Well hate is a pretty strong word, but I definitely am not a fan of the vast majority of the games that could fit in this category. To put it simply, If I come over to your house and old board games is all you have, please bring out the most obscure one.
I, like most hobby tabletop gamers, get excited when someone talks about busting out a board game to play. But the moment a game like Sorry or Life or Monopoly hit the table, many of us become less enthused or sometimes outright belligerent about it. (I never have been vocal at the table about it, but I have been around people who have.) What is it about old board games that bugs me and many of the board game hobbyists out there?
Before we get too deep into the topic, let’s define what a “Classic Board Game” is. These are typically big box retail board games that were well established by the 1990s. Games like Monopoly, Sorry, Life, Clue, Mousetrap, Scrabble, etc. It also includes games like UNO, Stratego and Risk and not to forget games like Chess and Checkers.
Now, before anyone lights me on fire, I know that most gamers still have a special place in our heart for at least one of these games. (And I know Chess is in it’s own tier beyond most of these) But I would like to point out that for many of us hobbyists, none of these games are in our top ten or even twenty.
I grew up with these games around, as did most of us. We know what they are, we have played them, and in some cases we have fought over them. We have a “been there, done that” kind of feeling just looking at the boxes. When ever you see one of the old boxes you can almost remember what the closet or cabinet it was stored in smelled like. For me it was a kind of musty smell mixed with old cardboard and dust.
In My Early Years
Some of us have fond and not-so-fond memories tied to each of these games. And I would hazard to guess that many of you, especially if you are in your 30s or older, have a similar memory of being a kid, staring at these games on a shelf, trying to decide if any of them were worth the time to figure out with your siblings or friends on a boring day. Board games were more like Bored Games. (I bet most of you have said that at some point.)
The only other time you ever looked at the shelf of games was if your family, or your friends family, decided to have a Family Game Night. Back then, these classic board games were your only choices whether you liked it or not.
My family had a fairly sizable collection of games, I remember there being at least 25 different boxes in that cabinet. I don’t remember most of them… because we never played them. If my parents had friends or family over, if they played a game, it was usually a playing card game, which was Euchre 95% of the time. We did occasionally have a board game night, but it was usually a game like Trouble, Sorry, or Parcheesi. I also remember my younger sister had a thing for Candy Land.
I remember learning to dislike the roll to move around a board mechanic fairly early. When I got a little older, I hated it even more in Monopoly… *insert flashback sequence of me landing on some beefed up property and pretty much handing the game away*… *but not quite my whole game*… *no, just enough to permanently cripple me for the next 30 mins before I am actually allowed lose.*… *And then sit around trying to pretend to be part of the fun while the second place player goes through the same fate.* I eventually learned how to win more often in Monopoly, but I never really felt good about it. I’ll talk about it another time.
I never liked UNO, but I had a friend who’s family was obsessed with it. Each time I stayed the night over there, I would be roped in to at least seven or eight rounds of it. I cringe any time someone brings it up. It can be fun, but the next time someone runs to their game closet full of excitement to bring it out, I think I am going to throw up.
Risk was another for me… which is odd because it definitely fits in with stuff I like. But I got into it way later than most of the people I played against. My earliest memories of it are just me slowly getting beat and not having much fun. Same with Axis and Allies, though not quite to the same degree.
I could go on and on, but let’s cut to the chase. I have played a lot of older games. I remember fondly making up my own games, because the ones we had did not quite scratch the itch I had. It would not be until later in high school that I was introduced to options that went well beyond my imagination at the time. Once I found those, I was happy to be rid of the classics.
If I did have to choose my favorites of the big classics, Clue and Battleship. But there are plenty of other games I would play before them.
A Larger World
Every person has their own style. I am sure there are plenty of people out there that are huge enthusiasts for the classics. And if you are one, know that I support and encourage you to continue playing what you love. But even beyond old verses new, there are many different categories of table top games and back in the late 90s this was a big deal to me. I remember being introduced to games like D&D and Magic: The Gathering and being blown away at the depth and adventure. It was like a Matrix moment, when I was brought to my first gaming store… What I thought was the extent of the industry was a lie, there was a whole world of unexplored games.
Oh I ate it up, I had to try everything, there were new ways to play. People were actually making games that were not flat boards with squares and rolling dice. I wanted to tell the world. This was back when the hobby scene was a social negative. D&D was something you couldn’t really talk openly about without people giving you a look of concern. (Still a bit of a problem today, but not nearly what it was.)
It just seemed that more of the “Hobby” games were better at what they did. If it was a strategy game, it had more depth. Luck based games had better, more focused themes. (or at least a wider variety) There was more thought put into the art, the story, the worlds. It is like the difference between a cheap sandwich cookie vs freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. Warm rich complex flavor…. mmm cookies.
I think, even if I was introduced to hobby games first and then to the classics…. I think I would have the same reaction. Many of the classics are just not on the same level. Sure there are hobby level games that are not good or are a bit over rated. But on average, they offer a better experience.
Anyway, this post seems to have become more of a rambling than anything. I hope to put up something more coherent in the future.
Anyway, Love and Happy Gaming everyone!