yet an expert in this field, but I still want to attempt to tell you a little bit about  this whole other world that I never fully realized existed.

These designer board games are not your dad’s board games: they have stronger themes and more rewarding mechanics. Thought is actually put behind designing the game and is  also required when playing the game. Like video games, board games started simple but have recently transformed into a full hobby for adults, complete  with conventions and rock star game designers that who have really interesting ideas.

The best way I’ve heard someone describe designer board games is “A board game, but for adults.” “Adult” in this scenario does not mean Cards Against Humanity, which is only fun for a game or two because people with social filters decide that, hey, they can be racist, sexist and generally awful behind these fill-in-the-blank cards. Personally, I am already racist, sexist and generally awful, so the game doesn’t do much for me.

The mention of video games is apropos because I am, first and foremost, a lover of video games. I don’t want to say I was raised by video games, but it has remained a constant presence in my life while board games have scratched an itch that I didn’t know existed.

There’s just something so much more tangible about board games””aside from the obvious fact that you can physically touch parts of a board game compared to a digital game.

Since the “˜90s, designer board games have slowly started a renaissance in the board game market””Catan, the first mainstream one, came out in “˜95″”and it only seems to be getting bigger.

Hopefully, nameless, shapeless reader, now you can grab a board and a friend and play something.  I think it’s why I’ve fallen for board games now and not before. Playing with a friend is how board games really shine. You share an experience in a local space that amplifies every aspect of the game.