Why Good Board Games Struggle to Make it to The Table

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game is a fantastic strategy game that puts each player at the helm of one of the major houses in the franchise. Despite my love for it, that game is collecting dust on our shelf. Just because I own it and because it’s good doesn’t mean I’m going to play it into the ground. The reality is, there are factors about that and other board games in my collection that make it very difficult for them to make it on the table. Here’s a couple of reasons why games I enjoy struggle to get played.

Too hard to teach/learn

I went through a lot to get A Game of Thrones to the table. Leading up to the big day, I poured over the manual and watched a 20+ minute tutorial video made by Fantasy Flight. On the day of, I tried my best to explain the game, but still resorted to showing my group the same video.

Playing with my hardest of hardcore gaming group, they were willing to tolerate this in order to get things started. However, in most cases, most of the people I play with won’t tolerate this level of upfront work before getting a game started.

Too much setup

Setup is also related to teaching or learning games, but in this instance I’m strictly referring to the preparation of all of the game’s components in order to be ready to play. I adore Space Cadets, but having to set up every single station before every game is particularly laborious, especially if you’re the only one that knows how to set everything up. There are games that I can play from beginning to end and have a great time with before I’m even done setting up one game of Space Cadets.

No one else I know likes the theme/gameplay

Yomi is one of the games that got me excited about tabletop gaming in the first place. Originally designed to be a licensed Street Fighter card game, this one is still my favourite tabletop fighting game. Unfortunately, finding people to play with me is super tough. Beyond the fact that it’s essentially a two-player only game (with a somewhat-wonky four-player variant), no one in my circle of tabletop gaming friends has any interest in playing it. The only time I really get to play the game nowadays is on my phone against the computer.

Too much commitment

Star Wars: Imperial Assault is a cool board game that places players in the midst of a skirmish with the likes of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. On top of the complexity that comes with learning the game’s mechanics and setting up each map, the game is primarily designed to be enjoyed as a campaign played amongst the same group. Because of this, it’s a real struggle to get people to play the game and commit to an extended campaign.

Too much competition

If any particular game in your collection suffers from any of the above, and you have other games that don’t give you any of those problems, those are likely to get played more due to their ease of getting to the table. I like Dead of Winter more than Box of Rocks, but I can play the latter at any time with almost anyone and have a good time. When you have choices, it’s always much easier to divert to what’s easy or what people know versus the obstacles that come with playing new or more involved games.

Early on, I used to simply buy games I had interest in playing. Now that I’m keenly aware of the challenges that come with getting games to the table, I actively lean towards games that have a better shot of being played through ease of setup, ease of play, and a theme that will appeal to my game groups. Have you struggled like me to get good games to the table?

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2 thoughts on “Why Good Board Games Struggle to Make it to The Table

  1. Michael K Grimm December 12, 2017 / 8:56 AM

    I liked the article, made for a good read and I agree with you on some points. I will be tackling this topic later this year in an article myself and liked how you pinpointed the major issues. These days the really cool games do cost more and the theme heavy games such as Legendary, Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer will always have a mark up. 7 Wonders is fun, easy to play and set up but I noticed that not everybody like those style of games whereas somebody sees Arkham or Space Hulk they are immediatley more interested because of the artwork and how it is oozing in flavor. Games do look better nowadays, the packaging has been improved and publishers continue to print new titles however I feel the market is not growing in the sense of newer players. I feel a lot of people may just enjoy say Game of Thrones or Catan, I feel it is harder to teach and retain new players because there are less and less places to play board games with all the smaller mom and pop shops closing and we have a whole generation that needs to catch up to how cool tabletop is.I have seen many sessions go stale because of poor game selection, some games take way too long to setup and finish.

    Keep up the great work,

    Inbox me if you would like to be on our podcast sometime, we are always looking for interesting guests

  2. Jett December 12, 2017 / 10:09 AM

    Thanks for the comment!

    What podcast do you host? Definitely would like to check it out!

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