Board games, once a symbol of quality family time spent together around the kitchen table, have become as obsolete as video cassettes and throwaway cameras in the digital age. At least, that is the common perception. However, to misquote Mark Twain, reports of their demise just might have been exaggerated.
In Canada, sales of board games remain stable, and it prompted one well-known gaming site to commission a survey of 3,000 Canadians to find out which titles are the most popular across the different provinces and why. The results showed a blend of old and new, but perhaps more surprisingly it also revealed that in some cases, digital technology has sparked an increase in some games’ popularity instead of a decline. Let’s take a look at some of the key findings from the survey.
Monopoly is a classic crowd-pleaser
If every book collection includes Shakespeare and every music collection includes Bat Out of Hell, then the equivalent must-have in any board game collection is surely Monopoly. First created in the 1930s, Monopoly is similar to those other classics in that it has never gone out of fashion.
In Canada, that has still held true in the digital era. It was the most popular game by some margin in Ontario, Quebec, British Colombia, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador. One of the secrets to Monopoly’s success is that it is one of those games that beginners can get into straight away, gradually absorbing the nuances of the rules as they go along.
The gameplay has remained unchanged in more than 80 years, but Monopoly has still managed to move with the times. New versions for specific towns and even fictional settings such as Game of Thrones have helped keep interest alive among each new generation.
Nova Scotians have a passion for Catan
It’s not just the classics that are thriving in Canada. In both Nova Scotia and St Edwards Island, Catan was the top ranked board game. In case the title has passed you by, this strategy game demands strategic use of resources as you compete to grow your settlement on the mythical island of Catan.
The game was released by European game makers in 1995, and one of the intriguing factors that has helped keep it in the public eye is the annual Catan World Championship. Until 2007, this was hosted in Essen, Germany, where the game was invented. Over the past 10 years, it has been staged at a variety of locations across Europe and North America.
Scrabble rules the roost in Manitoba
The classic word game is almost as old as Monopoly. Its popularity slumped in the 1990s, but this is one of those occasions when digital technology brought about a revival in a classic game’s fortunes. Half of those who play Scrabble were inspired to buy the original game after becoming hooked on the Words With Friends mobile game.
Zynga’s flagship title was, of course, inspired by Scrabble and is one of the most popular mobile games of all time. It just goes to show that old and new can coexist side by side – at least, they can in Manitoba.
Clue has remained relevant with online and casino adaptations
Clue is still popular across every province, although it narrowly missed the top spot in any single location. Like Scrabble, its enduring popularity is partly down to online adaptations. Several casino games have been introduced and are popular feature among casino sites offering table games in Canada, and especially Ontario, where Canadian casino players have the widest range of alternatives.
Just as impressive is the online version of Clue, which was developed by Marmalade Games and uses the UK naming convention of Cluedo. Players can either test their sleuthing skills against AI opponents or set up a live game on the game server where they can take on family and friends, wherever they are in the world. The people at Marmalade introduced some fun new elements without fundamentally changing the gameplay. For example, you can choose from a range of settings as alternatives to the classic country house. However, the characters and the overall 1940s theme are retained.
Board games are here to stay
Canadians still love their board games, and if we were to overturn a few rocks, we would almost certainly find a similar story elsewhere. What is most intriguing is the way that classic games like Monopoly and Clue have managed to use technology to remain relevant without making fundamental changes to the gameplay itself.