Technology of Boardgames

An examination of how production changed design

Paul A. DeStefano

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It is abundantly clear how videogames have changed over the decades due to technological advances. From ASCII to four color graphics, the path eventually lead to VR and graphics cards calculating far more polygons than were ever even conceived of in the days of text adventures.

Today, you can buy boardgames that integrate actual tech like apps and computers. While those games are great, I’d like to focus more on the dark days. You know, like before the internet.

There’s a few ways to look at ‘tech’ as it applies to board games. One is the really ephemeral concept of things like “we would never have Game X if Game B didn’t do it first”. And that’s true. Boardgames have gotten easier to understand rulebooks (see rule 4.1.23.6.b-e for a detailed explanation) and new design concepts have taken hold. Yes, once one CCG appeared, a ton did. Once one deckbuilder appeared, a ton did. Props given to those trend starters. That kind of ‘idea tech’ is not what this is about.

This is about the almighty factory. The printing press. The die cutter. And how actual physical changes in factories due to the progress of technology have changed the games on our tables.

In The Cards

Early on, game production was limited to things like Chess, Checkers and decks of cards.

Trivial Side Note: The BOARD in Boardgames originally (we’re talking 1800's) referred to the table that cards were placed on. Place your cards on the board. Games with only cards as their components actually counted as boardgames, just to end that weird debate. Source: this 1883 copy of Dick’s Games of Patience Solitaire with Cards.

1883 Solitaire book
Released by Dick & Fitzgerald, 1883

This book also reveals that Patience as a name for Solitaire originates with having patience and playing alone before the other players show up for the real games. Table, board and Tableau are used interchangeably, along with a note that originally the spelling was Tableaux, but this 1883 text will use the more modern spelling.

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Paul A. DeStefano

Author, Board Gamer/Designer. Paul D’s Tainted Dragon Inn on FB for geeky stuff. Represented by B Swanson The Purcell Agency. Riftsiders. www.PaulADestefano.com