What is it that defines the new boardgames? Most of us are familiar with Clue, Monopoly, and the various other classic games. Let's talk about some of the qualities that the newer games bring to the picture.
I think the simplest thing that may strike a parent is that the games give you new things to do. Most of the classic games involve moving a playing piece around a rectangular board. Examples that come to mind include Payday, Life, even the Barbie Prom Queen game. The new games are different- you may lay down tiles to build a map. You may trade cards or build a city out of blocks. Players may be given a job or task. In Settlers of Catan you build a colony. When you play Pillars of the Earth you create a cathedral. And in Bang you play the role of a western sheriff. I think this variety can be pretty exciting and can allow you to find games that suit your family well.
Another element of the new games is that they're designed for an international market. For that reason there may be very little reading required to play. Games like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit require the players to read cards and that may limit their appeal for younger family members. Parents may also find that the rules for the games may be shorter and that the playing pieces may have symbols on them to help players along.
Finally, the new games may have surprising strategic depth. These are games that you can get better at. Games that teens and adults may play seriously and try to win. This doesn't mean that the casual gamer won't enjoy Formula D for example. But repeated play will reveal all sorts of tricks and strategies that will keep the game fresh.
There are two potential drawbacks to the new games. The first is that they may be tricky to find. Hit and Run Games in Lexington has a good selection. Pandemonium Books in Central Square, Danger Planet in Waltham, and Hobby Bunker in Malden also carry a good supply. The other potential drawback is the expense. The components of these games are fabulous but that does come at a price. Many will cost between forty and sixty dollars. That is less than Gears of War 2 for the Xbox but nevertheless is not cheap. Ask for help at the store if you aren't sure what will suit your family best. Or look for tips on this blog!