Nowadays plenty of entertainment forms exist. TV programme, movies, YouTube, Netflix, video games; if we start with indoor activities. Then you have all sorts of outdoor activities: workout, sports, shows, museums, list is endless. Why should you choose board games over others or at least dedicate a significant portion of your time to them. Why is it good to play board games?
1. Board games are a good workout for both the mind and body
Board games are a modern version of Sudoku or crosswords – a workout for your mind. They require the practice of critical thinking, managing resources and planning, while having the luxury of being in a safe space.
Games like Mage Knight demand a lot mathematical and logical thinking. You’ll be doing small to medium scale algebraic equations in your mind, juggling with numbers and trying to adjust your decisions to maximize results.
Other games like train themed board games require financial skills: budgeting your capital for your infrastructure, investing, speculating on shares and managing your stocks.
Cooperative gameplay is a very popular trend in modern board gaming. It means that you play against the game and work together with other players, instead against them. A game like Forbidden Island teaches you to solve problems and plan moves together to work towards a common goal. You win or lose as a team, there’s no middle way.
There is a clear health benefit with playing board games: keeping your mind sharp reduces the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Playing releases endorphin (the happiness hormone), reduces blood pressure and stress levels.
Long term, playing board games will make you happier, smarter and healthier. Of course, doing sports and having an all-around healthy diet is even better for you. As with everything in life – a decent balance of all things is needed.
2. They are one of the best socializing tools
First thing you do in the morning – and the last thing you do before going to sleep is check your phone. You’re staring at screens at work and at home, loosing touch with the physical world. Even for entertainment purposes, you watch movies, TV shows or play video games.
Board games offer a different, “retro” approach. You can see the components in front of you, touch them, interact with them and people around you in a more natural, “analog” way. It’s a breeze of fresh air in our digitalized present and a way to stay connected to the physical world.
Large part of board gaming is playing with other people. They are great to break the ice and bond if you are at a gathering with total strangers. Cooperative games really shine here, as they force you to socialize, to come out of your shell. It gives people with social anxiety a solid reason to stop being shy, while still staying in their comfort zone.
And if you take them to a party, they can take it to the next level, providing that extra factor (alcohol or no alcohol included), that gets people relaxed and talkative. Sharing mutual experience is one of the best ways to connect with other people.
3. Board games can save relationships
You both come home after a long day at work, then spend another couple of hours taking care of the kids and putting them to bed and by the time you should focus on each other, you’re too tired to interact and become couch potatoes. What if you would play a board game instead?
It doesn’t have to be anything long or heavy – a short half an hour simple game will lighten the mood, make you interact with each other, laugh and plan together. You and your partner will show sides you fell in love in with in the first place and instead of drifting apart, you keep falling in love over and over again.
4. Board games are an excellent tool for learning about winning and losing in life
Board games teach you how to better cope with ups and downs in life. You learn that your actions have consequences. It’s your job to make the best of your decisions and take responsibility for the consequences.
You learn how to deal with losing. It doesn’t matter if you lose, as long as you did your best. That’s the most you can do – if an unlucky dice roll then destroys your plans, it’s not your fault. Do not worry about a factor you have no influence over.
Parallel to this: it’s about the journey, not destination. Having fun is not conditioned with winning – it’s about playing, making decisions, interacting with others and immersing. That’s where the joy is. I am a very competitive person and I like winning just as anybody, but some of my most memorable plays are from losing: cranking that difficulty in Pandemic to the maximum or trying to beat my uncle in chess over and over again (and failing).
Board games don’t reward impulsive reckless behavior. You will become calmer, more methodical and patient. Waiting for your opponent to act, while contemplating your moves, you drift into a zen-like state, where there’s nothing on the world, except the game, here and now.
You begin to appreciate the games for the challenge they offer and respect them and other players more. After the game, you will get up with your head smiling, congratulating your opponent, regardless of the results.
5. They are a way to experience new things and educate
It’s not secret board games can broaden your horizons. While a lot of them are fantasy themed (with some real adventures to be found there), you also have a lot drawing their theme from real-world people and events. They give you an opportunity to experience parts of history or events (like being a Viking) that you would otherwise have little chance to experience.
Just like a good book or a movie, they can make you experience a new world firsthand, just like if you were there. Would you like to experience how it is to be Frodo? How about Sauron?
You can learn a lot about slavery from a game like Freedom: Underground Railroad or about the Cold War from Twilight Struggle. But where they really succeed is fostering your interest in the subject matter. You’ll find yourself searching for more information on the internet, watch documentaries and TV shows about it. You never know, you might even read a book.
6. Board games offer excellent value for money
I know what you’re thinking. How can those $100 boxes be reasonable? Building a repertoire of games can get really expensive and you can reach a $1000 worth without filling even a fraction of your shelf space.
Sure, if you’re just hoarding games and not playing. But build your collection gradually, actually spend the time playing the games (divide those $100 into 50 hours of gameplay and it’s suddenly not at all expensive) so you get maximum value out of them.
Take good care of your games. Unlike similarly-priced video games, board games have a big advantage: they can be re-sold for a good portion of their retail price. So don’t be afraid to experiment with your collection and try different games. If you don’t like them, just sell them.
Let’s not forget about some Kickstarter exclusives, games out of print or vintage games. You can sell those for much more than you spent on them. Investing in such games be a hobby in itself. Purchase wisely (don’t buy every junk you see) and you could make nice money out of a hobby.
You can even play board games alone. Sometimes you just can’t go through the process of setting up and organizing a social event. Luckily, plenty of board games are suitable for such solo occasions (see my lists of thematic and strategy solo board games) and they have some clear advantages over video games, being a lot more engaging (you have to use your whole brain to immerse yourself, strategize and run the game, while video games do a lot of those things for your, leaving your brain under-stimulated).
As you can see, board games really are an excellent way to spend your leisure time. But, as with other things, don’t fall into the trap of overdoing it. Board games communities are full of pictures of shelves, filled with board games (they call them “shelfies”). Some collections go into hundreds of titles.
I can’t help to ask myself how many of those games really made it to the table. And how many of those received the gameplay time they require and deserve. I get my answer when I see a lot of those games still wrapped in plastic. But if you can afford that, it’s your money after all.
Don’t take games too seriously. Have fun, but remember what the priorities in life are.
If you have an opinion or a question, please post them below. I’ll be very happy to read and answer them.