#55 - Board Game Geeks


What is it about little bits of cardboard, plastic, and wood that draw people in so much? This week, we’re talking about fans of board games: AKA Board Game Geeks!

Next week, will we escape the podcast in 60 minutes or less? Probably not, but that won’t stop us from uncovering the mystery of escape room fans!

Episode outline

Fandom Facts

Origins and history:
Board games are… broad, and historically date back quite a ways. Wikipedia provides a succinct description not unlike a description of life:

A board game is a tabletop game that involves counters or pieces moved or placed on a pre-marked surface or “board”, according to a set of rules. Some games are based on pure strategy, but many contain an element of chance; and some are purely chance, with no element of skill.

Games usually have a goal that a player aims to achieve. Early board games represented a battle between two armies, and most modern board games are still based on defeating opponents in terms of counters, winning position, or accrual of points.
Wikipedia - Board game

While it is unclear what the first board game was, many early games date back as far as 5000 years ago; some examples of the early board games include Senet (Egypt, ~5000 years ago), Go (China, ~2500 years ago), and Backgammon (Persia, ~5000 years ago).

Size of Fandom:
Using a few proxies of popularity, we can try to estimate the number of fans (and level of involvement of fans):

  • BoardGameGeek had approximately 360k registered in 2010, with 100k active per month (BoardGameGeek - Geek Analytics 2010)
  • The most backed board game on Kickstarter, Exploding Kittens, had almost 220 000 backers

Fan Demographics:
The demographic data we managed to obtain comes from The Daily Worker Placement. Of the almost 2400 respondents…

  • Country: Over 56% were from the USA
  • Age: 42% are 25-35, 33% are 35-44, 16% are 45+
  • Marital Status: 52% are married, 15% are in a relationship(s)
  • Gender: The majority are male, and 24% identified as female, 1.1% as non-binary, and 0.6% as trans
  • Education: Almost two-thirds have a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Tenure: Less than 25% of respondents had been playing board games for two years or less; almost half of respondents have been playing games between three and ten years

Search Data
Interest in board games is highly periodic (by search volume). Every year, around December, interest in board games spikes to the highest point in that year. That being said, ignoring the peak, it looks like board games are back on the upswing after a gradual decline in interest from 2004 to 2010, and is slowly recovering to 2004-ish levels.

Other data, like sales, suggests that growth is more substantial:

Global sales of games and puzzles have grown from 9.6 billion in 2016, according to Euromonitor International, with expected year-on-year growth of more than 1 percent this year.
CNBC - Millennials are driving the board games revival

The top ten countries for board games by search volume are: Canada, Estonia, Australia, United Kingdom, Poland, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Greece, and the United States.

The top five rising related topics are: Words with Friends, Pandemic, Dominion, Kickstarter, and Descent: Journeys in the Dark

Believe it or not, we managed to find some board game fanfic on Archive of our own. There are approximately 100 game categories in the “other media” section of Archive of our own (including 7 for Settlers of Catan).

Last Episode’s Famous Last Words

The boom in board game creation over the last decade comes from people remembering unsatisfying board game experiences with Life, Trouble and Monopoly as a kid.

What board game has the most detailed, complicated, esoteric rules?

What is the most expensive non-monopoly board game (commercially available)?

...The change occured when Monopoly became public domain (and we started having dumb -opoly games)
Board games helped popularize Kickstarter.

The Verdict

Z is out. BUT it is a fairly friendly, fairly positive community.

T is in.

G is in: can’t see a way out.

This week’s spotlight

The Spiel Foundation
The Spiel Foundation is dedicated to donating quality card and board games to senior citizen’s centers and children’s hospitals… five games at a time.

Each year, we assemble bundles of five games and donate these bundles to organizations that fit our mandate. To date, we have donated over 2,000 board and card games to kids and seniors around the country.
The Spiel Foundation

Famous Last Words

This week’s famous last words around next week’s fandom, escape rooms!

What is the biggest escape room? (e.g. is there a house where its entirety is an escape room)

The first escape room was a red room simulator.

Is there a survival horror escape room (where you think you’re going to die)?
Is there a super realistic museum heist?

the 999 DS/3DS games :) and there’s going to be a Detective Conan themed escape room at Universal Studios Japan next year as part of their Cool Japan promo

Where can you find us online?

We are everywhere! Most notably though, we like to hang out in a few places on social media:

  • If you want to help us to create more amazing fannish content, become a patron on Patreon; even as little as a dollar a month pledge really helps us out!
  • If you want to be part of our podcast (or just want to check us out), we record our podcast LIVE on twitch.tv every monday at 20:00 Eastern Time!
  • For all the latest updates, check us out on Facebook or Twitter
  • To see the latest hijinx from our conventions or even our daily lives and adventures, check us out on Instagram
  • For our latest convention updates, Let’s Plays, and other in-real-life video, check out our YouTube channel
  • We’re also on iTunes, and Google Play, and would love it if you could leave a review and rating!
  • if you want to reach us, and for some reason none of those work for you, try nick@thenickscast.com
  • You can check out our website; that will mostly bring you back to this stuff.
  • Everything is thenickscast, so if you can’t find us, go on your social network and search for that!
  • … You’re still looking for ways to reach out? You can also use the hashtag #fanthro on Twitter!

What is “Fanthropological”?

How did you read this far without asking this question?!

Fanthropological is an anthropological (ish) podcast where we bring the fan’s-eye view to you! Each week, we take a look at a different fandom, dig up interesting background, trivia, and history, and try to get to why it is that people are a fan. We also try to highlight good causes related to that fandom, and find interesting things that fans have created to share those to the world. Each episode is about an hour. Ish.

Who is “The Nickscast”?

We are the Nickscast! Three products of late-80s / early-90s pop culture who love exploring fandom and everything geek … who also happen to have been best buddies since high school, and all happen to be named Nick. Yes, we are super creative. Dare we say, the most creative.


We are Nick Green, Nick Terwoord, and Nick Zacharewicz: We started the Nickscast as a labour of love, and as a place to entertain and to discuss our love of fans and fandom, and all that is shiny and interesting in that realm. It’s what lead us to start our first podcast, our satellite podcasts, Fanthropological, and so much more.

We want to help others learn more about different fandoms, and to create empathy with other fans: We dream of a world where other fans aren’t “those Weird-o’s”, but just folks with different tastes. A world where fandom is full of discourse and analysis, and there are plenty of tools and resources to help. Fans building communities to do good in the world. Because everyone’s a fan.



Music / Sound

  • All music and sound for this week’s episode were provided by Nick Green!


Share | Download