So you’ve decided to invest into a fantastic new ‘low tech’ gaming platform known as your tabletop. Congratulations! You’ve just taken your first step on a journey to new worlds and mechanics and events that are unique to your brand new platform. Now all you have to decide on is what you’re going to drop, roll, shuffle, or flip on that beautiful kitchen table. Luckily I will break down for you what I like to call the four categories of tabletop gaming; Card Games, Role-playing Games, Miniature Games, and of course, Board Games. Now each of these ‘states’ cross and re-cross each other’s borders often, to fill a variety of roles and niches. Then again, there are plenty of games that may not fit in any of these categories, and many designers wouldn’t necessarily want them to be lumped in so simply. Here today though, I’m just going to go over the basics, and give you a taste of some stuff to google. Chances are you may already be familiar with some of these games in some fashion, even if just in name only!
(I apologize for the lateness of this post, I meant to post it earlier today, but real life happens! Anyway, the goal is to have Cardboard Consoles once or twice a week, monday and/or friday with wednesday being unofficial ‘Tay’ boardgame night where I feature a singular board game!)
Card games were, and still are, my personal bread-and-butter tabletop genre. They are a particular genre that has ebbed and flowed in the past, but lately they’ve had a fantastic growth in quality and variety. Magic:The Gathering, Yu-gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Android: Netrunner, Doomtown: Reloaded, Dominion, Legendary, Love Letter... the list can go on and on!
Card games are great for players who love to tinker or figure out a tactical situation. They’re also great for players who look for a quick and competitive genre. Games with blind booster buying like Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oheven have entirely separate secondary markets for their cards, which lead to a sort of mini stock-market and portfolio building that collectors will enjoy. Other card games are wholly contained in their boxes, some of the more popular ones like the DC Comics Deck Building Game have players building their stacks of cards and playing them as they play the game itself. Of course, there are much simpler games like Love Letter, a game with a stack of only 15 cards, played with up to 4 players, that plays quick but is still deep enough and engaging to keep you coming back for round after round.
Dungeons and Dragons. Thats just about the first game most people will think of when it comes to the tabletop and roleplaying games. Theres a fair reason too, DnD was and still is a dominant figure when it comes to pen and paper role-playing games. But nowadays theres much more than the hack and slash fantasy settings of DnD to enjoy. Role-playing games are great for gaming something a little more free-form, personal, and story based. Whether you’re a Jedi in Balance of the Force fleeing from the tyrannical might of the Empire, a street sam in Shadowrun just looking for the next payday, or an arch-typical Elf with a deadly bow skill picking off goblins in Pathfinder, theres generally a setting here for everyone. Theres plenty of games focused more on the social interaction as much as the combat. Theres games that break everything down that you can get lost in stats in simulation, or games that don’t even roll dice yet still can create a compelling narrative. If you like crafting a story as much as crafting a character, RPGs are probably for you.
So, upfront, theres basically two categories you can break Minis games into. Each will have their own pros and cons depending on personal preferences. Either way, much like everything else, theres more choice now than ever before! Basically theres the collectible kind and the hobby kind. The former is generally easy to get into, everything comes pre-built, assembled, and painted. Just buy a starter, learn to play, and enjoy! Heroclix and X-Wing are each engaging and fantastic experiences. Now hobby games don’t have, well, any of that. Don’t let that discourage you! Hobby miniatures can allow for a wonderful breadth of customization and creativity. Painting is a joy for many, and some minis are downright works of art. Hobby miniature games tend to have their own worlds to learn about and explore. From the ever present Warhammer 40k, to the clashing metal and flesh of Warmachine/Hordes there are models and games for you to explore and experiment with however you choose.
Last but certainly not least, are the namesake of the whole industry. Here you can find probably the greatest variety among all the genres. Looking for something a little lighter? Try Ticket to Ride, Tsuro, or Takenoko. Want to make your friends shifty-eyed at you for the rest of your life? Dead of Winter will certainly have them wondering whether or not the zombies are more trustworthy. Have an open day to spend making intergalactic plots, politics, and war? Twilight Emperium. Seriously, set aside some serious time for that one. Theres new board games coming out all the time, old ones being reinvented or re-released, and all of them more engaging than that tired old board of Monopoly. Modern board games are great for just about everyone, theres bound to be a game, no matter how big or small that will appeal to someone. You just have to get out there and try some.
With this crash course in tabletop gaming I hope I’ve helped give you an idea of what to expect if you were to dive head first into your Local Game Store (LGS) without having a clue. I’ll most likely break each of these down and expand on a few of the titles I’ve mentioned here in the future. For now though, I ask if there are any specific games I mentioned today that you’d like me to expand upon in the future? Perhaps you’d like to make a list of one game in each category that you enjoy in the comments below? You may even cue me in on some games I’ve never heard of!