Cooperation over competition
Classic games like Monopoly continue to attract nostalgic game enthusiasts, as do their spin-offs or sequels like Mattel’s new card game DOS, which was recently released 40-odd years after its popular predecessor UNO. Yet, more and more of today’s board games emphasize collaboration, cooperation, and inclusiveness rather than conflict or luck.
Tea + Victory regular Tirza Block says she’s always on the lookout for new board games — especially collaborative ones like Betrayal at House on the Hill in which players explore a haunted house and work together to defeat one player that betrays the others. Block also hosts a regular game playing afternoon at her home every Saturday. “We’re a board game household,” she says. “Games are a great way to connect socially.”
The industry has seen rising interest in Eurogames, a genre based on strategy and cooperation that often focuses on economic themes. One such game, Catan (aka Settlers of Catan), a German board game published in the mid-1990s, has sold more than 27 million copies in 39 languages. Players win victory points when they build settlements and cities. The first player to score 10 points wins.
Also increasingly popular are legacy games, with rules and components that change based on each game’s outcome and the choices players make. For example, players might make physical changes to a game like adding stickers to the board or tearing up cards. Rob Daviau, a 20-year industry veteran and former game designer at Hasbro Games, is credited with coming up with the legacy concept.
“Ideas are plentiful; making games is hard,” says Daviau, who worked on over 80 published games including Risk Star Wars and Clue Harry Potter. He was editor of Trivial Pursuit and created legacy versions of Risk and Pandemic.
Daviau says the ideas for his games often spring from interesting life moments, like the mixed emotions of dropping off a child at college, which he’s thinking about for a future game. He envisions a two-player game in which one player is an engineer trying to perfect the rocket to colonize Mars and the other will be the first colonist. The two work together to prepare for the one-way trip, and if they win, they never see each other again.
Since 2016, Daviau has been chief restoration officer at Restoration Games, a publisher bringing unique out-of-print board games back to life. Daviau compares the gaming industry with the beer industry, where large companies coexist with smaller producers and hobbyists who add variety. Annual and even monthly lists of hot new games keep tabletop gamers informed on new games to try.
“As board games and hobby games have grown over the last generation, more people are playing them and more people want to make them,” he says.