4 Reasons your Friends Don’t Want to Play Board Games
From the time I was about 11 years old to now my brother has hated board games. And throughout my teen years and early twenties, when I got heavier into board games, I couldn’t understand why. It doesn’t matter if it is a sibling, a friend or a partner. I think we have always wondered about these people in our lives.
In the last year I had reached out to my brother and made a concerted effort to figure out his aversion to board games. I tried, where I could, to bridge the gap. Board gaming is something I enjoy immensely. And it’s something I love to share with everyone I know (hence a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel).
One night, when he and my sister in-law were visiting, he had spotted a game I had set out and suggested trying it out. The game was King of Tokyo. A game that is unanimously praised as one of the best gateway games for the hobby.
We ended up having a blast. My sister in-law ended up winning the game by points. Taking the game 20-18 with my brother in second. The whole thing went over extremely well. We made jokes regarding special abilities monsters were getting (like the fire breathing bunny in mech armor), and swore grudges against other monsters as we were getting kicked out of Tokyo.
The whole experience really made me think. What was it that had soured my brother on board games? Or for that matter, what sours anyone on board games? I decided to delve into the topic. We can help others find the same joy in the hobby if we understand what turns them off in the first place.
4 Reasons your Friends Don’t Want to Play Board Games
1. They were introduced to the hobby through mass market board games
For some reason every child under the age of 12 is introduced to mass market game by their parents. If you don’t know what mass market games are you can take a look at my previous post “Stop Buying These Board Games” where I talk about it at length. These games like Sorry, Trouble, or Candy Land introduce children to the premise of board games as a way to fill time.
Mass market games have no value. You can quote me on that. The average mass market game has you roll a die (or spin a spinner) and see what happens. No decision making, no communication between players, no memory use, or even basic math. It’s just roll a die and see what happens.
You play enough of these games (as they are literally hundreds of them on the market) and you might begin to think that’s all there is to board games. At that point it is almost understandable to hate board games. I mean if for 5 years all I played was mass market games I probably wouldn’t be in the hobby. Or I would have started a lot later anyway.
2. It is pretty hard to learn to play them
In the past I had touched on some of the best example of rule book design. But with that, there are also some really bad examples (Roll for the Galaxy I’m looking at you). And it is these rules that make it so hard for many people to get into board games. If you go to your FLGS, spend $50 on a game, and get it home only to find out it’s going to take another hours or so to figure out how to play it.
Recently I recommended the game Mansions of Madness 2nded to my cousin who recently got into board gaming. I hadn’t though much of it until I received a call a few weeks later when he was complaining how hard it was to setup. Apparently he had waited until his guests for the evening to arrive to open the box and start setting up it 20+ miniatures and 5+ boards of punch out tokens. The call was all in good fun, but he had a point. It is generally hard to play board games. It isn’t like video games which teach you how to play through progressive play.
To play board games you have to understand the mechanics behind the game. There isn’t a computer in the background processing the algorithms for you. Even with Mansions of Madness’s app there is still a ton you as the player have to do yourself.
Luckily we are now in the age of Youtube where experienced gamers are filming how to play videos like Rhado Runs Through Games, Watch it Played, and even my budding Youtube channel The Screaming Brain! They just need to become more main stream so others can find them.
3. There is a pretty rough stigma around “gamers”
It’s easy to get pushed out of the hobby or gain a strong distaste for it when you look at the stigma around gamers. We all know the classic image of the super overweight, smelly, greasy haired weirdo, living in his parent’s basement eating Cheetos. South Park even game the stereotype a visualization in their episode several years back about the World of Warcraft nerd. We knew the joke was all in good fun, but the image certainly didn’t do anything to help our image.
I first entered the tabletop gaming hobby with D&D. Back then a lot of us used D&D as an entry point. The stigma was so strong that when I began DMing games in high school I was totally secretive about it. I would only talk to my friends who played about it when no one could eavesdrop, pack my books in bags when I went to their houses so no one could see them, and shushed them if they brought anything about the game up when others were around.
This wasn’t just high school paranoia either. My secretive nature about gaming followed me into college. A good friend of mine often referred to it as me being a closet gamer.
It was hard. People had such a horrible image of gamers in their mind. As someone who usually mixed in with a lot of different people, I didn’t want that stigma attached to me. I missed out on a lot of great opportunities to meet other people in the hobby and share my love of games.
4. It’s an admittedly expensive hobby
Now this reason does depend a bit on what part of the hobby you are getting into. CCGs (collectible card games) like Magic: The Gathering and MWGs (miniature war games) are on the very expensive side of the hobby. They require players to spend a great deal on random booster packs of cards or several boxes of miniatures ranging from $35-$50. Some large scale miniatures can even cost upwards of $100. Board games are a bit cheaper since one board game will average about $40. Depending on the game you can get 10-12 plays out of it before it even begins to feel a bit stale.
That $40 though is still a pretty high price for most people to play. It even get more expensive with games that features miniature like Mansions of Madness or games with loads of components like Starship Trucker. Games like these can be anywhere from $60-$120. Unlike video games which are publicized in main stream media, can be returned (on services like Steam), and have long running franchises that players can base their interest in. Players have to rely on word of mouth. And getting a good recommendation doesn’t mean you will like the game.
We can only hope new players make the leap into the hobby after watching reviews on Youtube or listening to podcasts. That way they aren’t blindly buying a game and end up making their judgement on the hobby based on the copy of Munchkin they purchased.
So what can we do to help?
Now that we have been able to identify some of the reason your friends don’t want to play board games we can start to tackle these problems.
- Get your friends informed. Let them know that modern board games are nothing like those old roll and move games. Hobby board games aren’t the cash cow licensed board games were back in the early 90’s.
- Let your friends know that there are online resources now to help you learn how to play these games. Some of these videos are just 9 minutes long and teach you everything you need to know. You can also direct them to local gaming groups where people are just dying to teach how to play their favorite games.
- This one might be the hardest, but be public about your gaming. The more people we have out in the community talking about tabletop games the more it will be accepted publicly. This is a long term solution (I know), but this is what we need to do. So go play your games at coffee shops, restaurants (if they allow it), and talk about your games openly.
- Be thoughtful in your recommendations. I know we all want to tell our friends to buy our favorite game. But we need to think a bit more about that. Make only recommendations that fit the person. We don’t want people grabbing deep competitive games if they don’t like conflict just because it’s your favorite game.
So let’s get started! If we start making these small changes, we are bound to see new players coming to the hobby, and staying there… I hope.
Thanks for reading, and just f-ing play games!