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Friday 20 April 2018

Humble classic makes comeback as people get on board with new generation of games

Varoius games in the Cogs, The Brain Shop in St Stephens green shopping centre. Damien Eagers
Varoius games in the Cogs, The Brain Shop in St Stephens green shopping centre. Damien Eagers
Conor Brady of Cogs: The Brain Shop has found that more customers are buying games to play with their families. Photo: Damien Eagers

Jane O'Faherty

Bored with bridge? Tired of Twister? A new breed of modern classics is hitting Irish shelves - with some home-grown companies getting in on the act.

The humble board game is enjoying a renaissance, as Conor Brady, managing director of Cogs: The Brain Shop, has found.

The store opened in Dublin two years ago and is devoted to board games.

In the era of video games, Mr Brady has found more and more Irish customers are buying physical board games for their families.

"There is the influence of people from Europe, but also there are people who want to do other things than going to the pub," he explained.

But that doesn't mean board games are synonymous with a quiet night in. Several groups in Dublin host weekly events where they play board games in bars across the city.

Gavin Byrne formed the Board Games Ireland meet-up group in Dublin almost two years ago.

Starting out with four members, more than 1,200 people have since signed up.

"We have a lot of Brazilian, German, Italian and Irish members. It goes from teenagers up to people in their 50s and 60s," he said.

"Video games are so popular now, but you have the tangibility of a board game," said Mr Byrne.

"You're in a room full of people, so there's a social aspect to it."

The board-game business is not purely the domain of multinational toy companies either.

Greg Dooley from Cork created an Irish version of 30 Seconds, a popular South African board game, where players must describe people, places or things to their teammates.

"During Christmas week last year, we sold 1,000 in one week," he said.

The game is produced entirely in Ireland and is stocked in more than 120 stores nationwide. With references to everything from Ryanair to Hozier, the game is now a firm favourite among Irish emigrants, who have brought it with them to Australia, Canada and the US.

Mr Dooley sees his board game as "a modern-day alternative" to phones and laptops.

"At the start, I realised that I wasn't trying to take people away from their iPhones or iPads," he said.

"With the rise of technology, I think people just like an alternative.

"Board games have been around for thousands and thousands of years and they've survived droughts and world wars and all sorts of man-made catastrophes. They are very much an evergreen activity."

Just last weekend, Colum Higgins set up Playtest Dublin, a group that hopes to create new board games through crowd-funding.

"It's a chance for board-game and card-game designers to test out ideas," he said. "You can prototype most board game ideas with stuff that's available in any craft or stationery shop, so it can be done quite cheaply."

Board and card game ideas have tended to do well on crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter.

One such game pitch, Exploding Kittens, became Kickstarter's most-backed campaign of all time, raising more than $8.7m (€7.9m).

Meanwhile, Ronan O'Byrne, who hopes to set up a cafe specifically for board games in Dublin, said new games were a marked improvement on those of the past.

"They have better artwork. They have better mechanics and it's a better experience," Mr O'Byrne said.

Picking just the right game off the shelf for the right crowd

  • Robot Turtles:  Great for young kids, it also teaches them the basics of computer programming.
  • 30 Seconds: Pop-culture-based challenges like this one can coax enthusiasm from even sullen teenagers. n Wits and Wagers: This is perfect when time is of the essence. It takes two minutes to explain and 25 minutes to finish a game.
  • Settlers of Catan: A game of trading and resource management based on a colonised island. A must for fans of highly strategic games like Risk.
  • Anomia: An award-winning naming game. This is fast-paced, high-pressured and hilarious, perfect for dinner parties.
  • Fluxx: A modern card game with ever-changing rules that make it endlessly replayable.
  • Qwirkle: Simple like dominoes, but with a fiendish twist.

Irish Independent

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