Chutes & Ladders is my earliest board game memory. I remember the game so vividly, but I donâ€™t Â 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 relativesâ€™. 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, itâ€™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 movieâ€”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 Â span of a few weeks, I had an unexpectedâ€”but funâ€”game night where I played Betrayal at House on the Hill and Resistance.
After playing the last two sessions, I decided Â 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 Â this whole other world that I never fully realized existed.
These designer board games are not your dadâ€™s board games: they have stronger themes and more rewarding mechanics. Thought is actually put behind designing the game and is Â also required when playing the game. Like video games, board games started simple but have recently transformed into a full hobby for adults, complete Â with conventions and rock star game designers that who have really interesting ideas.
The best way Iâ€™ve heard someone describe designer board games is â€œA board game, but for adults.â€ â€œAdultâ€ 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 doesnâ€™t do much for me.
The mention of video games is apropos because I am, first and foremost, a lover of video games. I donâ€™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 didnâ€™t know existed.
Thereâ€™s just something so much more tangible about board gamesâ€”aside from the obvious fact that you can physically touch parts of a board game compared to a digital game.
Since the â€˜90s, designer board games have slowly started a renaissance in the board game marketâ€”Catan, the first mainstream one, came out in â€˜95â€”and it only seems to be getting bigger.
Hopefully, nameless, shapeless reader, now you can grab a board and a friend and play something. Â I think itâ€™s why Iâ€™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.