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How to Explain Boardgames To Anyone

In my experience board gaming as a hobby has always been very welcoming to new players at the game table. Recently I have seen a few posts on sites like BoardGameGeek.com, Twitter and Facebook groups that suggest otherwise. Instead of trying to explain the niche hobby, The quip remark of “ No, not like Monopoly.” is becoming a quick end to what could be a much more interesting and educational conversation. If you struggle to explain the hobby, I will explain how I do it down below, but first, here is a bit of history on one of the most popular games in the world. 

I want to talk a little bit about Monopoly for a minute. Monopoly is originally derived from The Landlord’s Game, created by American game designer Lizzie Magie in 1903 as a way to demonstrate that an economy that rewards wealth creation is better than one where monopolists work under few constraints. This was later adapted to the current version of Monopoly after it was played, and the core concepts stolen, by Charles Darrow. He showed the game to The Parker Brothers Who then published it in 1935 under the name Monopoly.  Over the years, it had been licensed locally in more than 103 countries and printed in more than 37 languages. It is a globally known game. Fun Fact: During WW2, the United Kingdom manufactured special editions of the game to be distributed by fake charity organizations. Hidden inside these games were maps, real money, and other objects useful for escaping the Nazis.

Monopoly as it appeared in 1935

Now knowing a little about the history of Monopoly, I think it seems silly to not be able to make comparisons to other well-known games. If someone likes Monopoly, suggest they try Ticket to Ride. There is no reason to shut down a conversation that thrives on having more people entering the community. Personally, I suggest they go down the board game aisle at Target and see if they find anything cool. This conversation most often takes place in hotels or on airplanes for me. I’m always happy to give a brief explanation of the hobby, because I’m hopeful that it will create new fans for me to play games with.

If the conversation is about what I am carrying in my bright teal Quiver, I tell them it’s card games. If it’s an older person, they usually ask if it is like poker or hearts, and I try to talk to them about rummy and the games that have similar mechanics like Hanabi, Tichu, or even Uno. If it is someone who is younger and that knows about Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon, I try to talk about other deck-building games like Dominion, Clank!, or Star Realms. I know it can be tiring to educate people on your hobby especially for people who often don’t have a clue, but the benefits are really cool when you get to see new people falling in love with board gaming.   

Victoria Mann is a writer, paralegal, and  lifelong boardgame lover who co-founded the consulting firm Boardgame Solutions to help publishers market their games and foster an inclusive board game community. You can find her on Twitter @vivaforvictoria

Images courtesy of Parker Bros. and Asmodee Games
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