Ten Modern Games to Replace Classic Games

Ten Modern Games to Replace Classic Games

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Many of us seem to think that we’re doing something unusual by being board-gamers in this day and age. I understand why. It’s kind of weirdly retro and largely a hobby that isn’t particularly likely to be common amongst the other people in our lives. There’s a well-known saying in board gaming circles – ‘it’s easier to turn gamers into friends than it is to turn friends into gamers’. It’s broadly true as well. You’re likely to get the same reaction if you bring your copy of Twilight Struggle to a party as you are if you bring a baggie of heroin. Both are likely to be considerably harder experiences than many party-goers were planning to have.

But you know… it’s not actually true that we’re doing anything unusual. Not in the real world outside of our own often insular and cliquey communities. Almost everyone is a gamer already. Not just in terms of playing Candy Crush on a phone. Most of the people you know are almost certainly willing to enthusiastically play board and card games under the right circumstances. They just don’t really think of it as being something remarkable and are justifiably a little bit suspicious of any grown adults that haven’t grown out of playing with cardboard and dice as an issue of personal identity. That’s in part because they think ‘Come on, seriously? Monopoly? Risk? How can you possibly find any joy in those once you’ve got the crushing awareness of your own mortality coursing through every synapse of your ageing, decaying brain?’

And yes, a lot of board-gamers have attitudes that don’t help them get passed this perception. A lot of us are snobby, or dismissive, of the classic games that others play. That can be off-putting. It can be unbearably smug. We often sabotage ourselves and our own advocacy for this hobby by how we broach the topic with others. ‘Urgh, you don’t play Monopoly do you? It sucks. You are having incorrect fun.  Let me show you how to have good fun. Fun of which I approve’.

What better way to convince people that whatever fun they want to have, it’s not going to be with you?

But you know – your friends will have poker nights. They’ll go to murder mystery parties. They’ll play a game of Monopoly at Christmas. They’ll play Snakes and Ladders with their kids. It’s not that they don’t want to play games. It’s just that they don’t necessarily realise that the right time and place is potentially anywhere and anytime. They often don’t have an easy route to understand what you’re talking about when you try to get them to sign up to your Pandemic Legacy campaign. They haven’t really caught up with the fact that the experiences they cherish are available in purer, more refined forms. They know what they like, but what we like seems very alien to what they know.

So, let’s use today’s special feature to address that a little. Let’s talk about ten great games that replace other great games that are more mainstream. Games that you can use as a gateway to other more esoteric parts of this hobby. Games that when someone suggests ‘Let’s play X’, you can say ‘The great thing about X is Y… and I have a game, Z, that I think you’d love because of that’. Games that let you do a kind of conversational judo – where you take the enthusiasm someone has for a game you don’t want to play and use it to bring them into connection with another that you do. And, importantly, that they do as well even if they don’t know it. In the process, you might open them up to a whole range of other games once they have some evidence that, actually, this whole modern board gaming scene isn’t quite so weird after all.

While this list is numbered, it isn’t actually ranked. There’s no meaning to the order other than ‘This is the sequence in which I decided to talk about these games’. Don’t read anything into it.

Let’s get started!


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  12 comments for “Ten Modern Games to Replace Classic Games

  1. Grumblefist
    18/09/2019 at 5:32 am

    I’ll open by saying nice work.
    Personally I’ve not played potion explosion the board game. So can’t comment. (Played the phone app though)

    However, my 4yo loves baren park. Very Tetris-y / connect4-y IMHO. Nice bright colours and interesting (optional) scoring choices.
    Also, it means I can buy me, *cough* I mean her, the expansion for Xmas.

    Everyone is a winner.

    • 18/09/2019 at 5:33 am

      The thing I l like Potion Explosion is it just feels good to play. Not the mechanisms, the components. The noises. And I think that’s part of what people like from Connect 4 – the slotting of discs and enjoying seeing them rattle into place.

      Barenpark is certainly a fine game, and it’s good that you’re being kind enough to get her the expansion and undoubtedly will play it with her constantly. 🙂

  2. Aaron Bredon
    18/09/2019 at 5:32 am

    There is actually a classic game that still works in the modern day: the original Careers – that is my choice to replace Life – still a roll and move where you go through life, but in Careers you have more control over what happens. Like Monopoly, everything can be traded, but there is no player elimination. It even subverts the whole roll-and-move concept with Experience cards that can replace the roll with a small controlled move, and 1/3 of the outer board giving Opportunity cards that give players the ability to go to various jobs.

  3. Marcius Fabiani
    18/09/2019 at 5:32 am

    I disagree about chess and poker. A friend of mine recently sold his copy of Onitama, and I asked why. He said: “Why play Onitama, if I can just play chess?”. And poker has very little to do with Skulls (I like both games) other than the bluffing. Skull is closely related to a game we call Porrinha in Brazil, though.

  4. CigarGuy
    18/09/2019 at 5:32 am

    If you like Scrabble (better yet, if you hate it because of people who have memorized the 2-letter words and are unbeatable) why not try Tim Fowers’ Hardback?

    • 18/09/2019 at 5:33 am

      I found Paperback a little too… good natured… to really scratch my Scrabble itch. I take it Hardback is meaner?

  5. David Hopkins
    18/09/2019 at 5:32 am

    What do you think of Mystery of The Abbey (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/915/mystery-abbey) as a more direct replacement for Clue(do)? It has the same core deduction mechanics, but eliminates roll-and-move time wasting, and adds a lot of other monastic thematic elements.

  6. PlanetJuggler
    18/09/2019 at 5:32 am

    I enjoy Bananagrams much more than I ever enjoyed Scrabble.
    As for a replacement for Clue/Cluedo, I’d recommend “Deception: Murder in Hong Kong”. It gives a card-driven detective vibe while also having a hidden traitor mechanic.

    • 18/09/2019 at 5:33 am

      Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is definitely a really strong alternative recommendation. One of my favourite games in general. 😀

  7. Marc
    18/09/2019 at 5:32 am

    Downforce might be a good alternative to Candyland. Both use card based movement systems and have silly/dramatic moments. Downforce is actually a game, though.

    • 18/09/2019 at 5:33 am

      Unfortunately I haven’t actually tried Downforce to comment, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind as a possibility. 🙂

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