Colin McEnroe Show: Are Board Games Hip Again?

We explore board gaming's renaissance.

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Photo:Chion Wolf
Photo:Chion Wolf
Colin McEnroe Show: Are Board Games Hip Again?
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Colin McEnroe Show: Are Board Games Hip Again?

Board game sales have steadily risen during the last decade, even in years when everything-else-sales were falling.

That's probably caused by a combination of factors, starting with the relatively low cost of the games. You pay twenty or thirty bucks and you get a game you can play over and over. If you lose your job and have to drop your high speed internet service, the board game still works. If you lose your power, the game still works. If you can't afford cable, the board game still works.

Board games also seem to fit with the modern hipster ethos, which exalts retro stuff like typewriters and and old fixed gear bikes.

The other way to look at it is that we've been playing board games of some sort since pretty much the  dawn of civilization . Maybe for a few years, when everything went digital, we forgot how much fun it was to sit face to face and touch the actual physical pieces.

Today, board games are back. Are they getting hip again?

Leave your comments below, e-mail or Tweet us @wnprcolin.



board games

I bought "Gears of War" the board game a couple of months ago, and this is not the sort of game I typically play, like Jewel Quest 3, I do not even know why I purchased this game; however I am glad that I did! If you like to play solo, buy this game, you will not regret it, it's down home simple solo fun. Can't be beat for a solo experience in my opinion. And yes, board games will always be hip!

Great write up. I'd say

Great write up. I'd say so.
We play them occasionally...
Indie Music Blog

Old Skool

Yeah, boargames have been getting "hipper" for the last 20 years or so... nice to see the Rest of the World catching up at last ;)

Good Friends - Good Games - Good Fun

Here is Columbus, Ohio we have known that games are HIP for a long time. The Columbus Area Boardgaming Society - CABS as we call it has 400+ members and we are averaging 120+ gamers ages 8 to 88 at our weekly meetings. We have been gaming as CABS since 1997. Games are realy HIP - check out your local game clubs/meetings.

Board Game list

Great podcast! Indeed, boardgames are hip again, largely driven by three factors, all mentioned in the podcast - the economy; reaction to electronic isolation; and better game designs.

I work for a board game company called North Star Games, and we publish two mass market party games, Wits & Wagers (a trivia game for people who are bad at trivia) and Say Anything (where you come up with answers to fun opinion questions). The fact that a company that is only 7 years old can have two games on the shelves of Target and Toys-r-Us is testimony to the fact that the board game market is expanding.

Someone posted above the desire for a list of the games talked about on the show. Perhaps as an addendum to this podcast, you could have Scott Nicholson post a list of some of the best games in various categories so that everyone could find something that fits their gaming desires?

Great show, I wish someone would have called us to be on it! LOL

Luke Warren
PR Director
North Star Games


Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your podcast on board games. Also wanted to make you aware of studies of history using board games. There are many games designed to teach many aspects of history both political and military

Here is my facebook fan page if you are interested in setting up a link or just looking for your own interest

Curt's reference to shows for inventors

Thanks, Curt, for mentioning ChiTAG (The Chicago Toy and Game Fair and the Toy and Game Inventor Conference ( Our events, including The Toy and Game Inventors of the Year Awards Dinner (, are about educating, giving the tools and opportunities to new iventors as well as celebrating the successes of published inventors.

Mary Couzin

Board Games - Music

I am so sorry that I was not able to listen to this live (and respond then). [love the podcasts, by the way...] I listenened intently to the whole show waiting for Wolfie to play a clip of the song "Board Games" by the Philly artist Mutlu. Maybe it is too much for an NPR audience but that would have been a great 'in' or 'out' segment.... LOVE Colin's show!!!

Boardgame comeback

My name is David Denton (daveroswell is my handle on many gaming sites). I am a Masters of Education student. I feel for many families the boardgame is a response to electronic media, often used as a way for families to connect. It is pretty difficult to connect while the TV is running or kids are on Facebook.

Post a list?

Hey - for those who heard your show at 70 mph, could you guys post a list of the games that were mentioned in the discussion? At least the ones that were considered worthwhile ... thank you!

Other brand??

What's the collective opinion of Cranium games? How do they compare to the non-exclusionary games discussed on the show, and on North American development? Thanks. Love your show.


Hey guys, big fan of the show. With topics ranging from comic books, hipsters, indie music and internet regulation, I'm just about hooked every time I tune in, and also can’t help but think that the whole Colin McEnroe team are a bunch of nerds!

Loved today's show! I listened in initially with only mild curiosity, as I did not assume the conversation was going to steer towards some of the less renowned, contemporary board games of today, but boy was I wrong. Hearing mention of underrated greats like Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Space Hulk rectified my lackluster interest and turned it into full blown gusto! Neighboring drivers in the lanes next to me leered in jealousy at the sight of the sanguine smile that adorned my face along with my widened, star-struck eyes. The drivers behind me must have seen it in my rear view mirror, for they honked in equal measure. Then again, the traffic light had been green for well over five seconds, but I’m pretty positive the upset was over the evidence of my distinct satisfaction, and not that I had brought traffic to a halt due to the entrancing tones emanating from my radio. I should have rolled down my window and told them to tune in!

But I digress, here’s my two cents on today’s topic:

When I was a college student in rural PA, there was very little to do. So more often than not, my friends and I ended up playing board games. Some of us in the group loved to play Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, Magic the Gathering, and other tabletop /card games that were pretty demanding of the player and that were also extortionately expensive. Others in the group weren’t really initiated to board games and only had minor encounters as kids with games like Monopoly and Life. So we met in the middle with a wonderful game called Talisman.

The game is about navigating through 3 separate rings of spaces and reaching the ultimate goal of the game, a giant trove of treasure. Each player selects a character of their choosing, each with varying skills and attributes, and then is placed on different spaces upon the board. The game is simple: roll the dice to see how far you go. That is pretty much the extent of what a player can do in this game, sharing the similar linearity of casual family games. What’s different though is the diverse selection of spaces you can land on, and the varying cards. One turn you might have to draw an encounter card, which could lead to a fight with a dragon, a hexing from a witch, a warlock gifting you with divine strength, or possibly just an encounter with a happy trader who permanently sets up shop at that space. As the game progresses the board begins to come alive with these encounter cards, and entire regions, cities, and other variables are placed upon the board. This means that no two sit-downs with Talisman will be the same. Spaces also have underlying properties that modify players’ choices, but they are not as consequential as the cards themselves. Players pick up action cards, items and companions, do battle with each other, fight monsters, earn gold, solve puzzles, form impromptu alliances, and perform a swathe of other actions, all with just two game mechanics: Rolling the dice and seeing what happens, and letting the players’ imaginations concoct fun ways to mix the game up. So here you have a game that has the deepness and richness of a role-playing game, but also has the simplicity and casual fun of a standard board game. The game basically plays itself, but the number of nuances and encounters ensures there is never a dull moment, and when you finally cross that finish line and get the gold, you’ll leave with either a stronger, reinforced sense of camaraderie with your friends, or you will all hate each other and split off into different groups for the rest of the night. Either way, this game evokes a powerful response in people, appeals to all types of players, and is a blast to play. I HIGHLY recommend it.