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Sorry, Geeks: Boardgames Will Never Go Mainstream

Hot take: modern board games are boring, overly complicated, and stupid expensive. Why does anyone play them?
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Picture this: A cafeteria after hours, lit by aggressively bright fluorescent lights. Thirty-odd people of all ages huddle around the tables, rolling dice, shuffling cardboard tokens, and carefully placing tiny pieces of wood or plastic on complicated maps or schematics.

holding cards, playing Catan board game

It takes almost half an hour just to learn the rules and unpack all the pieces.

And then… THEN you spend over two hours building railroads, or whatever, while sitting on an increasingly uncomfortable folding chair, checking your phone every five minutes and wondering if it would be unforgivably rude to fake an emergency just so you can escape this loud, sweaty purgatory.

It’s game night, nerds. And I absolutely hate it.

Why Eurogames Are Actually Terrible

To enthusiasts, Euro-style games are the most fun you can have while fully clothed. (Or not; there are probably folks who enjoy strip Catan, and that’s none of my business.)

I’ve been to a couple of local game nights now, but I think it’s time to give up.

To be fair, folks are always patient and helpful when it comes to explaining the gameplay. I’ve never met anyone who was rude or impatient–at least not to my face. But I know that it’s frustrating to have a total noob blunder in with zero concept of strategy and no clue how to play, let alone compete with accomplished players. It’s no fun to win against someone who has no idea what they’re doing.

It’s no fun feeling like an outsider, either.

Betrayal at House on the Hill
Board Game Quest

The learning curve to get into Eurogaming is super steep. There are tons of insidery terms like “meeples” that get thrown around. Plus so many unspoken conventions of the genre that are second nature if you’re a seasoned player but totally bewildering if you’re a newcomer. The games are often very complex, with tons of cards, tokens, and game pieces to keep track of.

Now, I could spend all my free time studying the most popular games and watching play-throughs. But even if I did that, there’d still be another major obstacle: money.

Board Games Are an Expensive Time-Suck

Most modern Eurogames retail for $40-60 each. Scythe has an MSRP of $90, though. And Gloomhaven? That’ll set you back $140 unless you find it on sale.

Do you get a ton of cool stuff in those boxes? Sure! Just look at all the bits and bobs you get with Gloomhaven:


That pic doesn’t even include the detailed character minis, which you can paint if you’re into that sort of thing. Not saying any of these games are overpriced, but for someone with only a casual interest, the cost is high.

Luckily, most hardcore gamers have cabinets, closets, or even entire rooms full of games. If board games are your new hobby, be prepared to invest a lot of money–and time. Like I said earlier, it took about two hours to actually play a complete game of Whistle Mountain, a steampunk-ish “worker placement” game that I barely understood and lost spectacularly.

Whistle Mountain
Bezier Games

That doesn’t include the time it took to hear the rules, set up the board, and clean up the dozen-plus baggies of game pieces.

Because if you lose pieces of your very expensive board game, guess what? It gets a lot harder to play. While you can buy replacement meeples (i.e., the tiny wooden or plastic game pieces), they’ll never exactly match what you lost. Then you’ll be too ashamed to bring your game to open gaming nights anyway, so why bother?

The only way to love Eurogaming is to already be a Eurogamer. The rest of us are way better off finding a new hobby.