Special style of board games getting more popular

COLUMBIA - Board games are back in the limelight, with sales increasing considerably in recent years. But it's not the classics that are driving that popularity.

Mark Swanson, an MU professor, board game creator and avid player, says the trend all started with a 2009 article in Wired Magazine.

It chronicled how people were turning away from classic board games like Monopoly and Risk and towards a new game called Settlers of Catan.

"A lot of people know what that is," Swanson said. "But they don’t know it’s actually a gateway to a much larger world of Euro-style games."

Eurogames originated in Germany and have a much different style of play then most classic board games, focusing more on strategy than luck.

"One of the difference between Euro-style games and American games is a lot of American games are very linear, they’re roll the dice, move your mice," Swanson said.

He said American style games also rely too much on luck too move the game forwards.

"Statisticians reverse engineered Monopoly and found it to be 50 percent luck," he said. "So you can know all the price percentage payoffs of every color group and still lose to your 9-year-old daughter because she rolls better than you."

Swanson said Euro’s give people an entirely different gameplay experience, offering components, called mechanics, such as character placement, resource management and control of an area.

"Just lots of mechanics that propel the game forward and make for a very interesting Friday night," he said.

Eurogames are generally easy to learn and each game goes fairly quickly, making them ideal for game nights.

Swanson said all that inspired him to create his own game, Feudum, in 2016.

Since then, Feudum has sold 25,000 copies in seven different languages and has earned honors from SXSW, Forbes and Popular Mechanics.

Swanson said he enjoys video games as much as the next person, but nothing beats a board game.

"When you’re across the table from your friends, and there’s a beautiful map in front of you and lots of pieces and a lot of choices and resources to manage, it’s a different kind of experience and it’s one people are gravitating towards," he said.

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