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Posted by3 months ago

Are there any board games released in the 21st century that deserve status as a mainstream institution like Chess, Go, etc.?

Obviously, part of the reason the games I mentioned became institutions is that they existed in a time before economies could support giant companies mass producing copies of thousands of different titles every year. When someone made a great game, it was THE GAME (or one of few) in that time and place.

But setting aside the hurdles of "getting there" in the 21st century, which game(s) would be deserving of that kind of timeless constancy, and why?

345 comments
92% Upvoted
level 1

Games like that have to have simple rules, cheap and universally available components, and minimal language requirements...which is why the ones that have survived for centuries are abstracts, gambling games, and games with standardized cards & tiles. I can think of a few modern abstracts that meet those conditions (Santorini, Hive, Qwirkle) but nothing in the hobby space comes to mind.

336
level 2

And beyond that, there's simply the issue of cultural traction. XiangQi/Chinese Chess meets all these requirements, is a very fun game, has a huge following in China, but is just about nonexistent of anywhere outside of China. There are plenty of people who will say Chess is the greatest game of all time and will spend hours playing and watching Chess. But barely anyone has even played a single game of Tamerlane Chess or Courier Chess.

Come to think of it, this might be the biggest thing holding back new games of the traditional variety. People who like theme board games are usually interested in learning about and trying new theme board games. People who are interested in traditional abstract games often hyperfocus on one or two games, and are mostly uninterested in even learning about others. If it's hard to find Chess players curious enough to try one game of Shogi, how are you going to get them interested in whatever new game you just created?

38
level 2

Agreed, abstracts are the only games that can fit this category. Onitama is a good candidate, extremely simple and timeless. A lot of Reiner Knizia games could fit this, the good ones of course.

52
level 2

Also be in the public domain :).

I think its the most important thing lol.

7
level 2

Quantum gets pretty close for me.

Component-wise, you can play it with a bunch of colored D6 on a tabletop RPG grid mat. The only novel components are the player references and the two ship upgrade decks.

35
level 2

Maybe Set fits those characteristics as well

6
level 2

I don't think Santorini, Hive, or Qwirkle have universally available components. Yes, you could always substitute various things for the Hive and Qwirkle components, but you can do that for most game components.

10
level 2

Games like that have to have simple rules, cheap and universally available components, and minimal language requirements...

That has always been the case. However, this is because thoughout the hundreds (or thousands) of years some of these games have survived, these were the requirements for reaching and being adopted by the most people with the lowest amount of friction. Same reason soccer has spread to far more countries and players/fans than hockey or golf or baseball. All you need is a ball.

Now, however, we have so many resources that overcome obstacles to distribution, onboarding, retention, community building, and information updating.

  • Complex rules can be overcome with tutorials, how-to-play videos, and teaching guides

  • Games can be printed at home for the cost of ink or for just a couple bucks at a print shop. Alternatively, a game on TTS, BGA, or a custom webapp is essentially "free." BGA even works on phones well enough to get by. Especially if the players can use discord or zoom to bridge communication gaps.

  • Language dependence is still a barrier in some places. But not only is it easier than ever to find a translator for a produced game, fan communities will sometimes essentially crowdsource translations.

I think we're rapidly reaching a point where the old qualifications just won't matter, and the games that get played everywhere will be the ones people like regardless of minor availability hurdles. After all, way more people play Magic than Hive. One is a simple abstract that can be taught in a few minutes and created at home with clay. The other is a card game with an endless list of keywords and combinatory effects that costs quite a bit to buy enough to play with friends, let alone be competitive in.

14
level 2

I've always really liked YINSH.

2
level 2

I don't know... Dixit comes to mind. It can be played with any stack of art prints, has simple rules and it's replayability is based on social dynamics.

1
level 2

Yes based on those criteria I think that Crew will be a standard classic someday

1
level 2

Games like that have to have simple rules

While I mostly agree with you, Cribbage has been around for hundreds of years and the rules are as complex as many other modern card games and a good many family weight games.

1
level 2
· 3 mo. ago
Mythic Battle

and Quoridor ;)

1
level 1

Chess actually has a complex history!

There were hundreds of "chess-like" games developed over history - some having wild pieces or more than two players or even dice! Chess (likely) survived by being the most distilled version of the genre. (Richard Garfield also made the case that, over time, a competitive audience will steer away any element of chance in a game).

So I think it's a bit of survivorship to say chess was "the game" when it came out. But to your point, it's hard to find parallels between modern "designed" games that are works of a specific person and have copythings, and earlier "folk" games which no one really owned.

I think the biggest contenders would be games most commonly "knocked off" or made at home. I think this is a good indicator that the game has timeless qualities and is not too attached to an IP to work. My list would be:

  • Catan (Say what you will, people can and have basically recreated versions of this game from memory)

  • Farkle (Was this already an institution?)

  • Puerto Rico (Every app store has at least one knock off/no name variant)

  • Wavelength, Codenames, Apples To Apples/Cards Against Humanity (Do party games count?)

47
level 2

Codenames is a good suggestion! All you would need is a set of cards, which can be created by the players based on language and availability of paper/pens. The rest can be abstracted in whatever way you want to represent it.

In a similar way, what about “Things in a Box” or whatever name it goes by? Prompting questions and uniquely written answers.

12
level 2

Party games absolutely should count, they're some of the most popular games out there and that's also a big factor, as you mentioned with Catan, people won't recreate something from memory if it's not lots of fun to play in the first place

10

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