By: Darren Bilton – Deputy Head (Academic), Framlingham College Prep School
We live in a world where life is becoming more and more digital, however, games made up of wooden meeples, cards, dice and cardboard pieces are having a real renaissance. The ‘board games’ industry has been experiencing an explosive double-digit growth in recent years and I for one welcome this and this is why.
I grew up playing Manic Miner on the ZX Spectrum 48K. I would spend hours controlling Miner Willy, trying to complete the twenty challenging levels. As I ‘grew up’ I moved on to play Sensible Soccer on the Amiga and NHL Hockey on the Sega. All were great fun and not very different to the experience children are currently getting, playing Forza, FIFA or Rayman on the latest consoles. I turned out all right, I think! However, today you are also able to play many games online, with friends/strangers and communicate via a headset. This has changed the dynamic somewhat and some children and adults need to be reminded of the value of face-to-face interaction. When you are playing a board game, you are able to sit in the same room as your friends, maybe enjoy some snacks together and experience something even more exhilarating than a solo win in Fortnite!
YouTube allows me to watch a run through of a game and then fill in the blanks by actually reading the rule book. Many companies realise the importance of this and produce their own videos to show off their board games. Kickstarter has provided small companies or individuals with the perfect vehicle to create their own games. Back in the 70s you needed to be a major toy company to come out with a new game and get it stocked by Woolworths – remember them? Games took forever to come to market and companies were reluctant to take any risks. Today almost anyone, if they have a great idea, can raise enough finance to create their own game, hence the incredible choice now available.
Forget Monopoly, Risk, Game of Life and other predictable long winded games that usually only get played at Christmas and typically end in an argument! Today, there is an almost limitless variety of board games. One night I could be pretending not to be a Werewolf (One Night Ultimate Werewolf), learning how to earn the attention of a beautiful princess playing Love Letter or bashing monsters in King of Tokyo. If you have an interest, there is likely to be a game for you. If you want to grow trees, chase Zombies or play co-operative games the options are truly endless.
To me it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was looking forward to an extra TV channel – Channel 5 appearing on a TV that was repairable and frequently needed the TV repairman to fix it! Nowadays we are constantly on some type of device and board games provides a legitimate way for everyone to unplug, take a step back from modern life and just interact with each other.
Board games are a great way to get the family together, make everyone put their phones down and do something different. I was introduced to modern, alternative board games about 5 years ago and started playing Sushi Go, Ticket to Ride, Splendor and Carcassonne. Since then I have amassed a reasonable collection. Selling some, keeping others but still marvelling at the value. What else can you do as a family for £20-£30? Don’t tell Mrs B but when we buy our first property in Suffolk, I plan to have a room dedicated to board games!
Some ‘lucky’ students at the Prep School are already experiencing my enthusiasm for board games and learning a number of the games mentioned in this blog as part of a Saturday morning activity. Hopefully, I can convert a few to introduce me to some new games. So support a kick starter campaign, do some research on the Internet, splash some cash on a few games. What have you got to lose? Appreciate that we are living in a golden age of board games, and they provide a real alternative to digital entertainment. Remember a board game is for life, not just for Christmas.