Counterpoint: 7 Reasons a board game is (or can be) better than a deck of cards

      This article is inspired by and written as a follow-up response to the recent iSlaytheDragon article:

      “10 Reasons a Deck of Cards is Better Than a Board Game”

      History and tradition. These are two of the things are used as a basis for and that influence our current gaming system and culture. However, just because something is or was a tradition, doesn’t automatically make it the best option. The appeal of tradition for playing cards is based on past justifications for using them, justifications that are no longer as valid in the present because of the change in circumstances due to this more modern age. Also, competition can be seen a fundamental driver of progress, and in this case, a deck of cards doesn’t have nearly the competition to lead to the innovation of new and different games. Constant change makes board games exciting and the market they inhabit flexible and adaptable to the whims of the consumer.

      1. Imagination

      Don’t get me wrong, I love a good strategic game of Euchre or Hearts. A little survivor(ish) out-think, out-play mindset. But let’s not kid ourselves. The deck of cards remains just a deck of cards no matter how many fancy names or unusual spellings we give the title of the game. The fact is that a deck of cards in the end is constrained. You will never see a deck of cards with the ability to simulate the experience of connecting train lines or trying to stop the all-powerful Elder God. The true magic of these games isn’t because of their long tradition and history like a deck of cards but in their ability to capture our whims and imagination however absurd or far-fetched as we play them.

      2. Potential

      If you can think it, you can do it. With a company of four suits plus or minus a joker or two, there’s only so many ways they can be manipulated, exchanged, sorted, or divided in order to give variation. Let’s not kid ourselves with the “world” of games based upon a deck of cards. There are only so many and even fewer that get any sort of regular substantial playtime. And when was the last time someone came up to you with vigor and wanted you to play a new one? It’s the same old shtick, with a couple variations based upon region thrown in. I’m not saying board games aren’t variation upon themselves but because of the first point, these nuances can be more easily overlooked. Even a tacked on theme is still more than anything a deck of cards has. In addition, every few weeks to months, a new game comes along that catches our fascination. Yahtzee with monsters? A 14 card game about fighting for love? Dress making? No game from a deck of cards has that entrancing appeal.

      3. Living on the edge

      When was the last time you got really excited or nervous about losing a game of the ironically named “War?” The playing card games have plenty of competitive games but the only game that comes close to matching that sort of energy as in board games are gambling games like poker and blackjack. And probably the only reason for that is because there’s usually money at stake, not necessarily always due to the base game itself. The charged atmosphere that permeates through the room in a close game of many a co-op i.e. Pandemic, Robinson Crusoe, or even Sentinels of the Multiverse is often palpable. The ability to generate enthusiasm for gameplay cannot be discounted and is prevailingly and overwhelmingly in board games favor.

      4. Style

      This is for all those Eurogamers out there. A game based on a deck of cards will never solely depend on the skill of the person behind the cards. There will always be some (and often more) element of luck determining a good percentage of the chance of you winning. There are numerous games like Hearts, Euchre, or even Poker where if you’re dealt a randomly just plain awful hand, there is absolutely nothing you can do to win from that. Where’s the fun in that? At least Robinson Crusoe legitimately feigns that the players have a chance each game. Even the most basic of deck builders allows players to recover when they’re able to buy the cards they need in order to try to make up for lost ground. Feld’ian games and the sort provide those gamers that element where all they wish to do is to challenge another in a purely skill based system to prove who is the best and can do so.

      5. Dynamic Duos

      I’ll go toe to toe on this point. Board games have the ability to play cooperatively with partners and one could argue that they’re becoming more popular and ever present. See recent success of games like Sentinels of the Multiverse and Mice and Mystics. Synergy, chemistry, and social bonding are never more apparent when overcoming the odds and winning in these situations. More often than not, there’s more talk of strategy, ridicule, and experiences following a loss in these situations than when people are winning outright. Which directly leads to the next point…

      6. Traitorous Element

      Let’s face it. Everybody at some point or another wants to be the bad guy. They want to be the one who gets to be the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. There is something so self satisfying about turning the screws the rest of the table, group, or team by revealing that all along you were the reason they ended up with that egg on their face at game end. Quite often this happens at the end, but if it occurs in the middle, now that’s the source of social bonding and trust building those weekend gurus wish they could reproduce from trust falls. It’s easy and commonplace to get irritated at a incompetent partner who can’t take card tricks you need, but it’s on another level completely with the angst it causes with the revelation that someone in your party previously deemed trustworthy openly betrays and undermines the very core reason of the game in the first place.

      7. Social gathering

      A deck of cards can only gather so many people or have so many people be an active part of the game. A common practice often used in more populous events for those looking to do something different presents and divides those playing from the larger group. Board gaming itself is a social jamboree. It’s not uncommon for groups in the 10s, 20s, or 30s to gather together on a regular basis to not only socialize in between games but among, over, and during the games themselves.

      When was the last time anyone get geeked up for a deck of cards based convention or card publisher’s press release? How many conventions are dedicated to decks of playing cards? Right. Now think of all the Cons that board games are part of, let alone ones that are solely dedicated to putting them on as a venue for those of us to meet, mingle, and cohabitate. They bring a sense of belonging and togetherness that many a gamer has longingly found at such gatherings.