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  • Writer's pictureJason

Is it still a Board Game without a Board?

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

What makes a board game?

Technology improves content. Long form TV drama could not have gotten to its current level of excellence without video streaming and effortless binge watching. Some of these shows have plots involving an array of characters and plot twists which would lose their luster without easy access to previous episodes. Also, video streaming further dismantled the shackles of commercial advertising and content. Queen’s Gambit, for example, has gravitos and complexity which would be difficult to achieve if you had to take breaks for diapers or denture cream. Technology can inspire evolution directly or through the environments which that technology enhances.

  • “... there’s a feeling that you’re participating in a true party game—one that couldn’t exist independently of the people who gathered together to make it happen.” - Jeremy Peel, PC Gamer

Elsewhere in the article, Jeremy Peel argues that the quintessential fun of board games is the ability for groups to bring their own interpretation of the rules. We’ve certainly had fun with home grown rules IRL, but here at Sovranti, we’re excited about delivering the board game experience as close to the publisher/designer’s vision as possible.

Seeking FUNdamental truths about board games leads you to the inevitable question of:

  • “What makes something a board game? Is it still a board game if there’s no physical board or table?” - me

Hearts - Player won the last trick

The three things required for a board game experience are players, a problem or competition, and space for those elements to connect. Party games, as a subgenre, expand what we consider to be board gaming; card games do as well. Secret Hitler, Codenames, and Apples to Apples are generally accepted by board gamers. Werewolf is the go to game at conventions when more than 8 people want to play together. Classic party games, like Charades however, feel just outside of board gaming. The Crew made it onto a lot of “Top games of 2020” lists by reviewers and at its core is a trick taking card game like Hearts.

Trivia games and dexterity games are also at the borders of what we accept as board gaming. Trivial pursuit is a classic board game, but most wouldn’t count bar trivia. Pitch Car is a board game, but darts is not. Looking at these examples of games inside and outside of board gaming, the difference between these titles is a certain extra complexity. That extra complexity doesn’t have to be vast, but it does almost have to have a certain flavor. The differences between Charades and Code Names isn’t huge, but one seems “out” and the other “in.”

Players, a problem/competition, an environment that connects them PLUS a certain kind of added complexity which excites gamers... that’s what makes a board game. We believe playing board games in person with your friends and family is the best, but what does technology fueled evolution offer board gaming? If we look at our list of requirements for a board gaming experience, what does innovation offer in each?

Board Games are about players, problems/competitions, the environment and complexity
  • Players: Again, playing in person is best, but what if you can’t be in the same room? The current state of the world aside, with annual conventions some gamer’s “convention families” stretch across the globe. Removing physical distance as an obstacle to gaming is a worthy improvement. With expanding the reach of your gaming table, you can always have someone to share games with.

  • Problem/competition: For Sovranti, this is what the game designers, graphic designers, and publishers have put together. Again the physical copy of the game is best, but how can technology help? PC games shifted from game boxes stuffed with CD to online services like Steam or Blizzard Store. For board gaming content, this means access to more titles for less. Removing barriers for people to enjoy the content expands the audience and rewards the publishers, graphic designers, and game designers for their hard work and helps them build a following.

  • Environment: There is no place like home, but how about we build the rules into the table? Our environment itself helps teach and enforce the rules. We talk about this a lot in our last blog, [Approachable Content], but in short, online spaces have a lot to offer players when learning the games. Additionally, when the environment takes care of setup and scoring, you get more time playing the actual game and that’s where the memories are made!

  • The Added Complexity: What if you got to play the game with the designers or your favorite reviewers? We’ve been working to make our Tuesday Game Nights extra fun with special guests, streaming and giveaways. Though it isn’t exactly added complexity, we’re building a meta game of fun. Would you like to join us for some Sushi Go Golf - where you try to get the lowest score?

In these times we live, it is more important than ever to create things that bring people together… like Baby Yoda. The definition of board games is expanding as technology makes it more accessible and more people discover the hobby. We’re excited to build a game table big enough to play with the world.

Next up, we’ll talk about our game library and what makes a good online board game.


Release Updates

Publisher: Gamewright

Sovranti Developer: Andrew

Andrew has been working on Adventurer ability implementation: the Archeologist, Explorer, Water Carrier and Climber. The Climber required a little more work as it adds steps to existing actions and is not available all the time. The same functionality is also needed for the Navigator which will make implementing the Navigator easier.

Things to look forward to:

  • Navigator and Meteorologist abilities

Forbidden Desert Climber ability

Publisher: Fight in a Box

Sovranti Developer: Eric

The base game is playing really well, and we are excited about more to come! Eric implements the auto-centering of the dynamic maze on the smaller table. Next on this list is the two expansions.

Things to look forward to:

  • The expansion game implementation

The Cheese Wins - Mouse Cheese Cat Cucumber

Sovranti Developer: Paul

Paul has been working on the asymmetric corporation and recently implemented Wormhole. The options and features it contains brings some great things to the table. These are things like biomass patches which overlap tiles on the planet, and unique splits in resource progression.

Things to look forward to:

  • More corporations!

Wormhole Corporation

Publisher: Magpie Games

Sovranti Developer: Eric

Eric has implemented ‘Advanced Mode’ for Wizard Kittens! Each kitten has a unique ability in place of one of their normal abilities. This mode should give the game a more dynamic feel between different play-throughs.

Things to look forward to:

  • Next stop is implementing the ‘New Rules’ cards and ‘Chaos Mode’

Bae Bae Advanced Mode - Wizard Kittens



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