Board gaming is in essence perceived as a social experience. We meet in one place, sit around a table, and play a game together. However, the “we” of ten years ago differs slightly from the “we” today. Sometime, the “we” even means “me”.
Although gaming has always been a part of my life, going heavily into designer board games was something I did only almost exactly ten years ago, and about eight years ago my current wife became my primary gaming partner.
We were both relatively new to this reborn form of board gaming, so we were full of the special kind of enthusiasm – the one that creates a truly voracious appetite for new experiences. Yet, one of the things that hampered our board gaming growth was the fact that many big games needed at least three people to play. That made it difficult for us to enjoy them when and how we wanted, which often meant “on a week night” and “on a whim”.
Today, things are different.
Board gaming is perceived as less of a nerdy thing, and more of a family activity that can actually rival others (as opposed to being a final resort on a rainy Sunday). Many more people also play games knowing that they may have just one regular gaming partner, and aiming at spending their time not exclusively (or not at all) over wargames.
What may seem as purely anecdotal also finds a bit of corroboration in some statistics. The average household in Europe (according to current data), and in the USA (according to slightly less current data) is under 3. That means that there literally thousands of people interested in board games, and having their life partner also double up as their gaming opponent.
While there are more organized gaming groups than ever before (in Warsaw, where I live, you can find a gaming meet up on every weeknight), more couples also decide hat board games are a decent alternative to going out or spending their evenings with Netflix.
As a fan, I can only be glad. As a designer and publisher, I can and should pay attention to this trend. NSKN Games has published one game that requires three or more players (now discontinued), and all our new games are playable with two or more players. Whether you want to challenge your significant other (your child or your gaming buddy) to a city building competition in Praetor, or work together to push back the darkness in Mistfall, you can do this without variants, or fans of the game asking you, if it wouldn’t be better to simply play another game.
In fact, we went even further, as Mistfall, Heart of the Mists, the most recent Shadowscape, and even Exodus: Proxima Centauri are playable solo (with the newest Exodus expansion: Event Horizon, coming in to also feature more solitaire play), so we are acknowledging not only the gaming couples, but also the lonesome gamers among you. And we are not the only ones.
By making more games accessible to lower player counts, we are in the end making a this social pastime even more social, as now you can keep your passion alive between gaming meet ups. And as for the games to be played solo – that’s a bigger topic, and one that I will cover in a future post.