Campfire hurls a 360 controller into the flames. As the fire licks at the fading Home button, he wonders if video games could teach board games a lesson or two…
Okay, so here’s the situation. A lot of us used to play video games, but as we’ve grown older and, for whatever reason, become frustrated with the direction the market has taken, we’ve sought out greener pastures upon which to graze. Enter board games, card games, role-playing games, war games – whatever you play, your new hobby offers something magical that video games lack. And that’s great. That’s peachy. But you and I and everyone we play with, we know tabletop games have a problem.
It’s not that the general public don’t think board games are cool (although they probably don’t) but when they think of them they imagine Scrabble and Risk, and the other games they grew up with. They don’t realise that, just as they’re no longer snotty kids with a penchant for sticking Monopoly hotels up their nostrils, so board games are no longer, well, Monopoly. There’s a whole wide world of games out there, yet whenever we try to ply our friends with the latest Ameritrash titles they still think tabletop games are the same old family favourites they played as children. Even worse, they’d much rather play the very video games we’ve all moved on from.
The answer is clear: Tabletop gaming needs a twenty-first century makeover.
Below I’ve detailed a foolproof plan on how to bring board games bang up to date. By following the steps listed we can snatch those potential gamers away from digital distractions and grab ourselves a fat wedge of the lucrative video game market.
Let’s begin with children’s classics. From now on Subbuteo – or as it’ll now be known, Subbuteo ‘11 – will be given yearly incremental updates. While the game itself won’t change much, each yearly edition will have different names written on the backs of the players’ shirts, to reflect that season’s transfers. Occasionally we’ll introduce a new rule to the rulebook that will break the game’s mechanics entirely. Have no fear! This mistake will be rectified in the next year’s edition, and it’ll only cost another £30 to upgrade your existing game to the new and improved version. Elsewhere in children’s games, Hungry Hungry Hippos will be renamed “Pac-Man Tower Defense” and Battleships will be set in space, and given a futuristic makeover with flashing lights and sound effects.
Oh, apparently there’s a new version of Battleships that’s exactly like that. Never mind, eh?
Moving swiftly on, RPGs, which are heavily reliant on confusing statistics, dice-rolls and the imaginations of those playing will need a completely new image. Therefore all RPGs will now be known as ‘action role-playing games’. Action RPGs dispense of things like character and plot that our new players aren’t interested in and replaces them with non-stop battles. To ensure everyone at the table has the fun of rolling dice without any of the confusing number-crunching that usually accompanies it, Action RPGs will ship with sugar cubes instead of dice. Also, from now on critical hits will be known as “Boom! Headshots!”
In a nod toward the popularity of video games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, gamers will now be able to ‘Prestige’ in deck-builders by throwing away all the cards they’ve accumulated over the course of the game and going back to their initial starting deck. It won’t increase their enjoyment of the game, but they will get to wear a pretty badge so everyone knows how cool they are for prestige-ing.
To help drive money into tabletop gaming, we’ll be adopting some of the practises that helped make video games so lucrative. As with arcade cabinets, this means the introduction of ‘Continues’ to tabletop games. In Thunderstone, when one of your heroes is killed from your hand you’ll now be able pay thirty pence to bring him back to life – a small price to pay for your continued enjoyment of the game, I think you’ll agree. Another way of increasing revenue is by ensuring all board games are only playable by a single player straight from the box. To play with multiple players you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for a ‘Board Games Live Gold Account’. This means you’ll only be able to play against people who live on the other side of the world, and not the friends you usually have over for your regular game nights. Our research shows most people don’t want to play games together in the same room because when they’re playing, they’d much rather sit alone in their pants, scratching themselves.
Under the new rules of Board Games Live your Chess partner will always be a nasal-voiced pre-pubescent American, who’ll whine about your bishops ‘camping’. Likewise, whenever someone plays an impressive hand in a game of Dominion, in no uncertain terms will you compliment them. Instead, throw out a racial, homophobic or sexual slur. You’ll also be able to take as long as you want thinking through every turn you make. If the other players complain, just blame your indecision on ‘lag’.
Another money-making tactic will be to nickle-and-dime players with ‘microtransaction’ accessories, to make their game pieces look prettier. From now on you will be able to pretty up your Pandemic cubes by giving them wigs, designer baseball caps and hilarious moustaches. If you already have Agricola, right now you can buy little wooden animeeples and vegemeeples to replace the default pieces that come with the game. In the near future we plan to expand this range to include personalised avatars, so you can express own individual character in your board game pieces. Did you ever want to run a farm with cows who look just like you? Soon you’ll be able to live that dream.
Sex sells. From now on there will be honking great breasts glued onto the meeples that come with every copy of Carcassonne. They’ll imbalance the pieces and make them topple over, but this won’t matter as we’ll have captured the all-important 18-25 male market. This move might be misogynistic and downright skeezy, but if we can wring a single sale from one of these snickering sources of disposable income then gosh darn it, our little wooden people need double D breasts.
Elsewhere, future copies of Space Alert will ship with CDs of hit pop and rock songs, turning it into the world’s first rhythm action board game.
Oh, and from now on, rulebooks won’t be included inside game boxes. Each game’s instructions will only be available online in PDF form. It’ll save us a lot of money in publishing costs and anyway, everyone knows that only nerds read game manuals.
Last but by no means least, we need to address how tabletop games are marketed. Following in the footsteps of the recent launch of the Nintendo 3DS, Fantasy Flight will send models out to hand-deliver review copies of flagship titles. Once they’ve made their delivery the models will then stick around to help play the game with the reviewers. They won’t actually know the rules or anything else about the game; they’ll only be there to look pretty – and to grab the attention of the press, of course. All games with boring, non-descript titles will be renamed according to video game conventions with the introduction of exciting prefixes and suffixes, leading to newly retitled games like Agricola of War, Call of Alhambra and Super Wits & Wagers Hyper Fighting Championship Edition Extreme.
Finally – and this is something only to be considered if everything else in our plan fails – we have one more trick up out sleeves that is certain to put tabletop gaming right back in the public eye where it belongs. In an attempt to make tabletop gaming seem cooler to a widespread audience, legendary gaming spokesperson Tom Vasel will change his name by deed-poll to ‘Tommy V’.
So, that’s my plan. It’s a little rough around the edges, but I think you’ll find that every one of these steps will be vital if we want to capture the video game . . . er . . .
Ah, to hell with it. Let’s stay like we are.