28 March 2015

Golden Age

People are fond of pointing out the 'golden age' of things. There was the golden age of comics, the golden age of cinema, the golden age of television, the golden age of aviation, and so on. Normally, a golden age is identified in retrospect. People who study a particular topic look at the history and say, 'Look at the innovations that were made during this historical time period. Look at the great people who made a difference in that time. That was the golden age of [insert topic here].'

Rarely does one get to identify a golden age whilst it is occurring.

But that's exactly what is happening with board games right now.

I remember as a young boy in the 80s, reading Games Magazine. I enjoyed solving the puzzles, doing cryptograms and rebuses and other word games and visual puzzles. But there was a section in the middle of each issue that I always skipped: board game reviews. That seemed silly to me.

Back in the 80s, board games included staples such as Monopoly and Scrabble, as well as party games like ScruplesPictionaryTrivial Pursuit, and Balderdash. Those were your options. I was familiar with a few games from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, which populated my grandparents' cabinets: games like Life or Payday. All of these were fairly simplistic. They may have had an interesting theme, but there wasn't a lot of meat to the mechanics. Roll some dice, move a pawn, draw a card, follow the instructions.

I'd heard of some very intense war games; games like PanzerBlitz, unappealing games with huge but flimsy paper maps rendered in exacting tactical detail, accompanied by hundreds of small cardboard squares loaded with numbers and a silhouette of a tank, and topped off with a thick and foreboding instruction manual. These sorts of games were not for the casual gamer; you had to really care about wargames to be interested in playing them.

So the idea of spending a lot of time analysing a new board game seemed kind of silly to me.

But games are so very different today. Not only has there been an explosion of games, with thousands upon thousands of different titles from which to choose, but the quality of those games has increased. The mechanics are better, the concepts are innovative and interesting, the components are beautiful. From the carefully crafted pre-painted miniatures in the X-Wings combat game to the lavishly illustrated cards in The Resistance. Board games now offer absolutely anything you could ask for. Sci-fi? Mystery? Comedy? Action? Suspense? Horror? Tactics? Skill? Strategy? Luck? All these and more.

I've talked about many different games here in the past. These cover long games and short games, games of strategy and games of chance, games in original settings and games based on existing franchises, games with complex rules and lots of pieces and games with simple rules and few parts.

Board games are really undergoing a renaissance right now. How lucky are we to be part of it? I promise you, your friendly local gaming store has shelves heaving with excellent games. If you aren't currently playing a lot of awesome board games, you need to change that. You don't know what you're missing.

That's it for this week. I'll see you again next time right here. Until then,

Game on!

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