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Cardboard Renaissance: Insights from Board Gaming

No longer a rainy-day pastime, board games are enjoying a huge resurgence of interest lately, a golden age of rich and engaging face-to-face entertainments driven by unique characteristics of design and publishing. As gamers have left Risk and Monopoly behind in favor of titles like Settlers of Catan (1995), Ticket to Ride (2004), and Bioshock Infinite (2013), the industry has seen an explosion of innovation and interest, with independent board game developers now pushing the envelope just as indie computer gamedevs have done. Yet the cardboard and computer game industries for the most part ignore one another, unless it’s to license a property across the divide. Join a panel of board game publishers for a deep dive into the cardboard renaissance, examining the important and revealing differences between tabletop and computer gaming, and looking at what both worlds have to learn from each other in terms of design, marketing, community-building and deeper ideas of fun.


  1. Taking the 30,000-foot view, let’s look at what’s driving the new renaissance in board gaming, and where it may be headed. Is it part of a broader return to analog entertainment of various kinds? How did we come to be so saturated with small publishers and board game Kickstarters vying for our limited attention? Is there room for more design and publishing talent? Or is the market just too small?
  2. What are the unique challenges in creating a fun and engaging board game, and some of the unique opportunities board games present -- especially those that may not fall into the skillset of an accomplished electronic game developer? How important is it that players are in the same room, as opposed to connected remotely to the same game? What can electronic game developers learn here that can help them raise their own games? And what role do computers have to play in the future of board gaming?
  3. Electronic game publishers are adept at using the Web to market games. But today's audience for board games lives on the Web as well. What lessons can board game publishers take from interactive marketing not just in gaming but across a range of industries? Is there a role for downloadable content in offline board gaming? Are there best practices in leveraging online community to drive offline engagement and player acquisition? Or does the board game industry even pay attention to these things?
  4. What are some of the unexpected differences between how people play a tabletop board game and how they play the same game on a computer screen? What adjustments to design need to be made to take account of these facts when porting a board game to computer, or vice versa? Is it even possible to create the same experience across such different media?
  5. Many board game publishers count sales of even 10,000 units as a big success. Is this a fault in the design and complexity of modern board games, is it the result of an over-saturated market, or is there an unexplored marketing opportunity that’s being missed by most publishers? Is the future of board gaming in big publishers with games in Target, or smaller designer-publishers with games on Kickstarter? Just how much room is there for the market to grow?



Mark Wallace, Actual Journalist, Shut Up & Sit Down

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