Collen Hatcher and his family have always loved getting together around the kitchen table for a crib game or a classic board game, like Monopoly.
But a fateful trip to the annual Hal-Con Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Comic Convention eight years ago introduced Hatcher to the true art and intricacy of board gaming.
“(There was) a room devoted strictly to board games,” he said. “A huge library of games and volunteers who would teach you the game.”
The event stoked a passion for games in Hatcher.
“I guess it’s more of an addiction,” he said. “It opened up a whole new world for me – now I own over 130 games.”
Break free from the influence of iconic games like Monopoly, Clue or Scrabble and the world of board – or tabletop – gaming is brimming with creativity, imagination and fun gameplay.
Hatcher gives the example of one of his favorite games, Carcassonne, a tile placement game set in medieval France where players earn points by building roads, castles, monasteries, and buildings. other landmarks.
“The theme is important (as well as) the artwork,” Hatcher says of games of this nature. “The people who build these games have spent their lives creating the artwork and mechanics; some of them are extremely in-depth.
Hatcher admits an irony in the age of COVID-19 regarding another all-time favorite: the pandemic. Players work together to deal with multiple plagues that plague the world’s population in an example of cooperative play.
“You are assigned different roles (like a doctor), and you have to work together and make decisions together,” he said. “It gets fun; you can get into overheated arguments.
Hatcher likes to discover the multiple possible scenarios during the game.
“Some of these games are never played the same way twice,” he said.
Patricio Garcia from Halifax, who has been collecting games since 2012, is also an unbridled board game enthusiast.
“I used to deliver food, before the days of Uber Eats or Skip the Dishes, as a side job,” Garcia said. “I used to call it my board game job because it helped pay for games.”
Garcia’s favorite games include Bus, in which players buy bus routes and transport as many passengers as possible, in what Garcia calls “a strategy-heavy game.” Another favorite is Scythe, set in an alternate version of the 1920s where people co-exist with high-tech machinery.
Garcia has amassed 542 games so far, but that doesn’t include expansions, which are available for select games and add things like game pieces, extra board space, or extended play.
“When you include the extensions, I top out at 1,030,” he said.
In Stratford, PEI, Samantha and Logan Mills don’t just set up tabletop gaming, they’re also behind the counter recommending the best games to people of all ages at Owl’s Hollow at Charlottetown.
The husband and wife team there are employed part-time and understand very well what makes a game both fun and aesthetically pleasing. Themes run the gamut from card games to elaborate concepts involving science fiction and fantasy and even vineyards, the coffee industry and art.
“Almost any theme you can think of, there’s a board game for it,” Logan said.
Some of Logan and Samantha’s favorites include Canvas, a card game where the goal is to create an artistic piece by building a stack of transparent cards.
“It’s so pretty, you can hang it on the wall like a piece of art,” Samantha said.
Logan and Samantha also enjoy games like Circadians: First Light and Root, both of which involve unique worlds and characters and have something closer to a storyline. The Board Game Geek website describes Root, for example, as an adventure war game where players fight for control of a vast wasteland.
“A good theme is fun,” Logan said. “It’s a fun story – you can make a fun story as you go.”
Such adventure-oriented games also offer high replay value. As Samantha said, “I want to play it multiple times and not have it be the same thing.”
While many of these games are geared more towards older kids and adults, Logan and Samantha point out the many family-oriented games that are well-designed and have cool concepts. There are also junior versions of some of these same games.
One game in particular is out of fashion…and that’s Pandemic.
“No one buys it anymore,” Samantha said. “It’s actually a really good game, but I think it’s a bit too real.”
The last two years have disrupted the functioning of the board game community considerably, but most people have found ways to keep the excitement going, whether it’s just playing with their housemates or connecting online. And businesses that cater to the community have also adapted to the changes.
Dan Morton, director of Midgard Gaming in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, said the pandemic has forced him to pivot his business in a different direction. Before COVID, Midgard was more like a board game cafe where you could play a tabletop game or use one of 10 computers and six X-Boxes. But pandemic restrictions have shut those options down.
“We didn’t know how long it would take before we could let people come back,” he said.
What he ended up doing was selling all the computers and X-Boxes and developing the retail side.
“A tangible thing that people can take home and experience on their table,” he said.
He said the pandemic is forcing people to interact more with those they live with and board games are a perfect way to do that. It was also a needed break from computer screens during long lockdowns and with work and school moving online.
Morton compares falling into the hobby of board games to getting involved in the Marvel Universe film series or discovering new musicians and songs you’ve never heard before.
Just like enjoying a movie like Iron Man, for example, can open your eyes to the whole Marvel Universe, or a cover can direct you to the artists who performed the original, playing a so-called game of gateway can experience a new world of fun board games.
“There doesn’t have to be two hours of Monopoly before you flip the board because someone bankrupted you,” Morton said, adding that typical gateway games are usually ones like The Settlers. of Catan or Ticket to Ride.
Morton said the pandemic, along with the higher costs of going out, has shown “there is nothing wrong with being home and spending time with people there. You always want to go out, but you don’t necessarily want to do it all the time.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Morton said he wants to see community growth locally. He hopes to implement more regular monthly events and even a version of retreats hosted by some US gaming communities.
“We try not to step on our toes at weekly get-togethers with friends,” he said.
In Nova Scotia, Hatcher says he’s missed getting together with other players for the past two years. He said it used to be possible to host gaming events at his home through social media.
“We met complete strangers that way – we don’t do that anymore,” Hatcher said. “As a family, we are not welcoming anyone new to our home, which is a shame.”
He hopes this year’s Hal-Con – which will be running at full capacity for the first time since 2019 – will be the trigger to get people in the board game scene excited again.
“People who love board games, we’re addicted.”
Samantha and Logan Mills said the board game community is extremely welcoming to newcomers and it has never been easier to learn how to play any game through social media.
“If you get a new game and you start to feel overwhelmed, you can watch a Youtube video that will walk you through it,” Samantha said.
For some, however, classic games remain the best. Suzanne Milner of Windsor, Nova Scotia, said before the pandemic she welcomed international students into her home with a games night once a week, complete with pizza and snacks.
“We always started with Yahtzee, then moved on to Clue and Scrabble,” she said.
But international students have stopped coming due to the pandemic. It wasn’t until months later that she decided to start game night again with a group of friends.
Milner enjoys the familiarity of old favorites like Monopoly and Yahtzee.
“Yahtzee can get very competitive,” she said.
And, about Monopoly: “There’s something about being an earth baron in a game that you can never do in life, and you have bragging rights if you succeed.”
Milner is happy to be playing her favorite games with her friends again.
“You don’t have to go out and spend money to have fun. You don’t need to do your hair and makeup to play a board game.