10 Board Game Trends We're Glad Are Gone – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Despite the consistent roots of board gaming, the tropes and trends of the industry are not always good ones.
Board games have been around for thousands of years, entertaining societies as far back as ancient Mesopotamia. For centuries, families and friends have gathered around tables to engage in competitive or cooperative challenges, bonding through play. Though the games may change, the underlying experience carries through to create valuable quality time for generations.
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Despite the consistent roots of board gaming, the tropes and trends of the industry are not always good ones. Sometimes, what may seem popular has already fallen out of fashion or is drawing inspiration from the wrong avenues for the type of content that is being created.
Though a themed version of a classic board game can be fun, the industry became overly attached to the idea for a while. The best of these re-themed games had an element added to them by the change.
Golden Girls Clue used the classic Clue formula, but it revolved around missing cheesecake instead of cold-blooded murder. Instead of improvement, however, many creators simply put new art and a few word changes atop the standard version of the game as a quick cash-grab.
Though the modern board game industry has remarkable breadth and depth, there was a significant period during which most companies regarded any new games as the realm of "children's entertainment." Classic board games were relegated to the world of the past and the majority of fresh developments were targeted directly at kids.
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Board games are a useful tool for both entertaining and teaching children, but they can also be so much more. Now, there's plenty of enjoyable content easily accessible to gamers of any age.
Board games are meant to be fun, so it makes sense that they should look equally fun on the outside. A trend took this idea entirely too far and inundated the market with hyper-saturated primary and secondary colors. There were no neutrals or pastels to be found.
While the bright colors may have worked as a marketing ploy for a while, the endless cherry reds and neon yellows began to wear on even the most color-happy players. Currently, the colors of a game are curated to match its theme and overall aesthetic, which leads to a more diverse display on gamers' shelves.
There's nothing wrong with trying to keep up with the times. Technology is always changing and improving and has experienced an astronomical level of advancement in the past three decades. While rushing to try and measure up, several publishers developed and released board games with technology as their primary marketing gimmick.
Examples of this trend include VHS and then DVD-integrated games or electronic-enhanced board games like Clue FX and Electronic Battleship. Some games released updated versions over time to match pace, like Mall Madness, while others fell into practical obscurity. With modern tech like digital versions and apps, these older models simply don't stand on their own anymore.
Like many other facets of society, board games have been unnecessarily gendered. Games like Sorry! and Risk were designated to the realm of boys, while girls had Pretty Pretty Princess and Mystery Date. Any games marketed to girls were based on feminine material like fashion, shopping, or dating, while boys took on adventurous quests and strategic simulations of war.
Though the world has not completely done away with gendered marketing, it is much less common, especially in the realm of board games. Board games are now sorted and marketed based on categories like age and skill level rather than gender.
Most modern board games come with lovingly crafted components, especially when they're from passionate independent development teams and publishers. The art is hand-drawn, the cards are printed on thick stock, and the pieces are built from sturdy materials, but it hasn't always been that way.
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In the past, many games were made of flimsy cardboard and cheap plastic that would break after even a year of regular use. Presumably, this was to lower manufacturing costs, but it had a negative impact on the games' reputations. It was common for players to substitute broken pieces with random household objects or toys they had on hand.
Popularized by The Game Of Life, a large spinner in the center of the board was often used to determine how many spaces players would move. They were visually appealing, but they would jam or break regularly and could also become imbalanced and favor particular numbers.
Though still mathematically imperfect, dice are objectively better than a spinner. Dice are less bulky, hard to break, and easy to replace if the need arises due to their sheer ubiquity. Though Life continues to use its iconic spinner, other games have fortunately left the bulky plastic wheel behind.
Though many competitive board games are fantastic, a cooperative game or a combination of the two mechanics provides an equally good time. Sometimes board game enthusiasts and developers alike can become too fixated on competitive games.
This trend was resolved primarily through an increase in industry diversity, as new faces brought new perspectives on what audiences were looking for. Cooperative games and games with both cooperative and competitive phases skyrocketed in popularity and earned their places on gamers' tables.
Another trend surrounding the inclusion of popular media into board games was slapping pop culture themes onto games that didn't fit the theme at hand. No player wants to become a real-estate mogul in the zombie apocalypse, but Hasbro still made Monopoly: The Walking Dead.
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This craze has not entirely passed, but it has calmed down significantly. New versions of Monopoly are fewer, and re-themes of Clue seem to have nearly dried up. At this point, pop culture versions of games typically have to be sought out, rather than appearing on store shelves en masse.
Though increased diversity is not limited to the board game industry, its impact on the games coming out is highly visible. Board games were once primarily centered on a few extremely prolific publishing companies, but this is no longer the case.
Board game creation is more accessible than ever, as the broad range of games on the market will attest. Creators who would not have been able to publish their content in the past are now able to reach large audiences. New perspectives and realms of knowledge always bring advancement to the disciplines they impact, and board games are no exception.
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Rebekah Krum is an avid fan of both video and tabletop games; she takes great interest in their history and cultural value as storytelling mediums. They enjoy a good story, regardless of the method by which it is told. She grew up in Northeastern Nevada before moving to Ashland, Oregon for college in 2014 and subsequently settling down just outside of Portland, Oregon in 2019. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Southern Oregon University.


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