In 2021, as everyone knows, we all like to stare at screens to communicate and to have fun. Technology surrounds, and interaction and entertainment have been driven from the tangible to the virtual. Conversations are typed, music is streamed, and games are downloaded. Or so it seems…
Look the other way, and you will see quite the opposite is happening too. Yes, Spotify, Netflix and the like dominate their respective industries, and video gaming is now even bigger financially than both film and music combined; but where there is a yin there must be a yang, and so it is here. As music streaming enveloped, vinyl sales somehow increased to new highs. Similarly, as video gaming booms, board games are back!
Or rather, they never went away. History suggests board games originate to thousands of years BC, and have continued in various forms through every century. In the UK, they are most commonly considered a recent fond nostalgia, as eighties and nineties families huddled round the Christmas table to row about who cheated at Cluedo or who got to be the Monopoly top hat.
But whilst that era did deliver multiple identical board games into every family home, it is right now when they are more popular, and indeed fashionable, than ever before. Far from replacing all that board games offered, the internet has actually increased the accessibility to and variety of them. Now, at the click of a button, old favourites like Guess Who and Mousetrap are joined by forgotten classics and obscure oddities from far flung places and nearby relics. Plus, of course, the genre continues to move forward and create new games for its quietly growing audience.
In Leeds, there are long-standing, dedicated game shops that are deservedly thriving. Travelling Man was an early pioneer of the fantasy game and story genre. Primarily a comic book store, they set up here in 1991, and have since expanded into Manchester, Newcastle and York. Their success is down to a natural passion and enthusiasm, and also a foresight to move with niche trends. With a great range of genre specific board games such as Pandemic, and regular board game nights, Travelling Man attracts obsessives from all over and curious locals alike.
Within a similar area of the board gaming world are Patriot Games and Warhammer. The former is a specialist gaming shop and playing space, where hobbyists come together to partake in the likes of Final Fantasy, Pokemon and Magic The Gathering. Warhammer continues from the original Games Workshop and is an international institution. Back in the day, fun was poked at those who frequented here, but they didn’t care a jot, knowing that the last laugh was on them. Since the rise of geek chic, it could be argued that the stereotypical gaming loner is far more socially active than their counterparts, with a close community emerging, in particular through tabletop and cardboard gaming meets.
It is the adaptation of these gaming meet ups into different environments and to a wider demographic that has revitalised the appeal of board games. Geek Retreat hopes to crossover between the knowledgeable role player and the casual board gamer. As the name suggests, those wanting an in-depth geekdom of games will not be disappointed in store, and acting also as a cafe and event space, those with a new or returning interest are made equally welcome. Pop up nights here add to both the impressive collection and the inclusive feel.
Other bars too encourage their patrons to board game, with selections of offerings at places such as Crowd of Favours, The Reliance and Outlaws Yacht Club. From the specialist store for the well versed in Dungeons and Dragons, to the casual hangout for the Snakes and Ladders chancers, this is the beauty of the board game in the modern day; moving beyond its immediate enjoyment and into social gatherings of diverse people.