Your Turn Guest: Colby Dauch, Plaid Hat Games

Posted by Jim {Power Gamer} | 2-Dec-13 | 31 comments

Your Turn Guest: Colby Dauch, Plaid Hat Games

Colby Dauch - President: Plaid Hat Games

Hi everyone, I’m Colby Dauch. I’ve done work on Heroscape, Battleship Galaxies, Summoner Wars, City of Remnants, Mice and Mystics and more. I’m also the president at Plaid Hat Games.

Today I want to talk about barriers that lie between board games and people having fun playing board games.

The term “gamer,” though historically referring to those who played tabletop games, is now a title that most commonly belongs to players of video games; and rightfully so.  “Play” used to be something mostly reserved for children.  Moving out of an agrarian society has generated more free time for adults and play has become an accepted mainstream form of entertainment and at the center of that lays video games.

The word “geek” used to be ammunition in the bully’s arsenal.  Now we have made it ours and wear it with pride.  I believe video games paved the way for that.

So geeky is no longer a bad word.  But even those not proclaiming themselves geeks are playing video games.  Games are ever-present and widespread since the invention of the smart phone.  Everyone plays them.  My mom plays video games.  With geeks and games becoming an accepted part of our culture, the increasing popularity of tabletop games is no surprise. I believe the cross over between people who enjoy video games (even the casual Farmville player) and people who would enjoy board games is much, much larger than the splash over we are currently experiencing.

The problem with bringing “gamers” into tabletop gaming, to discover and enjoy the unique things it has to offer, is that while video games have lowered the barriers to play to be near non-existent, board games haven’t. Below is a list of barriers that stand between tabletop games and an audience of people who would enjoy them, as well as some of my solutions.

Barrier: Rules

Game rules are by their very nature a sort of technical manual.  This is an intimidating or downright insurmountable barrier for some.

Solution: As a publisher we have begun doing how to play videos for all of the games we release.  Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop and Rodney Smith’s Watch it Played YouTube series show full play-throughs of games.  And game stores that provide demo copies of games and knowledgeable staff that can teach them is another way of lowering that barrier.

Barrier: Stage Fright

People are afraid of looking dumb.  They are afraid they are going to get into a game, it is going to be over their head, and they aren’t going to know what to do.

Solution: When introducing new players to games, choose a game with easy to learn rules.  Summoner Wars is a good candidate from our line-up.  Also, try not to turn into a power gamer and go hyper competitive. Crushing them into dust isn’t likely to result in their having a good time.

Barrier: Cost

Someone new to hobby games has the perception that board games cost $20, because that’s what a mass market party game costs.

Solution: Education. As people understand the differences in time spent on these games, materials used, and the economics of much smaller print runs they’ll come to understand why the price tag differs from that of the mass market game.

Barrier: Exposure

Even the biggest tabletop publishers don’t reach all the way out to the mainstream with their marketing efforts.

Solution: Social media has definitely played a part in the growth of hobby games.  Getting out there and talking about your epic game session is going to cause some of your friends call you a nerd.  Others will be intrigued. Quintin Smith of shutupandsitdown.com has an excellent video called An Intro to Board Gaming, For Your Friends.

Barrier: Attention Span

Just because someone enjoys playing Angry Birds on their phone for 5 minutes at a time doesn’t mean they want to sit down and play a 2 hour game of Puerto Rico with you.

Solution: This could be about choosing the right game.  There are some really fun really light and short games out there.  Even though they might not be your favorite, breaking one out at a family get together can be more entertaining than some of your other Christmas at the in-laws options.  And they can be gateways into greater interest in tabletop games for some.

So my question to you is what barriers do you see in tabletop games? What are some solutions you’ve found or can dream up for the barriers presented here today?

Your turn…

Comments (15)

Gamer Avatar
4
Cryptozoic Entertainment fan
AEG fan

From what I experienced, it could mean a lot of things. Some of my friends don’t like board gaming because they think it’s just for kids. But I’m lucky to have great friends to play games every week and try something new.

Gamer Avatar
7
Miniature Painter
Intermediate Reviewer
Master Grader

My friends love board games and play them regularly, but I have seen plenty of others who avoid playing anything that is not electronic! The only solution I have seen is to talk-up the socializing opportunities present in board games vs. video games.

Gamer Avatar
8
Norway
Plaid Hat Games fan
AEG fan
Tasty Minstrel Games Fan

With 2 kids, a new house and alot going on at work I find the time a barrier. Me and my gf have an agreement with one “day off from home after work” every week. This give me an opportunity to potentially have one game night each week. But this depends of my gaming group and the last year we’ve only found time once every 2 to 3 weeks.
I’m a bit more interested in board games than the average Joe, so this aint enough for me. At least to fill 1-2 evenings home alone each week (I much rather play a game than watch tv). Solitaire games has been my solution both physical ones and apps on tablet/mobile. And there’s a lot of good ones on the market whcih you range from 1-4, 1-5 and 1-6 players.

Gamer Avatar
10
BoardGaming.com Beta 2.0 Tester
Went to Gen Con 2012
Summoner Wars Fan
Video Game Fan

Great article, and some nice suggestions. I have the same provlem as X-Hawk, lack of time. This is combined with a scarcity of nearby gamers, so I also end up playing solitaire games on a semi-regular basis, as well.

Gamer Avatar
6
Pick a Favorite LGS
Robots on the Line fan
Miniature Painter
I play blue

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I’m lucky enough to have a group of friends that enjoy playing whatever game I throw at them… but it’s with my wife that I’ve found a barrier: new game overload. As much as I’m constantly on the lookout for that perfect game she’ll enjoy playing, I find that she doesn’t enjoy constantly learning how to play different games (which is completely understandable). And if I push trying a new game out, it almost backfires making her not want to play board games at all.

Possible solution: My plan is to not introduce her to any new games for the next few months, and help bring the enjoyment back to our playing board games together by only pulling out her favorites. Then maybe down the road only introduce those “gems” that I discover through playing with my gaming group.

Gamer Avatar
5
USA
Book Lover
Video Game Fan

In my experience, theme is often a significant barrier. My wife is a non-gamer/non-nerd, and I find that the toughest part of getting her to play a game with me is getting her to power through a theme she isn’t into (like fantasy). Even in my gaming group, it can be a tough sell to get some of them to play certain games because of themes that aren’t terribly compelling to some members. Agricola is a great example. A lot of my friends weren’t really on board with the farming peasants theme, so we didn’t play it for a long time. Once we did eventually, they liked the mechanics of the game and had a fun time, but it took a lot to get them into the theme, despite being pretty big gamers already.

P.S. I bought Summoner Wars a few months ago and it quickly became a favorite in my group. Keep the expansions coming!

Gamer Avatar
5
USA
Book Lover
Video Game Fan

@Jim

I definitely have thatproblem. I have games that haven’t hit the table once, yet I continually feel the need to buy more. I just bought one yesterday, in fact. My wife thinks it’s a sickness.

The result is that we’re constantly learning new games, but only a few get played enough to really get into them deeply. The rest get played once or twice and if they don’t immediately stick, we move on to something else. Some day we’ll come back I’m sure. Maybe.

Gamer Avatar
8
Rosetta Stone
Football Fan
Explorer - Level 5
Junior

I am intrigued, and want to sign up for one of your courses. Wow, not to sidetrack, but how cool would it be to have college level courses on board game theory and design?

My two biggest hurdles when introducing new people to board games are Rules and Attention Span, Colby, so I’m glad you mentioned them. I’ve taught a LOT of people how to play games, from official game demos to “my new girlfriend wanted to come along tonight, hope that’s okay.”

The biggest solution to both of those problems is to pick the right game. This is why I bring Carcassonne and Guillotine with me anytime I’m going somewhere to game. They’re both easy to learn, and you can also stop playing early if it’s not catching on.

Actually, that’s one of the things I always look for in new games: an early stopping point. In Guillotine, you have 3 days worth of play, and if it’s not fun for someone after the first day, you can just play something else. Carcassonne doesn’t have a natural stopping point, but each player’s turn is fairly quick so you can teach the game, play a few rounds and know whether you should continue or stop.

Plus, both of those games clean up quickly. 🙂

Gamer Avatar
8
Rosetta Stone
Football Fan
Explorer - Level 5
Junior

Jim, that is a great point also. I have friends that got into MMOs by playing World of Warcraft, are still playing it, and are never playing another MMO. The same friends know how to play Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, and Settlers of Catan…and they don’t want to play new games because they’re not tired of those three.

Gamer Avatar
7
Knight-errant
Cooperative Game Explorer
Amateur Advisor
Gamer - Level 6

An interesting article, and some interesting responses so far. I admit I haven’t really thought about the subject before now, as I enjoy gaming in any form, and to me, games are mostly just games and are good for entertainment.

But in thinking about the subject for a while, I can add two barriers to the conversation that I think are significant. The first is set-up. A video game requires very little set-up to get into. You need basically 4 things: The game itself, a medium with which to watch the game with (tv, computer screen, etc.), the device with which the game will be played (home console, computer, etc.), and a means to interact with the game (controller, keyboard, etc.). Once you have those things, everything is pretty much set; you just put in the game and go. A board game, depending on the style of the game and the amount of components, can either be really easy to set up to play, or be a daunting task. Your average video gamer might see the set-up of a game like Arkham Horror (a game that is notorious for having a long set-up and clean-up time) as being too much of a time investment to be bothered with; not when they can turn on and turn off a console game and be done with it in seconds.

Solution: When introducing people to games, try to show them games that are easy to set up and put away to encourage them with board and tabletop gaming. When introducing people to games that require a lot of components and set-up time, try to have a game arranged beforehand that only requires clean-up at the end. Make a new gamer’s experience trouble-free so that the hassle of dealing with the components doesn’t seem so bad when they actually try to do it themselves.

Barrier No. 2: Availability. In my experience, there is rarely a time when if you want to play a certain game, that it will actually be available to play. Being at home or at a game store is usually an exception to the rule, but if one goes to a party or to a family gathering, and the impulse to play a certain game arrives, it’s not always easy to make it happen. With games that are practically unknown, it can be all but impossible, unless you bring them yourself.

Solution: It can be inconvenient to bring a mess of games with you somewhere in the hope that one of them will be played, so being able to coordinate with communication can help lessen the hassle a bit. Get an idea of what people in your particular group like, and you might be able to prep things beforehand to cater to tastes. Inviting people who are not familiar with games to a gaming party can also broaden horizons a little bit.

Gamer Avatar
7
Miniature Painter
Intermediate Reviewer
Master Grader

Definitely makes me think. Thank you guys for commenting, I love hearing gamer experiences!!

Gamer Avatar
7
Miniature Painter
Stone of the Sun
I'm Completely Obsessed
Novice Advisor

Great article and subsequent discussion. I agree with a lot of the barriers already identified. I know I was certainly taken aback by cost when I was first introduced to the non-mainstream board games and it has taken a while to get over the sticker shock. Of course, now when I see a new game I just have to have, I’m like – just take my money already! And I know that some will call me superficial but I’ll admit that I’ve been turned off by plenty of games simply because the theme didn’t do it for me. (I’m sorry, the train theme just doesn’t do it for me, and for that matter, I don’t want to trade clay for bricks and wheat for bread.) I’ve been known to drool over and even buy a game or two just because it was cute. (Oh Mice and Mystics, some day soon, I will have you, you adorable cooperative adventure game. But I digress. Rules can threaten a game. However, if folks are determined to learn to play it, even poorly written rules will only slow folks down. I found in Zpocalypse, that the rulebook was to me as the sandbags were to the zombies of the game – a deterrent that slowed progress, but did not stop me from sinking my teeth into the subject. 🙂

Gamer Avatar
7
Pet Lover
Treasure Chest
The Gold Heart
Novice Advisor

It’s definitely not just attention span that will turn people away. Theme can be just as big a barrier as well as something that helps you. Knowing a friend’s likes and dislikes make it easier to find a game they might like. For instance someone who loves alien movies might be interested in a Sci-Fi themed game but might not be as keep to bust out a game about building a castle.

Along with theme another barrier is game mechanics, too many of them will turn people off just like long winded stereo instruction like rules. Too few and they might get bored. Gateway games like Ticket to Ride help because set collection is something picked up really easily and enjoyed along with the bit of route planning to get to victory.

Gamer Avatar
7
Treasure Chest
Smash Up Fan
Platinum Supporter

Thanks for the insight Colby. Just yesterday, I used Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop on Pandemic to ease family members into the world of more interesting board games.

I also have found that the barrier of time is a hefty one, and end up playing solo – mostly via iOS gaming.

Gamer Avatar
5
Greater Than Games fan
1A Games fan

I find misconception of what tabletop games really are is a huge barrier! Not everyone knows the term tabletop games but if you say board games they have a better understanding. However, people instantly think of games like Clue, Monopoly, Sorry,etc. A lot of people I talk to who don’t play tabletop games instantly think this is what I’m playing all the time. To them this is what boardgaming is. My husband and I have worked hard with family and friends by introducing them to more modern games with unique themes and mechanics. We know how much complexity our family and friends can handle in a game so we make sure not to overload them. We learned by trial and error. As we get them into gaming we have slowly increased the difficulty as they get more comfortable with unique mechanics,

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