For those whose knowledge of board games is limited to classics such as Scrabble or Monopoly, the idea of having mechanics similar to gambling is probably strange. The reality is that some game mechanics in the more complex end of board games are often hard to separate from casino games. In many cases, the different main feature is just that board games aren’t normally played for real money.
Poker probably has the most board and card games that take after it, at least in the key strategies needed to win the game. Bluff and social reading are core concepts in several major titles, although the one that first comes to mind is the bluffing game Skull.
The elements drawn from poker include two different ‘suits’ of cards, skulls and roses, and the core element of convincing the players around the table what your face-down card is or isn’t. There’s no specific betting involved, although players can take a risk to raise the bet level for everyone, making social tells equally critical.
Skull takes the elements of Poker and boils them down to excitement and thrill without the risk of financial loss.
Another close match is probably Pandante, which draws directly from Texas Hold’em in the basic mechanics but also comes with special powers that can be bluffed along with the cards. This is not the most well-known board game out there, however.
Even the most casual board gamer knows how critical dice are to many of the biggest industry names, although there aren’t so many that involve gambling as well. One of the more well-known options is Perudo from South America, although it’s based on a game more famously known around the world as Liar’s Dice.
The game acts in a way reminiscent of Skull which was mentioned earlier. It’s a game of guesswork and one-upping the bets of other players. Each player gets a cup and five dice, so in a game of four people there are 20 total dice. The goal is for players to guess the correct amount of a single number, such as 4 5’s or 3 6’s, while only knowing what is under their cup.
Players can raise the bid or make the player run with their prediction. A player wins a round by having a correct prediction but loses if the number is less than their bid.
With slots, it’s very much the opposite direction with board games, as many of them have been adapted into slots instead of the other way around. Monopoly has received the most attention and has well over a dozen slot games, which is enough to rival even the Rainbow Riches slots series which has more iterations than we can count. Property tycoon game Monopoly is as much a staple as these online casino regulars.
So far there aren’t any hints of slots being integrated into board games, aside from a few scattered items left over from the 70s and 80s, although it is an innovative industry and virtually everything else has been done already. We may be very close to having a full-blown slot game mechanic worked into a board game, although how successful it would be is a matter of debate.
As you can see, game mechanics from popular casino games are heavily present in modern board gaming, although we might not perceive them directly as such. When playing a push-your-luck game such as Quacks of Quedlinburg, we only experience the fun side of gambling.
So, the next time you’re playing a board game, make a challenge to yourself and try to spot a mechanic you think was ported from a casino game. You never know, you might even be able to use this knowledge to outwit other players.