Modern Board Gaming

generic board game board and components

What Is Hobby Board Gaming?

Modern board gaming a loose term that describes the boom the board game hobby has experienced since about the year 2000, give or take a few years depending on where you count the turning point. Since that time, though, the industry has developed into a juggernaut that produces hundreds of new titles per year from established publishers, and thousands of titles including smaller independent publishers.

It can be overwhelming to a newcomer to hobby board gaming, but fortunately the boom in popularity means there has never been a better time to find people who enjoy a robust array of board games and can help to introduce you to some new and exciting games.

The answer will depend on the person, but could include the following:

  • Meetup groups that regularly meet to play their favorites.
  • Friendly local game shops (FLGS’s) that have games for sale, and various nights of the week where you can come in and play. Sometimes there’s a small fee associated with this.
  • Larger gaming clubs and “board game cafes” that sell food, coffee or alcohol and have a game collection that you can freely play after purchasing food or drink.
  • Regular game nights at a friends house, or quiet board game nights with a significant other or even playing solo.
  • Attending gaming conventions. Some of these are local and will feature local game designers and fans. These generally draw 100-500 people. The largest conventions feature tens of thousands and include the industry’s top publishers. The largest in the US are Gen Con, which is in Indianapolis, and Origins, which is in Columbus. Internationally, UK Game Expo (England) and Essen (Germany) are among the largest.

Why Board Games?

Board games offer many things to many people. For some, it’s a way to spend a fun night with the family, without simply watching TV or spending a lot of money for food or a movie. For many couples it serves the same function. For others, it’s a way to meet new people and hang out in their cities and towns either at friends’ houses or at local businesses.

Many also relate to the hobby through the games themselves and the intellectual, interpersonal and strategic engagement they provide. Like any hobby, the benefit depends on the person. Regardless, though, it is a fun and growing hobby that is arguably experiencing its strongest period ever. If you decide to check out some games, enjoy!

It would be impossible to list every popular board game, since at this point there are hundreds (thousands?) that have received widespread acclaim. However, the industry has developed certain pillar games that have acted as many gamers’ gateway into the hobby. These include Catan (formerly called Settlers of Catan), Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, Carcassone, 7 Wonders, and many others.

For a longer list, check my list of the 10 most popular board games of the modern era

Catan board game components

What Types of Board Games Are There?

The number of different genres in board gaming is immense. Below I’ve listed some popular ones, but it is far from a comprehensive list:

  • Euro games – owing to a renaissance among (initially) European board game designers, Euro games are typified by their deep strategy, lack of player elimination, and focus on personal strategy over direct combat with your opponents. Examples: Castles of Burgundy, Terra Mystica, Keyflower
  • American-style games – Sometimes called “Ameritrash,” these games generally feature direct conflict and other elements where players are directly interacting with each other’s strategies. While there are hybrid games that overlap a bit between American and Euro-style games, there are many that fall squarely into one or the other category. Examples: Cosmic Encounter, Blood Rage
  • Social Deduction Games – in these, you are usually trying to discern the roles of others at the table utilizing social clues as well as the game’s mechanisms. Oftentimes there will be two or more teams at the table, but you won’t always know which is which, and determining who is your ally is part of the puzzle. Examples: One Night Ultimate Werewolf, The Resistance
  • Area Control Games – As the name suggests, this is often tied to a map or tableau, and you are trying to establish control over one or more regions. Examples: El Grande, Scythe
  • Worker Placement Games – Often accompanied by meeples, which are small playing pieces that are usually shaped like humans. Worker placements involves assigning your meeples to gain certain resources and/or complete particular tasks that will lead to victory. Examples: Lords of Waterdeep, Stone Age
  • Wargames – Separate from Ameritrash, war gaming is a smaller but devoted niche within the hobby. War gamers play games that often simulate historical conflicts and can be abstracted to as little as a half hour or protracted into multi-session, massive campaigns. Examples: Axis & Allies, Advanced Squad Leader
  • Abstract Games – Games like Chess and Go are abstracts, and many modern games follow their legacy. Examples: Zinsh, Chess, Azul
  • Filler Games – These are small box microgames that take up very little table space and can be played in 30 minutes or less. Perfect for killing some times between larger games or for situations like waiting for your food to arrive at a restaurant. Examples: Love Letter, Sushi Go

Where Do I Start?

Online, there are a number of great resources to help you start researching the types of games that might be for you. One of the best – and certainly the most comprehensive – is Board Game Geek. Featuring a large user base, BGG’s greatest strength is its database. It acts as a comprehensive Wiki for nearly every board game in existence. For finding local groups, BGG may help, and you can also try Meetup.

Offline, if you live in or near a city, it’s likely there are a number of game shops that host game nights. These may be a great place to start!

If you’d prefer to start here, you can find all of my board gaming reviews here. You can also read my reviews on Board Game Geek here. I also create content for Dungeons & Dragons and general tabletop roleplaying games, so feel free to explore!