Boardgame politics (Topic Discussion) – Tabletop Games Blog

For many of us, me included, playing board games is about escaping from the day-to-day worries, thoughts and general dross and give us an hour or two, maybe more, to think about something else, to occupy ourselves and to have fun with friends, old and new, family or alone. We don’t want to think about the horrors going on in the world. We don’t want to worry about politics. That’s fine and that’s what board games can help us achieve. However, the hobby itself isn’t apolitical and we do need to consider what games we play and why we play them.

I think it’s hugely important that we all get time to get away from the things that are usually on our minds. We all deserve time to relax and recharge. We all should be able to have fun and laugh and enjoy ourselves in the magic circle that board games create. We should feel safe doing so and we should be able to let our hair down and just be ourselves.

At the same time, we, as the people who decide what games we want to play, have a responsibility as well. When we choose a game, we should think about what the game represents, who it portrays and how, when it is set and what message it tries to convey. We can’t just dismiss what is going on in the world completely, just to have some fun. That would be selfish and cold.

I do understand that it is not always easy to see why a game would be a terrible choice. Many people won’t know if a designer has been making racist comments for example. They will look at a game and see amazing gameplay, a great setting, beautiful illustrations and wonderful components – and I can’t blame them for not knowing and innocently playing a game that is tarnished by a person related to the project.

At the moment, there is very little board game news that is consumed by a lot of people in our hobby. Podcasts like Brainwaves from The Giant Brain team reports on these sorts of issues quite regularly, but it doesn’t have the reach it deserves. Other podcasts don’t tend to talk about “board game politics” as it’s often described. Forums on Board Game Geek are full of discussions about these issues, but they often end up in screaming matches and are not very useful to understand what is going on.

Ultimately, people in our hobby aren’t really interested in these controversies. They just want to have some fun with an interesting board game. They don’t care about whether a designer was making terrible comments on a forum somewhere. Again, I can relate to that, but we need to do more work to inform people in our hobby, so they can choose what game to play.

What I don’t understand though, is when people happily play games that are clearly racist, sexist, ableist or otherwise unacceptable. Sure, when you grow up with games that deal with trading in the Mediterranean, colonialism and similar topics and all your life nobody batted an eyelid at the fact that those games completely ignore the atrocities that took place during the time period that they were set in, then you don’t think anything of playing games that appropriate other cultures or that deal with the suffering of a people without any respect or consideration.

It’s time, that this changes. Games that are set in a historic time period deal with real-life events. They deal with real people and therefore they need to consider how these people are portrayed. It doesn’t help that history taught in school is still often distorted and still ignores many facts so as to portray what happened in a positive, even righteous way. So we need to educate ourselves about what happened, so we can look at the games we choose to play in a clearer way and maybe realize that some historic games are just inappropriate, if not completely disgusting.

There is more to consider, of course. History is one thing, but the present is just as important. We need to educate ourselves about extremism, white power, cultural appropriation and similar on the one side, as well as diversity, LGBTQ+ rights, equality and similar on the other side. We need to look at the games we play and think hard if they really represent a world that we would be proud of or if they’re just another game that perpetuates the hate and discrimination that we have grown up with.

We need to consider who designed the game, who developed it, who illustrated it, who wrote the rulebook and everyone else who worked on it, including the publisher. We also need to look at what the game is about, what its setting and theme are, who is represented in the game and how and what message the game is sending out, what story it is trying to tell.

Games that appeal to us are easy choices. They are guaranteed to give us a good time and let us have fun. However, they are probably also the games that just tell the same story – a story that needs to change. It’s great to escape into another world, one that is made up and that allows us to escape from reality for a while, but even those worlds need to set the right tone and the game needs to send the right message.

Games that we wouldn’t normally choose are the harder choice. We may not get on with them, but hopefully, they will tell us something new and help us learn something we didn’t know before. They have the potential to let us grow and become more aware of how other people feel and what their hopes are for the future.

I don’t know how many people I reach with my blog, but I hope this article makes you think about the games you play and why you play them. As I say, I do want you to have fun and time to relax and recharge. That’s vitally important and becoming more important these days. At the same time, there are so many wonderful games out there, so don’t limit yourself to the same choices all the time, but be brave and try something new.

Useful Links

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Boardgame backlog (Topic Discussion) – Tabletop Games Blog

I know this is a First World problem, but I currently have a number of games sitting on my shelves that I haven’t played yet. I also know that I’m not the only one with a “shelf of opportunity” that seems to be growing, rather than shrinking. I basically have too many board games. It seems to be something that’s quite common in the board game hobby. In this article, I want to look at a number of reasons why my game pile has increased, rather than gotten smaller.

Let me start with the obvious: I’ve been backing quite a few games on the various crowdfunding platforms. These games are now being fulfilled and therefore the stack of unplayed games is growing. I think that’s true for a lot of us. The lure of a glitzy crowdfunding campaign with exclusive components is very powerful. The feeling of helping someone make their dream a reality is wonderful. It’s also very hard to resist the pull of lots of people on social media singing the latest campaign’s praises. The fear of missing out can be very strong.

However, I’ve now made a decision to only back campaigns from smaller, independent publishers or self-publishers and show them my support. Other than that, I’ll only be backing games that do something new, something different, that I’ve not seen in other games before. That used to be my aim anyway, finding a game with a new mechanism or that somehow uses existing mechanisms in a new way. So I’m going back to that, which will help.


The other main reason why I’ve now got more games than I can play is the lockdown, of course. It’s not only me who has been backing crowdfunding campaigns. My friends did the same. So where we would normally have had time to meet up and play those games, the lockdown prevented us from doing so. It’s hard to say exactly, but I think we lost about 2 years. It’s no surprise that I now have too many board games.

While we were unable to meet in person, we played a lot online (quick hello to Jamie Adams from the Brainwaves board game news podcast at this point). We learned a lot of new games. So I was able to continue writing reviews, be it for digital versions of board games rather than physical games. However, we didn’t get time to play the games we were getting in the post.

When the lockdown was over and we were happy to meet up in person again, everyone wanted to play their game first. My friend’s copies of Oath, Root and Dwellings of Eldervale got played. At the same time, my copies of Brass: Birmingham and Die Macher stayed on the shelf. Mind you, we did get to play Brass: Birmingham digitally. So, it’s not too bad, but then it would have been nice to play with the Iron Clay poker chips.

It was great that my wife played games with me that I could review, but that only got rid of games that could be played with two players. A lot of the games I buy are for more than just two, or at least they are more fun at a higher player count.

Brass: Birmingham box cover

Review Copies

It also didn’t help that publishers started to send me review copies of their games. Previously, I only had received a small handful of review copies. So as that number went up, my pile of unplayed games didn’t go down. After all, you want to play a publisher’s review copy first. You want to show them that their trust in you is justified. My games group and my wife were really wonderful. They helped me get those games played, so that I could review them. I’m deeply in their debt for that.

So while I’m really grateful that publishers are happy to send me their games for free, it does also put pressure on me to get them played. I’m not complaining though. I’ve chosen to become a board game reviewer. It’s a responsibility that I happily take on. However, it does illustrate why I still have too many board games.

Multiple Plays

There is another reason why I’m not playing more games these days. That’s because I now tend to play the same games more often. When previously I might play a game maybe three or four times, before moving on to the next, I now often play a game five to ten times. That’s especially true for shorter games, of course. However, even longer games now get to the table more frequently.

So while playing We Can Play 20 times in a week is easy, getting Oath to the table once a week for three consecutive weeks is a lot harder. Yet, that’s exactly what we did. We were able to start a little Oath campaign and see how the game evolves. Similarly, I’ve now played Root over five times.

Playing the same game multiple times means you don’t get to the next game as quickly. So that’s another reason why I still have too many board games, or at least I have more games than I can play.

We Can Play cards

Times Are Changing

As I mentioned earlier though, things are changing. I’m now buying fewer games, be it via crowdfunding or directly from a store. I’m more focussed on finding games that are different to those I have previously played. It’s a lot more about curating my collection now. I don’t want to have two games that basically do the same thing or that create the same experience. If that’s the case, I get rid of one and therefore shrink my collection.

That doesn’t directly affect the many games I haven’t played yet, but it means it will slowly change in the future. I am determined to play the majority of unplayed games. So I have to make sure I have the time to do so.

I also have to make sure I only buy games that I’m pretty confident are a good fit for the people I play with. I’ve recently increased the number of lighter games, that I know I can play with the wider family. I also focussed a bit more on two-player only games, which I will be able to play with my wife. The number of heavier games hasn’t gone up though. That allows me to play each heavier game multiple times with my games group, so we get the most out of them.

How About You?

So how about you? Do you have more games than you need? Do you have an ever-increasing pile of games that you know you probably won’t get played? What do you do to reduce that pile? Or do you not care, because for you just owning games is important? Are you more of a collector maybe? As always, please share your thoughts and experiences with me. Just post them in the comments below. I wonder if you also have too many board games, like me.

Useful Links

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (
Background Music: Just Say by Beatcore & Ashley Apollodor (