Board games are more popular than ever, but there still isn’t a good way to learn them. Players of mobile and computer games can just sit down, have fun and learn as they play. But soon, this could also be a reality for board gaming.
Board games are a big business. Year after year sales continue to grow with no signs of slowing down. Events around the world attract record breaking attendance and games are being played more than ever before. And with new titles based on big licenses such as Star Wars and Game of Thrones, both new and seasoned players alike are discovering just how exciting and fun the hobby can be.
Classic board games still hold their place as well. Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit keep their place tables of families and casual players. A big reason for this is that new games have a steep learning curve, while a game you already know is easy to pick up from the shelf and enjoy immediately.
“When you open up a new game, it takes forever to read that rulebook and figure out what to do with it. And most of us don’t have time for that,” explains Lynn Potyen, owner of The GameBoard in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
While hobby players don’t consider this as a serious issue, a lot of casual players have a hard time picking up a new game that might have a 40 page long rulebook.
“We want you to enjoy the fun and excitement about the game from when you’re walking into our store, so that when you’re buying the product you feel good about your decision. When you get home and are ready to play a game, having to face a complicated rulebook often kills this excitement,” Potyen adds.
Experience a game while learning
Luckily there are different ways to learn games without reading the rules. Chief among them is to have someone at the table who already knows the game, but as there are thousands of games out there, this usually isn’t an option for most players.
YouTube is also full of instructional videos that demonstrate the rules in an easy way. Industry professionals consider the biggest game changer to be the technology in your pocket. The diffusion of smart devices has given some companies the opportunity to release companion apps that enhance the gaming experience. One such company is the Finnish located Playmore Games, who has come up with an interactive tutorial application called Dized. It simulates the “friend at the table experience,” with tutorials inspired by video games that have had for interactive tutorials for years.
Eric M. Lang, the designer of board games such as the Godfather and The Song of Ice and Fire, considers Dized to have tremendous potential.
“The hardest part about learning games from rulebooks is that they’re usually highly technical, precise and sensitive to wording and interpretation. Dized tutorials are different from a video because videos aren’t smart or context sensitive. With Dized you can experience the game as you are learning it. It’s important that when you learn a rule in the game, you get to interact with it right away. It’s the next best thing to having a demo person sitting at the table with you,” Lang says.
Taking influence from video games, these interactive tutorials allow players to begin a game without any prior knowledge, so players can get to the fun part.
“It’s a perfect solution: from zero knowledge to playing right away,” Lang elaborates.
Thousands of new games are released every year
The back catalog of board games is massive and thousands of titles are released every year. Players are expecting to find a tutorial for their favorite game and the company has prepared for this as well.
“We get a lot of questions regarding games that Dized support and of course we’ve given this a lot of thought. Right now we’re building tutorials by hand, and at the same time we’re coming up with a solution that will allow us to scale from tens of titles to hundreds and even thousands of games,” explains Playmore Games’ Chief Technology Officer Juha Suominen.
The company is also turning its gaze towards crowdfunding, which is highly popular with hobby gamers. Pledges to board games such as Kingdom Death: Monster and Exploding Kittens amount to several millions of dollars, all coming from the board gaming community.
“To be able to build the tools needed and scale up, we do need more resources,” explains the company CEO Jouni Jussila. “Crowdfunding is a great opportunity for that as there are hundreds of thousands of fans that back board game projects. We’re building an application that will help each one of them play and enjoy more games, and get even traditionally hesitant friends involved. An undertaking like this needs the help of the community.”
Jussila also explains what other features Dized supports. The Rule Lookup Tool will help players find certain rules in the game fast, and the Setup Tool allows someone to quickly set up a game without even looking at the rulebook.
“We also see a tremendous potential for this to extend beyond board games like roleplaying games and card games, for example. There are dozens of different rulesets for poker and blackjack alone, and Dized can take your gaming group through them, allowing you to try new games without effort, and always using the right rules,” Jussila concludes.