Building a Board Game in the Age of the App

In the beginning, there was chess.

Chess and other games like it — poker, backgammon, checkers — were played between adults and allowed people to flex their tactical thinking in a social setting. Chess has been played for millennia and across continents, standing the test of time.

But games took a sharp when a little game called Monopoly was created. It became so popular that it dominated the landscape of games, and set the tone for what was expected: games were for families, should have broad appeal, and should not be too complex.

Decades later after people first started stone-fistedly building hotels on Park Place, video games entered the mainstream cultural arena and again changed the entertainment landscape. With the evolution of mobile devices, the “App” has become a defining pillar of gaming due to its portability, scalability, and the ability to easily distribute it on a massive scale.

Yet board games are making a comeback, in a big way. Why is that?

There are others who have speculated on the reasons, but we have our own thoughts on the matter. The first is somewhat obvious: people are looking for more face-to-face interaction in a modern world where we all spend most of the day staring at a screen. Playing a board game brings people together — and in our increasingly digitally-dominated world, it’s wonderful to have an excuse to get together with friends, family, or even strangers over a shared interest. The game is real, tactile, and fun.

A second reason is due to the evolution of mobile gaming apps themselves. Because they can be massively deployed, many are marketed to everyone; as a result, are often built to serve a common denominator. Like the simpler board games that preceded them, many have become simple, friendly for all ages, and quick to play. They also suffer from the double-edged sword of connectedness, in that popular games eventually become pipelines for advertisements and in-app purchases, distracting from the game itself. Massively popular games such as Candy Crush or Angry Birds are prominent examples of this type. In order to distinguish themselves from these popular offerings, board games are increasingly designed for strategic depth and are not afraid of tackling more complex or serious themes — returning to the precedent set by the ancient game of chess and its brethren.

Lastly, board games are a way to show off your strategic thinking and creativity to people in your immediate social circle, while many digital games are anonymous; or if you are playing with friends, do not allow for face-to-face interaction. Party games such as Charades or Pictionary allow people to showcase their humor and cleverness, and also to watch their friends show off theirs. It’s all more dynamic than anything that can be experienced digitally.

These trends have partially inspired Grimmsdorf; we wanted to build a fun, challenging, replayable, and coöperative game with elements of town-building and mythology. We also wanted to weave the wonderful tradition of gaming with the tradition of storytelling, particularly of fairy tales. Not finding one that matched our wants, we set out to build our own. We’re delighted with the results so far and we hope you’ll find it as engaging as we do.

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