I have a copy of the Warcraft board game. It's a fairly decent game, certainly not one of the worst I've ever purchased. It's got attractively designed pieces, an understandable instruction manual, and you can get into a game without too much set-up. It does a fantastic job of capturing the original computer game's dynamic of base building, resource management, and strategic troop deployment.
It does such a good job, in fact, that you'll find yourself wishing you were just playing the original game.
People still play board games. A fairly large number of people. And there are some fantastic board games still being made. My friends and I still get a bunch of fun out of Betrayal at House on the Hill even on the twentieth or thirtieth game of the thing.
But to some extent computer gaming has made board gaming redundant. It's now possible to engage in a multiplayer strategic game over the internet. Better still, in a computer game there's no set-up, there's no packing away to be done when it's over, and all the dice rolling and inconvenient maths is done for you. Plus there's sound, graphics, and a potentially much faster pace.
Are the reasons people still play board games anything more than a lacuna of technology's advance? Will there still be a market in a future where (1) everyone owns a handheld gaming device (possibly incorporating a mobile phone), (2) everyone is comfortable using gaming technology, and (3) such devices are capable of reliably networking with other devices globally or locally from any location?
I asked Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games this question when I met him at Conflux this year; his reply was that he felt there'd always be a place for social, tactile gaming. As far as social gaming, I don't disagree. I think people will want to bring their gaming devices together in one place even when they could play the same game from remote locations. It already happens in the culture of LAN parties, and I think it would happen more often if top-end gaming rigs were inherently more portable.
But tactile gaming? It's an attraction to physically hold the pieces, but when it's the last and only attraction that board games still have, I don't know that it'll be enough.
Given current trends in the design of both handhelds and mobile phones, it seems likely that within five years a majority of the western world will own a gaming device capable of playing wirelessly networked games. And within seven years, there will be multiplayer high-quality multiplayer games available for that platform which reach a casual mainstream audience.
And at that point, I think we'll be witnessing the death of the board game.