In a world so dominated by technology, which is continually advancing, the humble board game industry is evolving at an even faster pace. Board games have become more popular than ever thanks to a range of modern technological advancements from the ability to fund independent game ideas to the inclusion of apps and online interactions in gameplay.

Gone are the days, when board gaming was just a hobby and making full-time income designing games was a pipe dream. With the recent Kickstarter campaign where Exploding Kittens has raised close to $9 million – the gates of opportunities have never been more open. According to the PR Newswire, the global board game market is predicted to exceed $12 billion by the year 2023.

People have now realized that on top of being fun, playing tabletop games comes with some health and life-improving benefits. They are a good exercise for the brain and while they can get quite tense (ask the designated banker in Monopoly), they actually decrease stress!

But, how did they come to be and what is the actual board game history? Let’s go a couple of thousands of years back in time.

According to oxford university and public domain, the first signs of board games track back 7000 years.

Similar discoveries have been made in regions around the Nile, suggesting that the origin of the oldest board games begins somewhere in the Middle East. The original dice were made from a variety of materials including wood, stones and even carved knuckle bones. Some games involved painted sticks that would be flipped similarly to the way we use dice, so it’s safe to say that the concept behind dice games is where it all began.

As time went on, the materials used for dice became more refined and even extravagant. The six-sided dice we are familiar with began in the Roman times and were made of materials like glass, marble, and ivory.

what is the oldest board game you may think. Here is oxford university press - pictures of ancient dice

Senet – The games of the Gods (3100 BC)

At around the 3000 BC mark, board games began to take on a spiritual element in the eyes of those who played them. It started with the pharaohs in Ancient Egypt who played a game called Senet, the oldest board game known to us today. It was the board game played with counters and throw sticks that featured three rows of ten squares and a range of figures, or pawns. The game was used by the rich due to it being discovered in the ancient tombs of Egypt and being depicted in the drawings. At the same time, the actual rules of gameplay are still unclear.

The ancient Egyptians believed that the Gods Ra, Thoth, and Osiris protected those who would win the game and it is mentioned in the Book of the Dead (Chapter XVII to be exact). The game of Senet is available in modern versions today with rules that have been assumed or adapted.

what was the first game known to humanity? - Ancient egyptian game senet discovered in egyptian tombs

Another board game from around the same period which was given a spiritual connection is the game of Mehen. Once again the rules of the game are unclear, but the board itself is based around the God Mehen a giant serpent who wrapped itself around the God of Sun – Ra.

The closest we have come to understand the gameplay is thanks to an Arab game called Hyena which is believed  to be very similar to Mehen. In this game, players have six marbles and a one lion figure. With the use of stick dice players moves along the outer edge of the board towards the center in a race. Once a player hits the center, they reverse and head back to the start, once they get there, the lion piece is activated which is used to capture the opponent’s marble pieces, almost like an early Pac-man!

as depicted in illustrations from ancient egyptian graves - game mehen was played by the higher society

The Royal Game of Ur (1650 BC)

The longest game known to us that is still being played is The Royal Game of Ur. The rules of the game were found, carved into an ancient stone tablet. Played with two different sets, one black and one white, the game features seven markers and three tetrahedral dice.

the game of ur is one of the very few from BC period of century of research

This two-player strategy race board game is equal parts strategy and luck. It was first played in ancient Mesopotamia and was also given a spiritual significance as it was believed to reflect a player’s future. The Game of Ur eventually evolved into what we know today as backgammon.

And then there was Backgammon (2000 BC)

Between the Royal Game of Ur and a game played during the Roman Empire known as “game of twelve markings” are believed to have been the beginnings of what we now know as Backgammon. The game appears to have very similar rules, save a few modern tweaks, and dates back to 2000 BC.

An alternative version is that Backgammon has originated in ancient Persia around 5000 BC, but lack of evidence makes it hard to make that a statement.

backgammon originated in old mesopotamia which is modern day iraq

What we do know, however, is that Backgammon has eventually become a big hit in the mid-1960s. Eventually, Prince Alexis Obolensky, would popularise the game and receive the title “The Father of Modern Backgammon.” The official rules for the game, that we use today, were established after Prince Obolensky created the International Backgammon Association and the World Backgammon Club of Manhattan. It was here that the first biggest backgammon tournament in the world would take place in 1963.

Backgammon is a game for two players, with a board that features twenty-four triangles called points. These points are grouped into four sections which make up the home board and outer board. The points are numbered with the outermost point being the highest. Each player has fifteen checkers and a pair of dice, the object of the game is to move all your checkers to your own home section and then get rid of them. The first player to get rid of all of their checkers wins.

oldest chess game recorded (1300 BC)

Around 1300 BC a strategy game called Ludus Latrunculorum was widely plated throughout the Roman Empire. Similar to, but far more complicated than, chess, the game resembled real military tactics of the era.

ludus was popular during the roman times of prosperity

This is the first known insurgence of military strategy in the gaming world. Based on a checkerboard, the game’s concept revolves around capturing your opponents’ pieces by using two of your own to corner them.

Many believe that Ludus Latrunculorum was further refined to a simpler version of what we know now as Chess. The games appear to be using similar board, concept and pawn pieces. At the same time, no solid proof exists and some see both games as not related.

Snakes and Ladders (200 AD)

As far as the famous board games we know and play today go, it may surprise you that Snakes and Ladders (aka Chutes and Ladders) has been around for centuries. A version of Snakes and Ladders is known to go back as far as 200 BC as an Indian kids game that teaches about mortality and the difference between good and evil.

going down represents a snake eating the player, but going up represents climbing a ladder

Put simply, making your way up the ladders was good, being eaten by a snake and sliding all the way back down though, evil. Makes sense.

When the British landed in India, the game spread through the Western culture like wildfire and was eventually made mainstream in 1943 by US company Milton Bradley. In fact, Snakes and Ladders is one of few board games from India that have made it to the current times and received global adoption.

The Road to Chess (400 – 600 AD)

The history of Chess is probably one of the most fascinating and one of the longest in making, partly because there are a number of known ancient board games similar to chess. History shows that around 400 AD there was an ancient Germanic and Celtic family of games, one of which was a strategic game called Tafl. The game is still considered as one of the most influential medieval board games on what we know as chess today.

The checkered wooden game board had two opposing armies painted in different colors. The layout, size and a specific number of figures vary across cultures, but there is always a common denominator: one army being twice as big as the other one and the king-piece. The objective of the game was to help the King escape to board sides while being chased and captured.

It was initially thought that these games were created to mimic attacks from Vikings which is why the attacking force was given the advantage to kick things off. Further evidence suggests that Tafl was often found in places Vikings have often traveled to. Over time, Tafl could be found in most countries of Northern Europe.

There is a strong historical correlation that Tafl has gone through a moderate iteration around the 6th century AD which has resulted in Chaturanga – an Indian strategy board game of the Gupta Empire. The name of the game translates as ‘four divisions’ and represents chariotry, infantry, elephantry, and cavalry, which later become rook, pawn, bishop and knight in the modern chess.

Chaturanga was eventually brought to Persia around 600 AD, where it was given a European makeover called Chess. Muslim traders spread the game via European seaports into Western Europe and Russia. The rules were tweaked and varied along the way a number of times until in 1475 when the first chess book was printed. The rules have solidified into the rules we know today and have not been changed since. The simpler, modern version of Chess allowed pawns to move two squares on their first move while making the queen the most powerful piece.

There multiple board games like chess which makes it hard to track the origins and precisely when chess was invented

Chess continues to be one of the most widely respected board game that is considered a way to improve the self. It was even taught in schools in the past. Today traditions carry via Chess Clubs, and prestigeous world tournaments.

And what about the kids? (500 AD)

You may have noticed that so far all of these games have been aimed at adults! What did the kids do during all of this time? Well, it wasn’t until about 500 BC until kids got their turn.

The catch is that they didn’t really get a board game, they got hopscotch, which is known to be the oldest game for kids. To be fair, they probably had more energy to burn than adults, so it makes sense they get something more physically active.

Hop-Scotch was played in the Roman era where rules were very similar to the game we know today. The first player throws a marker into the first square, and if it lands within the boundaries, you hop the course, minus that square.

The first iteration of the game, based on early English translations was “scotch-hop,” and somewhere along the line, we flipped it to the more aesthetically pleasing and marketable, hopscotch.

roman children playing hopscotch

Dominoes (1100 AD)

Another game popularised in 18th Century France was Dominoes. While it is not precisely known where and when was the game invented, many historians agree that it was invented in China around 1100 AD. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century before the game has landed on the European continent. Its rapid growth in popularity the game has achieved when it was brought from Italy to France.

The French even created a puzzle version of the game for which players had to place tiles over a pattern. Dominoes made its way over to Britain in the late 18th Century and then spread all over the world, finding particular popularity in Latin America.

checkers or draughts is the same thing, one is in US and the other one is in UK English

Another early version of Dominoes was played by the Inuits in North America who used tiles made from bones, but it is believed to be an imitation of the Western version as opposed to creation by the Inuits.

Checkers (1100 AD)

Checkers (also known as Draughts) has some archaeological evidence that claims it was played as early as 3000 BC. At the same time, the board and pieces seem to significantly differ to what we know the modern checkers to be. Unfortunately, no description of the rules has been found, hence the correlation is only hypothetical.

An Egyptian game called Alquerque, however, is much similar to the checkers we know today and can be traced as far back as 1400 BC with the French deciding to finally place the game on a chess board around the year 1100 AD.

checkerboard type and chess draughts were first played on a barrel

The game and the current rules eventually found their way to England and America, and in 1847 the first checkers world championship was played. It was also one of the first games to go digital! Right before World War II when computers were in a rudimentary stage of development, a man named Alan Turing created a basic checkers game for the computer that required paper calculations to assist.

Variants of Pachisi (1600 AD)

Another popular modern game with early beginnings is Pachisi, also known as Parcheesi, Parchisi, Parchisi, and others, which was the National Game of India.

The name and game centers around the number twenty-five, the highest score you can get.

The roots have been traced as far back as the 16th Century as it was played by The Indian Emperor Akbar I of the Mogul Empire.

chess pachisi and chaupar originated in india

Go (1612 AD)

Go is another game where the origins aren’t entirely known. The guess is that it has originated in China around 3,000-4,000 years ago. At the same time, it could be one of the ancient Japanese board games played in the 17th century. It is known that since 1612 the Shogun ran Go competitions and gave awards to the strongest Go players of the country.

a debate if go has originated in japan or china is still active

Despite its increasing popularity in Japan, Go didn’t hit Europe until 1880 when Oskar Korschelt published a book about the game. It has since made a name for itself with a European Championship being established in 1957. Today you can find a fair bit of discussion online about the game as well as being able to play it with people all over the world. There are various servers that allow the game to be played over long periods.

Shogi (1700 AD)

A Japanese version of Chess called Shogi also popped up in the 18th Century. Ko Shogi which translates to “broad chess” features a large-board and was apparently created by the Japanese Confucian scholar Ogyū Sorai.

shogi resemble chess or at least a development of early chess vesrions

The game is played on a much smaller 7×7 board using the drop rule. The idea here is that a player will take five pawns, toss them on the board and if the number of pawns facing up is higher than down pawns, the opposing player gets the first move.

Mahjong (1880 AD)

Mahjong is believed to have its roots well into 550 BC in the provinces of Kiangsu, Anhwei, and Checking. The first historical record, however, dates back to the end of the 19th century. It is also known that the early 20th century has seen a steep rise in popularity of Mahjong where it became more widely played than Chess.

The idea of the game is quite simple – you have four wind tiles, laid face down ready for four players to draw them. When drawing, you can keep or discard the tiles you want in order to create a winning combination in your hand. The discarded tiles, however, can be picked up by other players to complete their winning combinations.

famous game in ancient china and ancient cultures

To win at Mahjong, a player (most often) needs to achieve four sets and a pair from their tiles. There are many winning conditions between different versions of the game, but purists say the rules from the 1920s are the ones to follow.

The slight difference here is he played with human pieces on large marble courts while sitting on a platform in the center. He also used women dressed in corresponding colors to move around the board.

Agon (1872 AD)

Along with variations of Chess, Checkers, and Backgammon, a number of other board games began to spring up around the European Renaissance like Dominoes.

The printing press provided the next step in game evolution with the ability to add themes and subjects. One example of this is the game, Agon, known as the Game of The Hexagons.

Agon is a strategy game played on a hexagonal 6×6×6 game board, and it was first played in France in the late eighteenth century with first official mention in 1872.

The rules were simple, but the strategy could be quite involved, so they appealed to a wide variety of people and grew quickly in popularity.

agon is made on ouija board so playing the board game feels warm and welcome

The idea behind the game is to protect a queen with six guards. Players begin at the edge of the board and take turns moving a piece one space in any direction. If a piece is caught between two enemies, it is captured. To win the game, your queen must make its way to the central space with the six guards in the adjacent spaces.

Another game, popular in France around the same time was called Conspirateurs. A two or four player strategy game that is similar to Chinese Checkers with pieces that jump the enemy in a race to a particular destination.

The Landlord’s Game (1903)

From the early versions of board games discussed above, the concept was evolving and becoming more popular. In fact, as early as 1903, new games like The Landlord’s Game has started to arise.

A lady named Lizzie Magie became one of America’s first board game designers with the release of The Landlord’s Game. The board consisted of a square track that had properties around the outside for players to buy. Sounds vaguely familiar? The game also had four railroads, utilities, a jail, and a corner that players scored $100 each time they passed.

Magie invented board games and the board game monopoly is over 100 years old now!

Recognize it yet? Yep, The Landlord’s Game would eventually become Monopoly after Magie sold the patent to The Parker Brothers in 1935. The interesting thing is, The Parker Brothers originally refused to buy the game; now it is their greatest success and one of the most popular board games in the world.

Magie has originally designed the game to demonstrated the concept of land grabbing and its principles to make it easier for people to understand. The game was based on Georgism, a system in which rent benefits property owners and financially disadvantages tenants. Maggie wanted children to play the game to see how unfair and easy it is for the rich to get richer. Because Monopoly did so well, The Parker Brothers were able to fund other games like Risk and Trivial Pursuit; they bought the original patent for $500.

The Fruitful Board Game Age (1949-1959)

Throughout the timeline, there have been some games that have made a more significant impact than others, and have maintained their popularity to this current day. Some of these titles include have been produced in the middle of the last century and have heavily influenced the board game development for decades to come.

The first board game that is still played today actively is Clue, also known as Cluedo outside of the United States. The board game represents and murder mystery challenge where players move from room to room in a mansion to solve the mystery of: who done it, with what, and where? It was released after World War II in 1949 in both the USA and the UK and was initially called Murder! Clue earned a spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2017 with the original creator of the game selling the rights to Waddington for a mere 5,000 pounds. 

game cluedo is modern invention about finding out who, where and with what has committed a crime

Almost a decade later, in 1959, the board game Risk comes out, which has later become one of the longest running board game series and the most sold war games in the world. It is believed that in its first year, the board game sold more than 100,000 copies. 

game of risk with wooden game pieces is one of the oldest games still being printed

In addition, in the 1950s the Parker Brothers in conjunction with the French Miro Company worked on a game designed by Albert Lamorisse, the writer of a movie called The Red Balloon. Originally titled The Risk Continental Game and later retitled Risk: the Game of Global Domination the latest version was released in 2008 to commemorate the journey of the game with a reproduction of the original 1959 version.

Lastly, Diplomacy, also known as “the game that ruins friendships” was released the same year and still has a devoted and active fan base. The game is similar to Risk; it’s geo-strategy with players trying to capture supply centers and build their armies. At the same time, it adds a twist where you can negotiate, create pacts and betray other players.

diplomacy is a military strategy game about domination, negotiation and tactics

The Phenomenon of role-playing games (1974)

A hugely popular evolution of the board game is the role-playing board game. The game that kicked this sub-scene into overdrive is a household name; Dungeons & Dragons, with a slew of variations that have followed.

Role-playing games are around forty years old. Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974, with various genres of single player and multiplayer boards and computer games following. The main idea behind roleplaying is that you and your friends sit around a table with pens, paper, and dice, and embark on an imagined world of fantasy. 

D&D is a modern invention of roleplaying

The rise of Dungeons & Dragons

A board game with no board and no cards that would start a massive wave of imagination-led entertainment, Dungeons & Dragons involves characters such as elves, dwarves, and gnomes along with a single Dungeon Master, who runs the game and describes the world the players are delving into. Dice are used to determine the outcome in a game that is open-ended and malleable to make for a new adventure each time it is played.

In the seventies and eighties, those who played the game were considered closet case geeks who spent their time creating maps in basements it was even shunned by various Christian moralists’ who claimed players were dabbling in witchcraft. The popularity rose and fell but a consistent cult following was always present.

Later, in 2014, a fifth edition of the rules came out and for some unexplained reason, popularity skyrocketed. Therapists even began using the game to get troubled kids to open up, and children with autism are encouraged to play D&D to develop social skills. It is also hugely popular with adults, Drew Barrymore and Vin Diesel claim they are regular players and constant D&D nights are held as stress relief in Silicon Valley.

Types of role-playing games

There are four different types of role-playing games determined by medium, means, and scale:

  1. Pen-and-paper roleplaying games: The oldest form which simply uses pens and papers to keep track of the game. They involve character sheets with locations mapped out on paper while being played around the table and are told rather than enacted. Players play a character by describing what they can do or say with dice to determine the way the game will go.
  2. Live-action roleplay: Using a larger group of people the games and characters are physically acted out, often with dress up. They are also location-based, this could be a forest or warehouse, and big ones can often have a hundred or more players for games that run over a whole weekend.
  3. Computer role-playing games: Often computer adaptations of pen-and-paper games and usually single player, however, the internet has made term roleplaying games far easier.
  4. Massively multiplayer role-playing games (MMORPGs): A relatively new form of roleplaying in which thousands of players connect to a server and enter a fictional world to run missions and set-up communities.

Game of the Year Awards (1978)

You know that a movement is picking up speed when it gets its own awards show, and in 1978 the “Oscars of Board Games” was created. The Spiel des Jahres began in Germany to be the most prestigious award for board and card games in the world. Translated as “The Game of the Year,” German game critics decided to hold the event annually to see who the best of the best really is! 

over 50 years board games have been awarded spiel des jahres title

The awards were to originally created to reward excellence in board game design and to promote board games on the local market. It has been known to increase game sales for the winner to around 300,000 to 500,000 copies. Since its original intention, the event has spread globally and is now recognized by non-German speaking countries too.

Some of the bigger name games that have won The Spiel Des Jahres include CamelUp, Dominion, Codenames, Dixit and many more.

To figure out who wins the prize, games are assessed in several categories:

  1. The originality of concept and playability
  2. The rules, structure, and comprehensibility
  3. The layout of the box and board
  4. Overall design functionality

The judges, or ‘jury’ as they call themselves, consist of critics from German-speaking countries who work as journalists that focus on board games. They must be employed by German-language media, even though they volunteer their services to the awards. New admissions, usually of colleagues, are decided by vote and anyone involved in games design, production or marketing cannot become a jury member.

The World of Warhammer (1987)

Warhammer is a tabletop game of fantasy battles with a detailed and elaborate story/universe around it.

It puts players in command of armies that feature elves, orcs, and various other monsters via miniature plastic models with different stats and abilities.

With Warhammer you maneuver your figures over set distances using rulers and engage in combat by rolling dice.

The game has evolved over several editions, with rule changes and new players along the way. You may have walked past a Games Workshop store, and seen people playing board games over massive Warhammer battlegrounds that are set up in the shop.

The first edition of Warhammer came out in 1987 and was titled, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader.

warhammer 40000 has given a start to one of he most successful fantasy games

This game set-up the Warhammer 40k Universe and its rules were heavily influenced by Dungeons and Dragons. There were eleven books released around the time of the game which formed the first iteration of a codex. In 1993 the second edition was published which included a starter box and the books “Codex Imperialis,” “Wargear,” and “Codex Army Lists” giving a background for the universe.

The Warhammer universe was ended recently with an in-game event called the End Times. This led to a new incarnation of the game titled Warhammer: Age of Sigmar which was a total overhaul of the game’s rules and background.

Card Game Explosion (1993)

The 90s and early 2000s have seen a rapid growth of card games which have mainly been pioneered by first Magic: The Gathering and later Dominion.

In 1991, a company called Wizards of the Coast set out to create a portable game that people could play in line at conventions and on the go. This is when the first version of Magic: The Gathering was born. It debuted in 1993, and became one of the most popular board games of the decade, quite quickly.

It has later featured a tournament system known as the DCI, the first of its kind, created to help manage stats and rules.

Later, in 2002 Magic Online has hit gaming consoles with players dulling AI opponents while interacting with physical cards.

history of board games and what are board game pieces called

Following up on Magic’s success, the classic deck builder game Dominion was released. Dominion is classed as a deck-building card game very similar to, and influenced by, Magic: The Gathering. Dominion is started as a 90-card fan-made extension for Magic that eventually developed into its own, very popular universe. By 2016, over 2.5 million copies of Dominion and its various expansions had been sold around the world.

The Settlers of Catan (1995)

In the 90s the popularity of board gaming hit a peak, just before the internet stole its thunder. The Settlers of Catan is the perfect example of a board game (besides Monopoly) that reached a widespread audience. The game went worldwide, being translated to more than thirty languages.

As the name of the game explains, the goal is to settle an island called Catan with the game board making up the island with hexagonal tiles. We seem to love games where we can acquire land or properties as each player rolls a dice to try and buy land to build roads and settlements. One of the unique things about the game is that it encourages the players to bend the rules a little. Each game allows the participants to create their own agreements for trading and purchases.

A game where you are based on an island build settlements. first board game to hit such a success in 90's

The Washington Post once called The Settlers of Catan “The board game of our time,” and the popularity of the game was explored in a documentary called ‘Going Cardboard.’

The fun part of Catan’s story is the inventor, Klaus Teuber. There are very few people who design games and make a living from it; in fact, it’s usually someone’s hobby which happens to catch a big break and become popular. This was certainly the case for Teuber who was originally a dental technician in Germany who designed games for fun and stress relief from work. Teuber is now a board game superstar and is considered royalty when he attends gaming conventions. The reason why Teuber and Catan struck such an important chord in the world of board games, is they revealed an appetite for games that moved outside of the standard set-ups and rules of the time. Catan showed that board games could be a little more involved, and people were very hungry for it.

The Internet and Technology’s Impact

It seemed as though board games were having a great run when the internet has opened its doors for online gaming. At that time, board games were already in strong competition with the colossal rise and advancements in video game consoles, but the internet blew it out of the water.

However, it wasn’t as bad as may appear at first. For all of the attention, the internet stole from board games, it has later created a sense of nostalgia we mentioned in the introduction for “analog gaming.”

Board games became social hobbies, and it is somewhat ironic that their competition would come from an interactive web that created new social aspects in our community. Today, most of the board games we know and love can be played on an iPad against people in another country, albeit a very different experience to playing face-to-face.

In addition, one of the key advantages the internet has given the gaming world is the ability for multiple players to play online together. Pre-internet you likely played with your select group of friends or family and if they were unavailable – no game. Today, it’s easier than ever to find players, and there are plenty of forums on sites like meetup.com that connect board games players both virtually and in the real world.

BoardGameGeek (2000)

Boardgamegeek was originally designed as an online forum for board gamers and has since become a global online community for anything board games related. You can ask for recommendations, clarify rules and discuss strategy tips for games to name a few.

The website also holds the biggest boards game collection hosting over 101 000 tabletop or board games ever made. Players can rate the games and influence the overall board game ranking.

Kickstarter Era (2009)

Another significant impact that technology and the internet have had in the timeline of board games is the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. As we mentioned earlier, most board game creators are doing it for love, as a hobby, and it can be hard to fund the release of a game when you don’t know how well it will sell. Enter, Kickstarter.

Let’s use the game Alien Frontiers as our case study. Alien Frontiers started out on Kickstarter; the idea was proposed online with people having the opportunity to help fund its creation. The game raised enough funds for a print run and became very successful.

The way it worked on Kickstarter was with people pledging a base amount, which would get them a copy of the game, but there would also be promotional incentives for those who wanted to offer and get, a little more. This changes the game (pun intended) and allows designers to gauge interest and raise capital before printing games that may or may not sell. The good thing about all Kickstarter campaigns is their expiration date. If the game isn’t funded by a set date, the participants have their pledges returned.

Another excellent example of Kickstarter success is the Conan the Barbarian board game which was put on Kickstarter with a goal of $80,000. It hit the target within five minutes. It raised a total of $3,327,757. Mind-blowing.

All of this is a good thing, avid gamers have a chance to pitch their idea to the masses, and the public gets an opportunity to experience a host of games that otherwise may never have moved out of someone’s hobby room.

Board game web series (2013)

The final technological impact in the world of board games began in 2013 and really helped bring popularity back to board games. Wil Wheaton, the guy from Star Trek and occasionally The Big Bang Theory TV show decided to create a board game review show on YouTube called TableTop. Each episode has Wil Wheaton playing board games with various celebrities in a semi-podcast discussion/board game review format.

Tabletop also decided to run a crowdfunding campaign to become an independent operation with a target of $500,000 which they tripled. With the funds, they decided to launch a second show called “Titan’s Grave: The Ashes of Valcana.” This show will focus on the role-playing board game, which is the perfect way to lead into a discussion about the phenomenon of role-playing board games!

Legacy Board Games (2011)

The evolution of board gaming currently sits with legacy games, games that are designed to change over the course of a number of sessions.

Although it was Risk Legacy that has paved the legacy concept in board games, it was Pandemic Legacy that has exploded the legacy board games scene with Season 1 getting released in October 2015. Both games were co-designed by Rob Daviau as he invented board games since year 2000, but it was Pandemic Legacy that made him one of the most successful board game designers in history. The game has since redefined the perception of what a legacy board game is.

Pandemic Legacy is currently on of the most modern board games on the market with current game mechanics and up to date design

Matt Leacock, the second designer, had the necessary leverage to promote the game and Pandemic has quickly received critical and commercial acclaim. It evolved with expansions and spin-offs as people fell in love with the board game that changed every time they played it.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 has amassed dozens of board game awards and nominations and has managed to rocket to the first spot on Board Game Geek chart in record time to become the best game in the world.

The Future of Board Games

Considering the board games today and how far they have come, it is a safe assumption that they will continue to integrate with technology and remain a firm staple in the entertainment spectrum. This is best exemplified at events such as at Gen Con 50, gatherings at which industry insiders and amateur hobbyists get to have a sneak peek into the future of board gaming.

There are more board game cafes, shops, websites and events than the industry has ever seen. Also, the current trend suggest that new board games are set to be released more often in the future heating up a healthy competition in the market. With all the right indicators in place, the popularity of board games is set to continue its strong trajectory as we enter the golden age of board gaming. 

Digital integration

An example of how board games and technology will likely continue to intertwine is the game Beasts Of Balance, an animal stacking game that uses an iPad app to meld a physical game of balance and a digital animal cross-breeding puzzle.

Mansions Of Madness is another excellent example of a physical board game that works with an integrated companion app. In fact, the app integration has only been released with a second edition and has drastically improved the gameplay and player interaction. 

If you were looking for the game with good mobile app integration - Mansion of Madness has the digital board game background!

The idea of including apps and other digital elements is not new; however, it has been few and far between in the past as apps are expensive. But as the interconnected world of the internet is making everything more competitive, developers are looking to apps and digital components to stand out from the crowd.

3D printing

The transformative effect 3D printing is a natural next step for the physical board game. The production of board games, their miniatures and components will benefit significantly from 3D printing which can print smaller runs for cheaper, as opposed to needing large scale creation of figurines for games like Warhammer.

Gaming all over the world

An exciting inclusion at Gen Con is the annual Kenyan Board Games Con, which is the largest West African board games gathering in history. This shows positive growth for the board game community, uniting all parts of our diverse world.

As board game events spread beyond the European and North American continents, in which they were almost exclusive, tabletop gaming gains new perspective and insights. International companies are now entering untouched markets which are likely to lead to new board game mechanics, ideas, concepts, and tabletop games innovation in general.

The result is beneficial for anyone who enjoys cracking out the board game, sitting around the table with friends and family and having some good old-fashioned fun. May board games be a staple of our everyday household, game on!