Roll For Insight: From Toy Soldiers To Meeples

February 1, 2019 by brennon

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My journey into tabletop gaming began with Warhammer 40,000. I was standing with my friend Tom in the dining hall at school as he told me about Eldar, Skaven, Space Marines and more. All of this was then made more enticing because I could actually build and paint my own models for this world, creating armies, characters, and everything in between.

Roll For Insight: From Toy Soldiers To Meeples

It was a pretty magical time and for most of my teenage years, my only real interaction with tabletop games was Warhammer 40,000, Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Specialist Games and, of course, those classic board games like Monopoly and Cluedo. I had very little knowledge that anything else existed!

Munchkin - Steve Jackson Games

Soon after we reached the ripe old age of fourteen, I got introduced to role-playing games like Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, World Of Darkness, and Dungeons & Dragons. This led to entirely different times spent with friends, disregarding large armies in favour of a few painted figures, and sessions which were interrupted with sporadic dips into something new called Munchkin.

The Lure Of Cardboard

This is where it all changed. That little, quirky card game suddenly turned us from wargamers into board and card gamers. We were introduced to the idea that we could play for hours, but without having to spend days, weeks, months (and sometimes years) building an army.

Warhammer Fantasy Battles

Over the years, my collection has grown, but during a time where my friends were getting interested in video games, girls (I know, shock horror!) and more, it was easier for us to sit down and play a board game compared to getting ready for a wargame on the weekends.

This isn't to say that wargaming completely fell by the wayside. During 8th Edition, two friends and I sat down and played through all of the scenarios from the rulebook as Dwarfs, Orcs & Goblins, and Ogre Kingdoms. We even dipped into other games like Warmachine, Bolt Action, and Warzone... but nothing stuck around long compared to the board games in our collection.

So, whilst I have always loved my little toy soldiers, there's something to be said for cardboard, tokens, wooden blocks, and the gods I love meeples.

Why Try Board Games?

This is where the long-winded introduction to this piece comes to its point. Whilst we're all wargamers, there are many of us who probably haven't looked at board games at all. So, why try them?

Gateway Games

For me, board games represent a more broadly all-encompassing experience when compared to a wargame. Yes, you could get a friend round to play with your painted models, but I've found it significantly easier to get a group of friends to sit down and explore a game like Ticket To Ride.

Ticket To Ride

Why? Because they can pick the game up for themselves if they like it and immediately start playing it with their friends.

Amazing Events

Some of the best things about board and card gaming is the events that are run to promote them. Gen Con, Essen SPIEL '18, UK Games Expo and many more have vast board game libraries for you to play loads of different games. They are also a great meeting place to get to know the very diverse group of people who enjoy this side of the tabletop hobby.

ukgames expo

I have had amazing times at these events. That's not to say that Salute or Warhammer Fest isn't a fun time of course! I should also mention that it's also very easy to go and enjoy board games at one of the trillion Board Game Cafes that exist out there in the UK and abroad, all with friendly staff ready to help you.

Abundant Themes

Additionally, plenty of board games have been created covering all manner of different topics. Mountain climbing, trading, fishing, house building, city management, warfare, travelling; just some of the topics covered by games in my collection and whilst some of these might sound boring, it shows just how easy it is to create a game based on a topic which engages you.

Dream Home

Wargames, by comparison, are for all of their strengths about war. Yes, you can tell a story on the tabletop and yes, you can develop a narrative connection with your characters who lead your armies but despite all of that they are still all about kicking someone else's butt.

Sometimes it's nice to play a game which isn't just about destruction, but instead creation. I love going on raids with my Burrows & Badgers warband and beating up my friends, but I now find myself much preferring the act of seeing something being created in games like Sagrada, Carcassonne, and Dream Home.

What it boils down to is that you will be able to find a game and theme which YOU will enjoy. Honestly, they have board games for pretty much everything these days.

Co-Operative Experiences

Wargames are also mostly about a clash between two people and whilst there are multiplayer options in place, there are very few times where that is played out. In many different board and card games, however, you can find plenty of ways to play together towards a single goal.


Of course, some examples of this would include games like Descent, Star Wars: Imperial Assault, Mansions Of Madness etc; those which draw on classic dungeon delving mechanics, but there are other more fringe games which are well worth exploring that bring people together too.

A few worthy of note that I've played include The Mind, Pandemic, Samurai Spirit, Lord Of The Rings: The Living Card Game, EXIT, Ghost Stories, and Magic Maze. This is far from an exhaustive list, but I'd urge you to take a look at all of them as they offer up some fascinating chances to play together alongside each other rather than being singularly combative.

A Hobby Of Their Own

You might find yourself thinking that collecting board and card games suddenly means that your hobby time vanishes. Well, thanks to so many different board games include exquisite miniatures you still get a chance to paint up your little figures, be they for a game as big as Blood Rage or something with smaller pieces like Fury Of Dracula.

netrunner tokens

Stepping away from the idea of painting miniatures, there's also an expansive hobby 'around' board and card games too. You will spend just as much time talking over new strategies, buying accessories and upgrading components as you would writing army lists and such when you sit down to wargame.

Card games in particular really do become their own beast. Many a card gamer (looking at you Android: Netrunner players) will tell you that they've lost hours and hours building decks, sorting our new components for their collection, and talking with others about what they should do next.

A Next Step

So maybe I've convinced you to give board games and card games a go. If I have then it falls to me to suggest some games for you to try if you're interested in trying out a time filled with cardboard and meeples compared to that of plastic and paint.

  • Ticket To Ride (Travel game where you try to complete routes across different countries)
  • KeyForge (Simple and easy unique card game from FFG perfect for those trying out card games for the first time)
  • Carcassonne (Tile laying game where you build a kingdom, scoring points for completed projects)
  • 7 Wonders (Civilisation played in thirty minutes. A fantastic way to learn about card drafting in games)
  • EXIT (A great set of cheap puzzle solving games which can be played as one-shot experiences with a group)
  • Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (A little bit of a heavier sleuthing game with some brilliant stories to tell)
  • Forbidden Desert (Work together to find parts of a flying machine before the sands close in!)
  • Love Letter OR Skull (A quick card game which is perfect for those who like bluffing)
  • Pandemic/Pandemic Legacy (A fantastic cooperative experience stopping a spreading plague)
  • Terraforming Mars (Something a bit heftier. Looks complicated but it's well worth it for those who love strategy games)
  • Star Wars: Imperial Assault/Mansions Of Madness 2nd Edition (A great take on the dungeon delver with a Star Wars or Cthulhu twist AND App Assisted!)
  • Betrayal At House On The Hill (Scooby Doo and every horror movie/story with a betrayal mechanics too!)

Again, not an exhaustive list but a good one for those who might want to experience board and card games as an alternative tabletop experience.

Of course, if you have games you think would be good for this list OR you have a particular genre you like and would like a suggestion, let me know in the comments below.

No Miniatures Left Behind...

I'll still be playing Burrows & Badgers and trying my hand at games like Rangers Of Shadow Deep, but board and card games are really where my heart lies now. It's as much a sign of the times, growing older and trying to hobby when I can as much as just a genuine shift towards smaller boxed experiences which don't overwhelm me.

To finish on a semi-serious note, I genuinely think that wargaming as a hobby (whilst awesome) can be very expensive for younger folk. When you've got disposal income I can see the allure of buying and painting armies, but board games and card games a great and generally cheaper way to get young folks into tabletop gaming without having to worry about breaking the bank. It worked for me when I was a late teen, and I can see it working for a lot more people now we're in this golden age.

This won't be everyone's cup of tea but hopefully, you'll take a sip. 

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