The Future of Board Gaming?

This weeks Guest Post is by Rhys Davis owner of The Board Gamers and concerns the future of Board Gaming and whether or not it’ll be cardboard or pixels. Rhys, take it away.

Rhys Davis

There’s no question that the stiff competition from console gaming has hit the board game industry. People would rather a fast-paced, story driven game than to sit down and play Monopoly for an hour or two.

The big board game brands realize this and in turn over the last year have started rolling out “digital” versions of their games. Namely Ipad/Iphone versions.

I understand that from a business point-of-view you have to move on in any industry and go with the times… but doesn’t making board games… digital… defeat the point of what a board game is supposed to be/do?

A board game can be something that can bring hours of fun and create life-long memories.

I’m sure we all remember as kids, waiting eagerly for our parents to reach to the top of a cupboard and pull down a slightly-bashed box that contained a board game. We’d pull out the pieces and be in awe of it all coming together.

The fun, laughter and enjoyment from those days would stay with you for years.

It would bring everyone together to socialize and just flat-out have a good time.

But with the re-invention of some of these board games, don’t we lose all of that? And along with it, the whole point of a board game?

There’s something about grabbing down a dusty board game, getting all the pieces out and playing with friends while having a good ol’banter.

With an Ipad, you click a button and start playing with some stranger from the other side of the world.

What are your thoughts/opinions on the board game industry trying out “digital” versions of board games?

Do you think it’s sad the industry tends to be turning that way or are you all go for innovation and moving forward?

This was a guest post written by Rhys Davies who owns and operates The Board Gamers a UK based family-run board game store.


Ok, so Rhys has a point and obviously I’m all for keeping cardboard, otherwise why would I write this blog? But I don’t see that a choice needs to be made here, we can have our cake and eat it too.

Digital gaming whether it’s console gaming or reimplentations of board games on tablet devices is a good thing for many reasons.

As Rhys points out, you can play these games at the click of a button, reducing the set up time for the game. As he also points out you can play with anyone, anywhere. Now, this is a great thing because I enjoy gaming with my friend Sam, but Sam lives in Oxford while I am in Manchester, through the use of computers and video chat we are still able to enjoy our hobby despite the miles between us.

Also some gamers are not lucky enough to have a game group and so being able to play with strangers on the internet allows them to indulge their hobby.

Another great feature of apps and virtual tabletop software is that the games are much cheaper than their cardboard counterpart, if not entirely free! This means that you can try out a game before you buy it. I for example had no interest in Elder Sign, but as people who read my review of the game last month know, I bought it off the back of my enjoyment of the app.

Another aspect of digital gaming is the ability to do it anywhere. I spend a lot of time in transit as my commute to work can take up to 2 hours each way. This coupled with long hours has meant that I can’t game much with my friends and family so being able to take advantage of the apps on my tablet has allowed me to play games where I otherwise might not have been able to.

I would also argue that the increasing popularity of digital board games can only be good for the community as now the games are reaching the global market and bringing people who may well have not heard of Carcassonne or Settlers to the table to try out the cardboard version of the games on their phones.

Finally, as a self diagnosed tech-head, I would like to see the implementation of new tech into board games. We’ve already seen what D&D could do with the Surface but I want more. Exillis did some interest things with tech as they added the concept of levelling up to a miniature wargame through an app that tracked your units through battles. I love the idea of being able to control a room through technology, playing D&D with monitors that could display vital information, settings or monster images, speakers playing music or even dialogue or sound effects at the touch of a button.

I guess what I’m saying is that Pixels and Cardboard need not be enemies. The geek community (not saying all gamers are geeks btw) is highly recognised for their ability to adapt and change as technology advances, but what is unique about the geek culture is that we don't see technology as a way to advance humankind or to save the world, we see it and ask “how can we use this to have fun!”

Just my two cents. Smile

And if you have an opinion on digital gaming and it’s effect on the current state of gaming why not add it to the comments. Also, don’t forget if you want to contribute to the blog, Open Mic Mondays are open to anyone so feel free to contact me and I’ll add your post to the next open slot.


  1. Hi guys,

    Great posts here!

    I can certainly relate to most of what has been well said here.

    I will only comment on two points.

    The first one is about the ease of play. Some games, not all, are much better when played online. No manipulations, no hard counting. You are left with the game alone. Some may appreciate it while others won't. But you can generally play a game much faster (x2.5 I would say) than in real.

    The second point is about the spread of the hobby. It was rightly pointed out that people are discovering our great games via Iphone apps or online platforms. This is very good. One strong point of apps/platforms (not all but most) is the fact that they teach you the game. We all know how difficult it can be to a newbie (and sometimes to experienced player too) to read the rules of a game. So that's one big hurdle less here!

    You may have guessed that the subject is important for me. I have actually just launched one online platform:

    The main aim of this site is to bring new people to board games. That's why we have tried to avoid the usual pitfalls of other platforms:

    - All games have their own tutorials,
    - There is no waiting time (if there is no human opponent, you'll play a good bot, not a crappy one)
    - The games were carefully selected for a broad audience
    - The site is available in 4 languages (English, French, German, Turkish

    I'll let you judge whether we succeeded.

    Happy Meeple!

    And keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks for the feedback, totally agree with you on both points. Digital gaming is a boon to the analogue world and should be used to increase our hobby, instead of feared for what it might take away :)


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