I played an incredible modern board game today (called Brook City), and couldn’t believe how immersive and fun it was. I was literally on the edge of my seat and biting my nails at several points throughout the experience.
It made me think how vastly different that game was from “classic” board games like Monopoly that I grew up playing! The board game industry has really changed over the years, and I’m so excited to share what makes modern board games so different.
So, what are modern board games? Modern board games are fun games that generally function by using a variety of mechanisms. They also have immersive themes, manageable playing times, are engaging, and typically do not use the player elimination.
What Makes Modern Board Games Unique
All of the characteristics I mentioned above actually have a huge impact on how much fun you might have playing a board game. So, I’m going to break them down into more detail.
While I break down what makes modern board games unique, I’ll also share how modern board games are different from classic ones along the way.
Variety of Mechanics
First, one of the things that makes the biggest impact on modern board gaming is the variety of mechanics they can have or use. (A board game mechanic is basically just how the board game works, or how it plays when in action.)
Some of the mechanics that modern board games may use include (but certainly aren’t limited to):
- Area control
- Auctioning and bidding
- Card drafting
- Cooperative play (my favorite!)
- Dice Rolling
- Grid Movement
- Hand Management
- Modular board
- Pattern recognition
- Push your luck
- Route building
- Set collecting
- Social deduction
- Worker placement
- Roll and Write
That’s a pretty big list, and it’s not even all of the modern board game mechanics. Perhaps you can tell from the list itself, but modern board mechanics are specifically designed to keep you engaged and having fun.
Consequence of Mechanics
I recently asked a coworker if he liked playing board games and he replied with a, “no I usually get bored playing them”. I knew by his response that he was referring to classic board games, and that he hadn’t experienced the result of great board game mechanics that modern board games offer.
After asking, my hunch was confirmed. The last board game he had played was Monopoly.
Because of modern board game mechanics or mechanisms, there is often very little downtime. Players are faced with challenging decisions that leave them thinking critically and on the edge of their seats.
This combats the boredom that often can set in with classic board games. Let’s take “Sorry!” for example. The way the board game works (or its mechanic) is by drawing a card and moving your pawn in the way the card directs. That means it’s purely luck-based, and there’s not a lot in your control.
In Sorry!, there’s one way to win, and there’s honestly not a lot of thinking that happens in this game. You don’t really decide what to do (apart from who to send back home). This leads to boredom, and an unexciting, unfulfilling experience.
Board games with “boring” mechanics are flat. On the flip side, the variety and different types of mechanics in modern board games are what makes them so fun and engaging.
Many of the modern board games and their mechanics allow for multiple ways in which you can win a game, which always keeps things interesting.
Board Game Themes
Board game themes have a huge effect on player experience, and theme is a big characteristic of modern board games. Since modern board games are designed to be fun and immersive, they’re often created with beautiful themes to accompany them.
The well thought out and sometimes all-encompassing themes accompanied by beautiful illustrations, flavor text, and sometimes even narratives or accompanying apps creates a fun and immersive environment.
Board game art has a huge impact on the board game experience. Some of my favorite art is from the board game Raiders of the North Sea—I love how it impacts the experience you have while playing the game!
While most modern board games are thematic, it’s worth mentioning that there are also theme-less games, and those are classified as abstract strategy games. Khet is a great example of that!
Another characteristic of modern board games is that they have manageable playing times, since the games are usually timed in some way. No more 3 hour long games of monopoly where literally nothing happens.
The way the board game is “timed” can be as simple as tracked rounds, in which at the end of the last round, everyone scores their points. Or, in cooperative games, it could be something like players losing the game once something specific happens.
Now, this isn’t saying that modern board games are short—they definitely vary in length and I’ve played some amazing board games that have lasted for three or four hours and have loved every second. But those 3-hour long engaging games felt like 30 minutes. THAT’s the key difference in playing times between classic and modern board games. There’s no dead time.
Even in longer modern board games, progress is always being made, and there’s no stalemate or dead time where players are just waiting for something to happen.
Player elimination happens in a multiple player game, where a player can be eliminated from the game, and the gameplay continues without them. It’s generally thought of as a bad mechanic, for obvious reasons.
With “classic” board game like Risk, you could be out of the game for an entire 2 hours while you wait for the other players to finish. Not fun.
While there are some modern board games that still do include player elimination, most of them don’t. However, it’s still sometimes a part of modern games. Regardless, when this mechanic is used in modern board games, it’s typically more balanced than how it’s used in classic board games.
Let’s take the modern board game King of Tokyo, for example. Player elimination is used as a way to win the game. (When all other players die or are eliminated, and you’re the last one standing, you win.) However, it’s only one of the ways in which players can play the game.
The other way to win the game is through gaining 20 victory points. But, the really awesome part about how King of Tokyo uses player elimination is that players get to decide how they want to play the game. They don’t have to use player elimination if they choose not to. That’s a huge difference from classic games that use player elimination!
There are so many reasons to love modern board games, especially since they really do offer something for everyone. There are so many games to choose from that have a variety of themes, mechanics, and playing times.
Board games and the industry have changed drastically over the last few years and it keeps on getting better.
Modern board games are engaging with immersive themes, they use a variety of mechanics, and have manageable playing times. They typically stay away from player elimination, but when they use it, it’s used in a very balanced way.
In short, they’re much more fun than classic board games. If you’re new to board gaming, and only have experience playing the classic games you may have grown up with, give modern board games a shot with the fresh perspective I hope you’ve gleaned through reading this post!