Is a board important?

One of the thoughts I’ve been having recently has been around whether a board adds much to a game.

Obviously , on one level, a board is what makes a board game — take that away, and you’ve left with a collection of cards and pieces. But does that matter? After all, there are some excellent card games or dice games out there. And in some games the board seems superfluous; Dixit works on the strength of the illustrations and the players’ descriptions, with the board simply a way to keep score.

A good board draws a game together. It sets the tone for the game by giving context. A game heavy on the setting, such as Mysterium, uses the board to build the atmosphere. Pandemic and Risk immediately reveal themselves to be concerned with global connections, whether it’s saving the world or conquering it. Worker placement games take on impossible levels of complexity without a board keeping the pieces in the right places — playing Puerto Rico or Caverna board-less would be a very tall ask .

But (and there’s always a but) a board costs money. From a publisher’s point of view, making a game function without one could be the difference between a viable game and one which is too expensive to make. And that’s why the question of having a board has been so high in my mind.

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