The board games renaissance has been going on for more than twenty years. It continues to gather strength to this day. This Sunday 10 December, join the revolution, as Te Manawa begins a new fixture in its activity calendar.
Board Games at the Museum aims to introduce families and young people to the world of tabletop games. You can start slow with a simple card game about ordering sushi, or jump straight to the deep strategy of a Belgian abstract game with pieces that look good enough to eat. Learn to fly a tiny X-Wing, one of the most iconic spaceships of all time, or discover a whole new hobby realm of painting and hand-crafting models.
I remember my first game of “Settlers of Catan”, sometime in 1998, when it was but three years old. The game was colourful, easy to grasp, and nicely blended co-operation with competition. It was a revelation, a glimpse into an amazing new world where boardgames could be fun again.
Until then, simple race games like “Snakes & Ladders” and “Game of Goose” had been the extent of my board game experience. Maybe I’d played “Scrabble” a few times, my young vocabulary doomed to defeat at the hands of my elders.
You’d never write home about those games. “Settlers” changed all that.
It marked the beginning of the European revolution. Continental designers brought life to a stale board gaming scene, filling it with colour, intuitive gameplay and interesting themes. They taught us that there could be life beyond “Ludo”.
No longer need we get into blazing rows with our siblings over a game of “Monopoly”. Board games these days are much more family-friendly. As noted, though “Settlers of Catan” is still a contest, it demands co-operation, as trading resources is central to the game. In the award-winning “Pandemic”, the players must all work together against the game itself.
Or perhaps you’d rather just shepherd a giant panda gently around a bamboo garden? There’s a game for that too.
Te Manawa encourages visitors to bring their own games and introduce others to them. With so many games out there, someone’s favourite could be out there, still waiting to be discovered. The more games played, the more likely it is to be found!
My own favourite I found a number of years ago, and will play at the drop of a hat. “Race for the Galaxy” is a card game simulating the rise of different factions in a galaxy-spanning empire. It streamlines complex game concepts into elegant mechanics and takes only 20-30 minutes to play. Its art is heavily influenced by the classic 1970s sci-fi style. And even if you don’t win, the cards you play can create a great story by themselves.
Perhaps you’d like to try it for yourself? I’ll have it with me on Sunday. Hope to see you there.
Board Games at the Museum will take place every two months, on the second Sunday of that month. Entry is free. Please note that children under 14 years must be accompanied by an adult, and that some games may have minimum age recommendations.
Rob Mildon plays a lot of board games when he’s not writing for Te Manawa
 I later learned that Goose was a gambling/drinking game with roots in the 16th century. This explained a lot about some of its otherwise mystifyingly superfluous gameplay elements.
 The game’s name means “I play” in Latin.
 Originally conceived as a satire of capitalism and rent-seeking, these days Monopoly is more of a catalyst for conflict.