Is there still room for classic board games at your game table? I guess to answer that question one would need to answer the question of what exactly is considered a classic game? Many may say that this would include games like Monopoly, Risk or Sorry. When I think of a classic game, I think of games that have been around for at least 10 years and have been influential in the creation of the massive variety of board games that we have today such as Settlers of Catan, Acquire, Puerto Rico, and Dominion. There are so many games available now that use mechanics and styles that these classic games pioneered. Does that then make these older games irrelevant, or less fun? I think that this may be true for some of these games, but definitely not for all of them.
First, I look at how spoiled we are as gamers to have the wide variety of games available to us that weren't available 20 years ago. There seem to be endless options for board gamers. I look at the number of games that are available for my kids to play versus what I had in my home as a child, and there is no comparison. To be fair, I absolutely do not consider my parents to be gamers, but my dad did have some of the old-school bookshelf games (like Stocks and Bonds and Executive Decision), and those are the few that I can occasionally get him to play still to this day. But if we look at the availability of games today, along with what seems like hundreds of styles of games, it makes sense why board games have become so popular.
So, which games do I think still have relevance and which do not? I think that some have very little, some a moderate level, and some still have a high level of relevancy. I look back to when I was fourteen and at a youth conference at Brigham Young University. During that week, one of our advisers introduced us to Axis and Allies. I remember thinking that this was one of the most amazing games I had ever played (honestly up to that point in my life, it probably was). I saved up and bought the game and played it many times. All those plays were in the first three years after I bought the game. How many times has this particular game made it to my game table in the last twenty years? Let’s just say it has accumulated twenty years of dust. Why, after all the fun I had, does it not get played? Is it irrelevant? In my eyes, yes. Not because it is a bad or boring game, but because there are hundreds of other games that I’d rather play, especially given the time commitment. I would choose something like Twilight Imperium, Eclipse, or even Rune Wars if I were looking for that style of game to play. Bottom line is better games came out that simply improved upon the game experience that Axis and Allies offers.
The game that first comes to mind that has a moderate level of relevancy is Settlers of Catan. I know there are some Settlers of Catan haters out there, but I don’t believe that the board game industry would be what it is today without this influential game. I can’t say that I play Settlers very often, but it does get to the table every few years, especially with the Cities and Knights expansion. As we have spoken on the podcast, Settlers of Catan is a fantastic gateway game. It typically gets played at my house when teaching non-gamers or playing with my kids.
What games have high levels of relevancy? The game that should be at the top of most gamer’s lists is Puerto Rico. We had the chance to play this again just last week, and it is still a very enjoyable game. Dave and I had the chance to teach the game to Logan and our friend Doug. It seemed that, even though both are long time gamers, they still enjoyed the experience. This is such a great game, and it makes it to my table about once a year (which is more than many of the newer games that I own). This is a game that, so far, has stood the test of time, having been released in 2002.
That brings me to the last game I want to mention, that in my view, has more than shown it can stay relevant, even after almost sixty years. Acquire (1964) is one of those games that seems to get overlooked, but every time I play it I am reminded of how much fun it really is. This is a game of investing and hostile takeover that isn’t too heavy (and I can get my wife to play) yet has enough decisions and strategy in it to be interesting and fun to an avid gamer.
I love some of the older and classic games that I own. I suppose one of the benefits to bringing out an old game after many years is like playing a brand-new game. That is, unless your memory is better than mine. Overall most of “The Classics” most definitely have a place on my shelf and at my table.
Did I miss any games that have stood the test of time, or do you feel that classic games belong in a museum, not at your game table? Are there any new games that you feel will become classics ten, twenty, or even fifty years from now?