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What Makes Board Gaming Such A Great Hobby?


Like lots of people, I grew up playing Monopoly (have literally never won a game), Cluedo (often guessed a suspect who was in my own hand), Scrabble (always got stuck with Qs), Trivial Pursuit (the orange pie slice almost always eluded me), as well as an RSPB game from the 1970s called Conservation. The gameplay wasn’t excellent, but I have very fond memories of it, and it was ahead of the curve, predating Wingspan by about fifty years.

I didn’t discover modern hobby board games until a few years ago when again, like lots of people, I was invited to play Ticket to Ride and that made we wonder are there other games like this?!

Well, yes. It turns out there are. Rather a lot in fact.

A few years later and if I’m not playing board games, then it’s very likely that I’m thinking about them, watching videos about them, listening to podcasts about them, or writing about them.

I have always been a bit obsessive about a new hobby. There’s a new hobbies graveyard for fads of mine that once burned bright. Board games, however, have really stuck for me. Although I don’t have enough time to play as often as I’d like, I’m almost always in the mood to play. It made me wonder why are they so good? What do I like about them so much?

Time away from screens

I’m not particularly anti-screen, they are a big part of modern life, certainly mine. I spend almost all my working hours looking at a screen, I reward myself with breaks by looking at an even smaller screen and then often end the day by staring at a bigger screen. Sometimes they feel inescapable, so it’s really nice to do something that doesn’t involve a screen. I appreciate that some games now are app assisted and many are available on Steam or Board Game Arena. Again, I’m not anti-screen, online versions and app assisted games are great, but it’s just so nice that there’s always an analogue option.

They make your brain work.

As well as a welcome break from screens they can really feel like a workout for your brain. Games like Troyes, Shipyard, Russian Railroads and The Gallerist are all so crunchy and puzzly, although I’m not always in the mood for that, it feels really good sometimes to stretch yourself and so satisfying when you play well. There are also cooperative games like Hanabi or The Crew: Mission Deep Sea, working together with imperfect information makes them brain burny in a different way.


There’s so much variety in board games from the theme to style of play to mechanisms. If one game isn’t for you then there’s plenty more.

If you’re not competitive you can play cooperative games. If you’re not keen on space, then there’s a whole host of beautiful games about nature. If deep strategy isn’t your thing there’s plenty of fun to be had with party games. As well as there being something for everyone, the variety makes it difficult to get bored. I could (and sometimes do) play my absolute favourite games, Viticulture, Wonderlands War, Ark Nova, Obsession, Glen More, Dungeon Petz and Orleans on repeat. I really appreciate mixing it up though, if I’m playing with more people I enjoy some party games, if I’m short on time there are some great card games. Deck Builders aren’t my favourite but every now and then it’s just what I fancy. I love Fantastiqa, and on occasion have played Legendary: Buffy the Vampire Slayer everyday over the course of a week. I know people will think it’s scandalous I’ve not listed Dominion here. I’ve played it and enjoyed it; I thought it was fine. That’s just the point though, there are so many games there’s one, or several, for everyone!

Learning new things and discovering new interests

I love games that teach you something new. Some games provide lots of information and build learning right into the game. Some just have themes that pique your interest and inspire you to learn more. Playing A Feast for Odin resulted in hours poring over Wikipedia and Parks has added several dream holiday destinations to my list. Meadow has a card index to supplement the beautiful card art which provides information about the different animals and plant life. Similarly, Wingspan has short facts on each unique bird card. It’s totally unnecessary for the game, and if it’s not for you it’s unobtrusive, but I love that it’s there. I enjoy finding out more and it really immerses you in the theme.


Being so immersed in the theme of a game is another reason that I love playing. Just like the best books, films, and television, they allow you to travel all over the world, out of this world and even other worlds.

I’ve loved the world building in games like Gloomhaven, Clank! Acquisitions Incorporated and Above and Below and I’ve really enjoyed inhabiting the different roles in the Pandemic Legacy campaigns.

Even if games are routed in more everyday themes just the commitment to playing a longer game like Ark Nova takes you out of everyday chores and worries.

Shared experience and creating memories.

I have had some of my absolute favourite and memorable nights playing board games with friends. Sometimes with legacy games like Pandemic where we’re all completely invested, sharing the twists and turns and sometimes with party games like Just One or One Night Ultimate Werewolf, that have made us laugh and become the stories and jokes, we tell.

It’s an exciting time for the hobby.

As in life, I was a bit late to the party with board games, but in the relatively short time I’ve been interested in the hobby, it’s become bigger and bigger every year. When I first started watching videos so many recommendations sounded great, only to disappoint me when I discovered they were long out of print. As board gaming has become more and more popular games come back into print, there’s also the opportunity to back (new) games on Kickstarter. It provides a completely new and different dimension to a hobby, albeit pricey sometimes. Still, it’s really exciting and makes me feel part of it.

Building a collection

After playing Ticket to Ride and wondering if there were more board games out there that I’d enjoy, I found some more. I got hold of Catan (although it was still Settlers of then) I enjoyed it even if I found it a bit mean. Then I tried Century Spice Road, I loved it, it felt completely different to everything else. This led me to Splendor which led me to Carcassonne: The Castle which led me to The Castles of Burgundy. I don’t own all of these anymore, but I have found out what I like. As well as discovering your tastes, curating a collection that represents different styles and themes can be fun in itself.


A shared hobby

Having a shared hobby with my partner is possibly my favourite thing about playing board games. It’s a way to ensure that we spend quality time together every week. It’s great as we can always find something in our collection that we both want to play, so doesn’t involve us spending any money. I do have another hobby that’s stuck, knitting (I have theories on why, but I won’t bore you with those here) I love it, but it’s solitary. It’s special to do something together other than defaulting to the television, although to be clear I love the telly too! It’s more than just playing games though, we’re both interested in learning more about what’s coming up, listening to podcasts or watching videos and building our collection together.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of why I love board games, I do have some peeves too, nothing’s perfect. Still for me the pros far outweigh the cons, I’ve not consigned board games to under the stairs with the rollerblades and jazz clarinet. This kind of staying power suggests it’s certainly the hobby for me.

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