Board game

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A board game is any game played with a premarked surface, with counters or pieces that are moved across the board. Simple board games are often seen as ideal "family entertainment" as they can provide entertainment for all ages. Some board games, such as chess or Go, have intense strategic value and have become lasting classics.

There are many different types and classifications of board games. Some games are simplified simulations of real life. These are popular for they can intermingle make-believe and role playing along with the game. Popular games of this type include Monopoly, which is a rough simulation of the real estate market, Cluedo, which is based upon a murder mystery, and Risk which is one of the most well known of thousands of games attempting to simulate warfare and geo-politics.

Other games only loosely, or do not at all, attempt to imitate reality. These include abstract strategy games like chess and checkers, word games, such as Scrabble, and trivia games, such as Trivial Pursuit.


Board games have a long history and have been played in most cultures and societies; some even pre-date literacy skill development in the earliest civilizations. A number of important historical sites, artifacts and documents exist which shed light on early board games. The most of important of these include:


Board games first became widely popular among the general population early in the 20th century when the rise of the middle class with disposable income and leisure time made them a receptive audience to such games. This popularity expanded after the Second World War, a period from which many classic board games date. Computer games are closely related to board games, and many acclaimed computer games such as Civilization are based upon board games.

Many board games are now available as computer games, including the option to have the computer act as an opponent. The rise of computers has also led to a relative decline in the most complicated board games, as they require less space, and are easier to set up and clear away.

The modern board game industry is rife with corporate mergers and acquisitions, with large companies such as Hasbro owning many subsidiaries and selling products under a variety of brand names. It is difficult to successfully market a new board game to the mass market. Retailers tend to be conservative about stocking games of untested popularity, and most large board game companies have established criteria that a game must meet in order to be produced. If, for instance, Monopoly were introduced as a new game today, it would not meet the criteria for production.

Luck, strategy and diplomacy

One way of defining board games are between those based upon luck and strategy. Some games, such as chess, have no luck involved. Children's games tend to be very luck based with games such as Sorry! having virtually no decisions to be made. Most board games have both luck and strategy. A player may be hampered by a few poor rolls of the dice in Risk or Monopoly, but over many games a player with a superior strategy will win more often. While some purists consider luck to not be a desirable component of a game, others counter that elements of luck can make for far more complex and multi-faceted strategies as concepts such as expected value and risk management must be considered. Still most adult game players prefer to make some decisions during play, and find purely luck based games such as Top Trumps quite boring.

The third important factor in a game is diplomacy. This generally applies only to games played with three or more people. An important facet of Settlers of Catan, for example, is convincing people to trade with you rather than with other players. In Risk, one example of diplomacy's effectiveness is when two or more players team up against another. Easy diplomacy consists of convincing other players that someone else is winning and should therefore be teamed up against. Difficult diplomacy (such as in the aptly named game Diplomacy) consists of making elaborate plans together, with possibility of betrayal.

Luck is introduced to a game by a number of methods. The most popular is using dice, generally six sided. These can determine everything from how many steps a player moves their token, as in Monopoly, how their forces fare in battle, such as in Risk, or which resources a player gains, such as in Settlers of Catan. Other games such as Sorry! use a deck of special cards that when shuffled create randomness. Scrabble does something similar with randomly picked letters. Other games use spinners, timers of random length, or other sources of randomness. Trivia games have a great deal of randomness based on which question a person gets. German-style board games are notable for often having rather less luck factor than in many North American board games.

Common terminology

Although many board games have a jargon all their own, there is a generalized terminology to describe concepts applicable to basic game mechanics and attributes common to nearly all board games.

  • Game Piece (or token) — a player's representative on the game board. Each player may control one or more game pieces. In some games that involve commanding multiple game pieces, such as chess, certain pieces have unique designations and capabilities within the parameters of the game; in others, such as Go, all pieces controlled by a player have the same essential capabilities.
  • Jump — to bypass one or more game pieces and/or spaces. Depending on the context, jumping may also involve capturing or conquering an opponent's game piece. (See also: Game mechanic: Capture)


Note that some these works may suffer from cultural bias—especially Murray's work which, despite being the standard reference, tends to assume Western cultural superiority.

See also

External links


Specialist information

Game design

  • The Board Game Designers Forum - a forum for amateur and published board game designers with chats, workshops, competitions, news, game reviews and, of course, forums on design, prototyping, publishing and many other subjects.


Gaming organizations

Online play

  • World of Board Games - BrettspielWelt. About 50 board games to play online for free. A big community of active board gamers gather around this site.
  • - correspondence gaming site.
  • Kurnik Online Games - hassle-free online gaming site with lots of board and card games.
  • You Play It - play online many famous board games. Free site without advertising.
  • Citadels - Play Bruno Faidutti's game online, alone versus bots or against human players

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