Cardboard Children – Are Games Dumbing Down?

Hello youse.

A man called Robert Florence gets on a train to London at 2pm, leaving from Glasgow. If the train is travelling at 80 miles per hour, and the distance to London is 860 miles, how clear is it that Robert doesn’t know how far it is to London? But what I really want to know is: How tall is Robert when he’s on that train, if he’s sitting down? And how tall is he if he’s crawling around on the floor, crying? And are board games dumbing down?


Of course, it doesn’t matter whether Robert is sitting down or crawling around crying as he reflects on bad career choices. He is always the same height – 6 foot 4. And he is always extremely muscular and powerful. But why is he on that train to London in the first place?

Well, he’s going to give a talk about games to the Gaming Society Of Gentlemen And Ladies Of The Thankfully Deceased British Empire (est. 1977) and he has chosen this as his topic: ARE GAMES DUMBING DOWN?

The title of this talk is the same as the title of a column he wrote in 2016, for the high-brow gaming website Rock, Paper, Shotgun. In that column he wrote about a talk he was about to give to the Gaming Society Of Gentlemen And Ladies Of The Thankfully Deceased British Empire (est. 1977). That talk, and that column, are the subject of this column (and also the subject of a talk later this year, in London).

Robert started by making the point that board gaming was experiencing a boom period. An unprecedented golden age of gaming had seen hundreds and hundreds of fine board games being released every single year, and the community around board gaming had grown and spread into mainstream culture like never before.

And while he stated that this was a positive thing, he noted that with the growth of board gaming he had also noticed a shift in the nature of games being published.

(It must be noted that Robert Florence did not deliver this talk or write this column in a confrontational manner. His tone was light and good-humoured throughout.)

“It is 1985 and I am 8 years old. And on my living room table is Trivial Pursuit. The game is not adored by our family, nor is it even liked. It just is. It is what board games are. Everyone has this game by now. Every table in every living room has a copy of Trivial Pursuit right there, ready for some post-dinner play. So what is Trivial Pursuit? It is a game that tests your general knowledge, a game that will most likely be won by the most well-read person in the room. That person won’t win every single time, however – there is an outrageously unfair balancing system in play, the random factor of the dice, there to slow the progress of the family brainbox and offer extra catch-up opportunities to the less knowledgeable.

Trivial Pursuit is not a good game. But there was a time when there was a great deal of importance placed in how smart people were, on the most superficial of levels. Quiz shows on TV weren’t all about choosing the right box – they were about answering some ridiculously difficult questions. And there was a breed of board games that made a priority of the appearance of intelligence. That’s why we all used to pretend to have fun while answering questions about geography. Being that kind of smart used to matter.

Chess is a remarkably unforgiving abstract board game that isn’t particularly easy to learn and is almost impossible to master. It isn’t even a particularly fair game, with its reliance upon incredible feats of memory. It’s not accessible to new players – a chess player with even just a little more experience will dismantle a newcomer without fail. Is Chess fun? Perhaps only a little. And yet – and yet – chess might very well be in your home right now. And in your neighbour’s home. Chess is in the foyer of many a hotel. Chess is a default board game shipping with your new computer, your new phone. Why?

Purely because of tradition. Chess is the game intelligent people would play, and so we would play it too. Because we once cherished feats of intellect, even in games.

But look what we’re playing now. Look at the vast array of games we play now.

New games, constantly, many of them with very similar base mechanisms, but many more with new twists. We use terms like “Worker Placement” and “Area Control” to describe how certain games are played. With enough experience, some games almost initiate a kind of muscle memory in us, and we fall into readily understood patterns. We roll dice. We build decks. We build our machine. We push our luck. We negotiate. Rule books used to be two page pamphlets, readily ignored and house ruled. These days rule books can be thick and long, and the best rule books are to be respected.

These smart games we used to play, like MindTrap, with its logic puzzles and mathy questions, or Mastermind, with its mindless systematic code-cracking, were for people who didn’t play board games, and so they were for almost everyone. We don’t need those games anymore.

Games are not dumbing down. Indeed, we are smartening up. We don’t need to prove we’re smart by answering a question about the Grand Canyon or Van Gogh. We are a generation that is literate in the actual design of games. We can read mechanics, and play within them, using our smarts to improve and stretch our own performance within those boundaries. We understand how a set of mechanics can tell a story, and we can be imaginative and creative within that space. And, most importantly, we can tell a good game from bad.”

With this, Robert Florence set fire to a chess board, and was lynched by the audience. He really didn’t like chess. He was terrible at it.

Maybe he was stupid.

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  1. jmtd says:

    Unfortunately the ad on this article is obscuring most of the article text on iOS, making it unreadable.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Reader View to the rescue!
      As ever thanks for saving the world, the planet, jobs and the economy and many fluffy bunnies, puppies and kittens by not running adblock for the organically grown and lovingly knitted by grandma Ads.

    • Blastaz says:

      Worth reiterating, the new ads, primarily for deus ex, are crippling on iOS.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Nauallis says:

    Aw man, I hated board games until about five years ago, when friends started playing much more interesting board and card games. I grew up in a family that had “all of the classic family games” e.g. Battleship, Monopoly, LIFE, Risk, etc. ad nauseum. While each one of those was fun for a little while or with the right group, my main takeaway from most of them was that they either were “just a way to pass time” (when you wish you could be doing something else if not for weather/waiting for other people), obligatory traditions at family gatherings, or the go-to because you didn’t know about anything else. And a few of them, like Monopoly or Risk were terrible because they always seemed to make one person exceedingly smug and everybody else resented that person for the next day or so. And they were nearly impossible to “win.”

    Now we have more interesting games, like Acquire, or Bang! or Tzolk’in (and Smash Up, Star Wars Armada, Empire Builder, Evolution, Jaipur, Anima, Alhambra, Ticket to Ride, Machi Koro, Ascension, etc etc to name but a few). Not to mention games like Carcassonne or Catan or Pandemic, which I’d been aware of on the periphery but hadn’t played until a few years ago.

    No, games aren’t getting dumber… but the “family classics” sure seem stupid now.

    • Czrly says:

      I agree. The “Family Classics” like monopoly and risk really ruined board gaming for a lot of people – basically, my whole generation.

      I think chess ruins abstract games for a lot of people in much the same way. Chess is just obtuse. There are too many pieces with too many different movement patterns, castling, en-passant captures and a huge reliance on memory even for relative beginners.

      Compare that to Go – 361 identical stones split into two different colours, no movement, good metaphors for the shapes and, except for capturing, the board position only changes by one stone per move. About five whole rules. Killer feature: it has a handicap system that’s been proven to work and does not break the game (much) so you can play against someone else and have a fair chance of winning – more than 50% if you’re improving rapidly because you’ll be ahead of the curve.

      I guess the same is true of the card games my generation played.

      Let’s get rid of monopoly and risk (and Catan, to be honest) and replace them with ‘good’ board games like Agricola and Ticket to Ride. Let’s get rid of the chess boards and replace them with Go boards. Let’s get rid of rummy and Go Fish and replace them with Skat, Schafkopf and Doppelkopf. Let’s give the next generation a reason to love games in all three formats.

      • khamul says:

        Can we keep Whist, though?

        That’s what I used to play with my folks as I was growing up. Knockout Whist. It was ace. And it’s also fun to say. I love Whist.


      • alh_p says:

        It’s true, traditional board games are generally not very good at being fun. I’d put it down mostly to how they are both dull but also vindictive, losers are pretty much crushed in the process and the game is all about winning. My Mum still has vituperative hatred of Monopoly from her childhood (she’s a very sore loser). But equally, i’m surprised how poker is still so popular given that it also essentially ejects and/or further ruins players. Even among mates it sucks massively to be the first one out of a poker evening.

        IMHO, games which don’t ensure everyone is involved until the end fail at the first hurdle. The mechanic of expulsion is simply divisive: yes it amplifies the sense of achievement but also that of disappointment.

        Whether the actions or mechanics of a game are fun or not is much more subjective. I think i tend to prefer things where there’s no obvious right or wrong answer, as these again keep players engaged and with (at least the illusion of) a positive chance of winning.

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          Nauallis says:

          And this is basically the attitude that I had until these last few years. Try any of the games that are styled “Euro-style,” which generally means that the game is based on scoring at the end, with continuous play and a set ending condition. There is no player elimination, and sometimes the scoring can be quite a surprise. Examples I’d recommend that you try are Ticket to Ride, Tzolk’in, Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, and Tigris and Euphrates. The idea with all of these is that player interaction is not meant to create direct conflict, but rather economic strategy.

      • MajorLag says:

        Personally I always found Chess much easier to play than Go. Perhaps that’s because I was taught at a very young age, so I don’t remember how complicated the movement patterns and eccentricities were at first.

        Go may have only a few rules, but it is ridiculously more complicated than Chess. It is difficult for a new player to know the difference between a good move and a bad move. I don’t think I ever really learned the difference if I’m being honest. I can beat a computer at Chess, but not at Go, which is weird to me given that Go is supposed to be much harder for computers. Clearly, I am not a good Go player.

        Which is not to say that Go is a bad game, just that I personally find it a bit odd that Chess is considered the complicated one by some people.

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      Angstsmurf says:

      I’ve tried to get into board games, but it’s really hard. It’s like I just don’t see the point. First, all this book-keeping, card-shuffling, dice-throwing that the computer usually takes care of seems like a lot of unnecessary, masochistic work to do by hand, like cutting grass with nail scissors while a perfectly good lawnmower sits right next to you. Second, you have to endure the company of real people. They’re all horrible!

      • svr says:

        Second, you have to endure the company of real people. They’re all horrible!

        That’s the best part about boardgames. You can make your opponent across the table suffer more than you ever could in some online video game.

      • MajorLag says:

        For me, people are certainly the hardest part about board gaming. I have to explain the rules to them, then they don’t listen and I invariably have to explain them again, then they pull out their phone and don’t notice when it is their turn. And that’s after busting my ass to find enough people who can make some semblance of commitment to even showing up. My favorite board game is The Resistance, which requires a minimum of 5 people to play. 5. I’m lucky if I can manage 3 most of the time.

        People are basically why I had to give up board gaming.

        • P.Funk says:

          “then they pull out their phone and don’t notice when it is their turn”

          This is unfortunately the worst evolution of the modern social environment. People have become insufferably rude in intimate company, constantly checking in with their clearly more important virtual footprint, never out of touch with obviously more important loved ones.

          I have 2 friends I still spend a significant amount of time with watching sports or playing games or what not. They’re the kind who do not spend all day on the phone, and when they do they don’t get distracted.

          I’m not even 30 and I feel like an old man. XD

      • artrexdenthur says:

        Points valid… but if you’re still wanting to try and get into board games, I’d say they really do have a lot to offer, and no one can explain that better than these guys.
        Even if they don’t convince you to buy a game, their reviews (especially the video ones) are excellent works of comedy .

    • Kaffis says:

      You are aware that Acquire is 42 years old, right? I remember my Dad playing it with the guys at the Christmas Eve parties.

  3. Kefren says:

    Cool article. Stay icey.

  4. Yserbius says:

    I disagree.

    20 years ago there were fewere kinds of boardgames, specifically there were family games and gamer games. The family games were simple to learn but often had artificial difficulty that required some general knowledge. “Gamer” games were played by people who thought that Avalon Hill is too casual, required more manuals than D&D, four foot square boards of hexes, and piles upon piles of cards, tokens, counters, and chits. Those games were “smart”.

    Games did dumb down a little. But only enough so that someone not named Tim Stone can actually enjoy them.

    • Shiloh says:

      That’s harsh on Tim – and actually not true. There’s still a ton of board games out there for the rules nerd. And companies like GMT or FFG are obviously making good money out of them.

      Don’t believe me? Go play Labyrinth, or Operation Dauntless, or Arkham Horror… Or don’t.

      • Nice Save says:

        It’s worth pointing out that Arkham Horror and Labyrinth are both about 30 years old, so wouldn’t really count as examples of complex modern games.

        • PhilBowles says:

          Arkham Horror is just Talisman with a Lovecraft aesthetic – it doesn’t qualify as a complex game of any age. And games like it and Talisman were loved back in those days – surely the fact that widely-accessible board games have become more sophisticated than that is a better example of Robert’s misrepresentation of chess (a common misconception among non-chess players, but not really true. Yes, you need to have a basic grasp of the openings and typical scenarios, but that’s true of the military tactics it’s modelled on – as in a real battle, what matters is understanding which tactics to employ and adapting to those the opponent plays to counter them, not just rote learning a la Trivial Pursuit).

          • Underwhelmed says:

            Yeah the two games are nothing alike outside of their ability to make a certain kind of game nerd on the internet angry at their mention.

        • webs1 says:

          Arkham Horror is 11 years old. And Labyrinth: The war on terror, which I guess is what was meant here, 5 years.

        • napoleonic says:

          Labyrinth (2010): link to
          Arkham Horror (2005): link to

          • TheDandyGiraffe says:

            Arkham Horror is actually a very interesting example. The 2005 edition is more of a remake than a “revised” edition (the differences between this one and the 1987 edition are huge), and when you compare it to Eldritch Horror (which is basically streamlined Arkham – without all the annnoying upkeep – but it is also a properly “modern” ameritrash), it seems like Arkham remains in a weird spot between the “old” board games and the “modern” ones, acting as a stepping stone or a bridge of sorts. I think it’s unfair to compare it to Talisman – it is luck-based, sure, but not nearly as random as Talisman; and the sense of not having much control over the game is very often due to quite a few counterintuitive mechanics. Basically the longer you play, the more structured and non-random the game seems.

      • Trynant says:

        Games in the style of Avalon Hill’s uber-complex conflict sims are still being made. Multiman-Publishing released the newest full expansion for 1986 game Advanced Squad Leader naught but a year ago. The 18XX series of train/stock games continues to grow and become more complex as hobbyist design on it. The Grand Tactical Series’ first title came out in 2008 and will take up at least a couple of tables left out for days play.

        New, complicated board games and remakes of older series are being made plenty. The thing is they’re not in the limelight. Catan (a 90’s game as well–frankly most of the absurd games would be about late 80’s) created a paradigm of design that board games can be played within an hour or two with a simple set of rules that can be taught on the spot and everyone can stay involved and playing throughout the experience. But there’s still a niche within of niche of board war games and conflict sims making new stuff all the time.

        I’d recommend looking at GMT and Multiman Publishing’s catalogs for con sims. Economic-game wise, Splotter Spellen, Spielworxx, Deep Thought Games, What’s Your Game?, and more all publish some fairly involved stuff. For more thematic glossy stuff you have the 6-12 hour Twilight Struggle (good luck fitting that on *just* a 4’x4′ table) and all of Fantasy Flight’s catalog to look at.
        A rising tide lifts all ships, and there’s plenty of smart games to go around. One just has to know where to look.

    • Czrly says:

      Wait… isn’t that the whole Point of the article – that games might have become superficially simpler but demand no less brain-power or intelligence to play?

      • Archonsod says:

        Isn’t it the opposite though? I mean you can write the actual rules for Trivial Pursuit onto the back of a postage stamp. The questions in the box might be hard*, but the game itself is essentially Ludo with an added question phase. Even something as straight forward as say Coup is mechanically more complex. So it’s probably more accurate to say we now have actually smart games, rather than simple games attempting to appear smart.

        * They did fall into the trap of the license/themed version. Having an entire house of trekkies meant the Star Trek Trivial Pursuit copy was largely a roll and move game …

        • MajorLag says:

          I remember a time when I played Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with 2 friends. It became clear shortly into it that myself and one of them would easily dominate the game by answering dozens of questions in a row, so we broke down and just had the third friend read questions to us in a game-show-like manner.

          I think I lost because I didn’t know the stuff that wasn’t in the movies, like the name of some background character or what that place Luke jumped into at the end of Empire was called.

          Trivial Pursuit sucks.

    • ZeroWaitState says:

      Dude, don’t be dissin’ Battletech.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        BattleTech was really a third thing, in that taxonomy–a Minis Game. (Even if you were playing with the cardboard standups, it was still a Minis Game at heart.) the Gamer Games Yserbius mentioned were the ones with hundreds of teeny 1cm cardboard counters, and hexes sized to match.

  5. trollomat says:

    Gödel, Escher, Bach, Florence.

  6. Gothnak says:

    I agree that games are smartening up, by about the same amount that television is dumbing down. I can barely watch anything on terrestrial tv anymore, and the only quiz shows worth their salt are University Challenge & Only Connect. Even Pointless, for which the idea is good, has 3 pointlessly boring rounds where we talk to contestants and allow them 1 in 6 answers until the actually interesting last round, which is usually the only part where a pointless answer exists anymore.

  7. Rituro says:

    I’m not convinced that increasing accessibility means decreasing depth and strategic potential. Truly, that is the change from the games of generations past and the games of today: for most, there’s a way in that isn’t immediately daunting.

    Case in point: my family — a gaming family — does tend to gravitate towards the “safe” games when we all play together. Over the years, I’ve introduced them to games like Ticket to Ride and Dominion; both of those specific cases have been wildly appreciated. I’ve even had success with small-scale gaming conventions where we grab a bunch of unknown board games from the library and spend a day devouring them.

    In short: accessibility is good! Intelligence is optional. Fun should always be the end result.

  8. Emeraude says:

    Ok, so been trying to formulate a hunch for at least an hour now, and I’m going to fail in the following attempt and it’s basically going to sound redundant, but if I don’t do it now I’m never going to do it, so here:

    I’m thinking games have been both smartening up and dumbing down really, depending on how you look at it. Without even going into the complexity/depth debate, I think the market has changed in that it used to be a few relatively (generally “very” I would say) simple games that were basically all there is to the mass market and then the niche market with a slew of complex games. If you’re looking at it from that perspective, it’s easy to think games have dumbed down because, indeed, in proportion the more complex games make for less of what’s on offer these days

    Bu then we cover more terrain.

    That is, at the same time, the floor level has raised quite a bit, and the ramp from, say Cluedo, to The Campaign for North Africa is now far less steep. We have more plateaus along the way that represent a greater portion of the overall market. And in that sense, games have smartened up quite a bit.

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    Haldurson says:

    I recently started a board games group and managed to convert a couple of other people to the world of board games. But when trying to get people to join us, I keep getting people who seem obsessed with older games, like Stratego and Risk. Someone suggested that I should be offering more ‘mainstream’ games — things that people were familiar with. Someone else told me that she’d only be interested in playing Apples to Apples, something she plays with her family. Someone else seems obsessed with Fluxx — I can’t seem to convince him that it’s not that good a game, but just to keep him happy, I promised I’d play it. I actually spent an evening playing Rummy because only one person showed up for our meeting, and that’s all she knew how to play, and she didn’t want to learn anything new. Too many people even tell me that they don’t think they are smart enough to play board games. It can get very frustrating at times. What is it about learning a new game as an adult that seems to scare people so much?

    That said, I did manage to form a game of Pandemic Legacy among the more dedicated people in the group, and we just finished January. We did have to hand-hold one of the people who unexpectedly showed up to our meeting, since he’d never played Pandemic before — we had already canceled our PL game so many times that we weren’t going to let that stop us from finally getting the campaign started.

    • lesslucid says:

      It’s for situations like this that you want “gateway games”. Things that are mechanically interesting enough that “real gamers” can enjoy them, but simple enough that you can teach them to an absolute beginner in less than 5 minutes. Coloretto, for example, is a fantastic gateway game. Same goes for Lost Cities. If someone says “I don’t want to learn anything new”, you can say, “…this game will take less than 5 minutes to learn to play and to set up, and a full game will take less than 15 minutes.” Most people will enjoy such games more than the usual “family classic” fare because they’re just better designs. Once you’ve got someone hooked on those gateway games you can then move by slow stages up to, eg, Ticket to Ride, Catan… “Pandemic Legacy” is a great game, I’m sure, and from the perspective of someone who’s played lots of “gamer’s games” may seem fairly simple… but I don’t think it’s a good gateway game.

  10. PhilBowles says:

    I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to see games developed in different eras as ‘dumbing down’ or the reverse – they’re designed for different perceived needs, which is the interesting phenomenon to examine in itself.

    Ethologists argue about whether the notion that play evolved as practice for adult life is correct, but it seems to be a driving philosophy of game design. Games that reward rote learning hark back to an era when education prized exactly the same thing, while games like (Avalon Hill’s) Civilization and Britannia acted as educational introductions as well as games.

    Modern games focus heavily on social interaction through competition, cooperation, or both, and on resource gathering, management and trading – practical transferable skills favoured by modern employers (as resource allocation of one variety or another is a major part of most work) over traditional literature/training-based expertise. Of course Monopoly has existed in the same ‘game space’ for a century, but does suffer from being a notoriously bad game.

    Many modern games fall into the category of being, essentially, playable variants of Monopoly, while it didn’t have that sort of uptake or that many emulators in the past.

  11. mactier says:

    That was anticlimactic and short. I thought it was going to be about game design, ideas and creativity.
    A good thing I want to point out is that I’m glad that this site doesn’t have a voting system for articles. It jus tfelt kind of refreshing to scroll back up and not see a load of votes and excitement for who knows what. Not to denigrate the article, but just in principle.
    The real point is namely, and that’s why I noticed this, that there are almost in a completely literal sense NO GAMES right now.
    Overwatch is the same tepid multiplayer-stuff that is going on all the time, it doesn’t matter what it is and what year it is.
    Doom, well, so what, we hadn’t this for a while but it’s a very underwhelming game.
    Soon we get Deus Ex and Dishonored. I appreciate it that there are some kind of games, but sorry, the first titles were enough for me. There are no new games, no new ideas.
    Don’t even bother with Indy-games. Seriously, who still believes in those.
    Are games dumbing down? Games are DONE, for now.

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      Ericusson says:

      I had a blast with Factorio recently.
      Rim world deals in innovative mechanics around stories and characters.
      Long Dark is already awesome and I can’t wait for it to exit EA and see what kind of story they developed in their sandbox.
      Doom is Doom. If you played 30 FPS already he formula is kinda of stale but the declination did it for me. Enter the Gungeon and Nuclear Throne, while having some disappointing elements, are gems of repetitive gameplay.
      Rimworld, Factorio, Door kickers, Risk of Rain, Crash-lands (basic but the multi platform support – play on your phone continue on your computer at home was such a nice User thing). The indie scene is producing good games.

      We all go through periods of time where gaming takes a step back in our lives, it looks like you need a break from it now :o)

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    Ericusson says:

    I’m kinda sorry to bring No Man’s Sky here, but thinking about it, it’s kind of funny to see how they did not reveal any mechanism of the game so that discovering them would be part of the game actually.

    I would argue this, or most probably the way they did it, was a horrible idea just meant to augment the time until the player gets bored with the extremely limited, and dumbed down, mechanics of the game.

    Still, many people do not seem to be bothered by the extremely basic grinding mining mechanism that is the only core gameplay element in NMS.

    So either they are blind to the sheer simplicity of them all (whatever the reasons : they may really be enthralled by the graphics of the planet, or they may think there is actually something at the end of the grind like a Graal that would make it all make sense).
    Or they just don’t care about the mechanics and like to evade in another world, however shallow it is, and NMS does it for them. Then again, the non caring about the mechanisms makes them blind to the sheer baseness of them all.

    But I am (personally) puzzled by how people like you and me can not see through the thin veil of veneer that hides the sheer lacking of gameplay elements past 10-15 hours of going through the ordeal of playing the game.

    So I am not sure gamers get more savvy about games mechanics really …

  13. Kaldaien says:

    Robert appears to have trouble with measuring distance.

  14. WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

    I appreciate the fact that I am a bit of an interloper on Cardboard Children, never having commented on one of these articles before, but I thought it was interesting enough to warrant comment that I seem to have the exact opposite opinion to Rab: I absolutely adore Chess, but have always despised boardgames in general. I don’t know why it is, perhaps it is something as simple as social acceptability, but I have always felt driven to try and improve at Chess, whereas any other boardgame I play I generally feel inclined to throw quickly so as to satisfy the person who suggested playing but end the torment as rapidly as possible. I don’t entirely know what the reason is, perhaps because I tend to find most boardgame rule design arbitrary even when it is “well” designed, whereas there really is no arguing with the rules of chess and one simply has to get on with it. The symmetry of the starting setup is something else I enjoy about Chess, as it is not possible to bugger yourself up before even making a move, as it is in Settlers of Catan for instance, or be buggered up by RNG as is frequent in Risk. In fact, any boardgame with a die I just won’t play on principle nowadays, and I don’t think I am alone. At least when I find myself in a hairy situation in Chess I have only myself to blame, there are no scapegoats! Does it require memory, well, yes it does, but I don’t think it does so to a disproportionate extent relative to other boardgames that I have played. Moreover, being well-versed in Chess is probably a better way to spend your time than learning patterns for other boardgames, since you are far more likely in my experience to find partners to play with, and the plenary session to determine what went wrong is much more fun if both players understand things like notation and what the moves are and why they are deployed.

    Just my twopenn’orth.

  15. Don Reba says:

    It’s 300 nautical miles away, according to Google.

  16. Dewal says:

    I’m not sure if the part about chess is just to make a joke or what.
    The rules of chess are quite simple, you have 6 different pieces only. And the pawns and king have one or two specific moves that you can use in special cases. That’s it. You don’t “need” memory, you don’t “need” to remember every possible positions if you think a bit before every move, with an average player. Explaining the rules take no more than five minutes.
    Saying “it’s unfair because a debutant will be crushed against an experienced player” is right for almost any competitive game and not a very good con. The difficulty of the game is directly dependent of the strength of your opponent. You can see two debutants having fun playing and challenging each other.

    Anyway, on the topic. I’d say it’s neither dumbing down nor smarting up (can I say that ?). The market for board games is simply expanding a lot and more and more games are appearing, in every possible category. You’ll have very simple games like “Jungle Speed” and more complex ones like “Race for the galaxy”. Both are fun and good, you won’t just play them with the same crowd and in the same context.

    • Don Reba says:

      You don’t “need” memory, you don’t “need” to remember every possible positions if you think a bit before every move, with an average player.

      Yeah, you do. You can’t do any useful “thinking” without remembering previous games, and the more your remember, the better you can think ahead.

  17. mineshaft says:

    Is Hanabi simple or complex?

    I love it as a genius game design, where the players have to evolve a metagame of endless depth to solve a cooperative puzzle. Alpha dogging is impossible because everyone is ignorant.

    Yet the rulebook is deceptively simple! It requires no special materials. You could have played this game a hundred years ago.

    To me that says it all about today’s games. There’s endless variety, and you get out of them what you put in.

    In badly designed games, it’s perhaps not so. Instead of ingenuity, randomness is the controlling factor.

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