Sunday, 14/04/2024 08:20

There’s nothing boring about board games

by Ngô Đức Mạnh

With its diversity and appeal, board games are widely accepted by young people as a form of entertainment and relaxation that is useful, highly thinking and logical.

Not only that, many games also carry a certain source of knowledge both educating and entertaining, expanding our understanding of multiple topics like history, culture and language.

Board games have been played, travelled, and evolved in most cultures and societies throughout history with some found to have existed since prehistoric times.

In Việt Nam, popular board games like "Cờ tướng" (Chinese Chess) and "Cờ cá ngựa" (Parcheesi) or “Cờ tỉ phú” (Monopoly) remain deeply rooted in the gaming culture and is part of an unforgettable childhood.

Rise to popularity

Although historical games have been around for centuries, popular culture board games arrived in Việt Nam relatively late, around the end of the 1990s.

They enjoyed a niche following, but boomed in the late 2000s.

Modern board games started being introduced into the market and while some might be counterfeit products, they kick-started a chain of interest from teenagers and peaked around the year 2015.

NIGHT OUTING: A group of friends spend quality time together at a board game café. VNS Photo Đức Mạnh

“I started playing board games in 2015 and have been working in this field since late 2016,” Nguyễn Anh Đức, a veteran board game player and café owner.

“At first, I just went to try out games with my friends and then they told me this might be a good start-up, so I started my café and it's been eight years now.”

“As the owner of a board game café, I can see how the market developed. From 2016 to 2017 it was very fast, then from 2019 onwards it started to slow down, but now the growth rate is returning and the market is vibrant than ever with many new players coming to newly opened board game café and the increasing sale in the Vietnamese market.”

“The quantity may not be much, but it is just enough for the market.”

Locations have also evolved for game nights. While families often play at home, groups of gamers hold board game events at schools, colleges and other venues.

Popular games that are easy to play include UNO, Bang and Werewolf.

But Việt Nam is quickly getting in on the act, with companies creating their own brand of board games tailored made for the local market.

Going international

Trần Ngọc Tuệ Mẫn, Nguyễn Thiện Toàn and the founders of Ngũ Hành Games want to bring Vietnamese culture and traditions into their creations.

They are not alone, Keig Studio builds games featuring Vietnamese legends and folk stories which are proving to be a hit at tournaments.  

Pokemon fans may also be interested in Mons and Mages, a successful board game from Leviath games, founded by Lê Hữu Thịnh.

VIETNAM ORIGIN: Local designers bring Vietnamese cultures into their own games. VNS Photo Minh Dũng

Annual events like the Board Game Fest Vietnam, which started in 2021 are also being hosted to promote this particular hobby to more people.

“I find it quite fun, everyone is sociable and friendly," board game enthusiast Nguyễn Trung Kiên said. "Even though it was the first time I played with other strangers. That day I went with my friend but there were also strangers playing at the same table. I started to see people do not care whether I knew them or not. Everybody just wants to sit down and have fun together.” 

NEVER BOARD: Hobbyists enjoy playing and teaching newcomers. Photo courtesy of Board Game Fest Vietnam

A tool for education

According to the study "The effectiveness of intervention with board games: a systematic review" carried out by the School of Human and Social Sciences, Musashino University, Japan in 2019 found positive connections between board games and mental health.

“Board games and programmes that use board games have positive effects on various outcomes, including educational knowledge, cognitive functions, physical activity, anxiety, [and] ADHD symptoms. Additionally, board games were shown to contribute to improving these variables, enhancing the interpersonal interactions and motivation of participants, and promoting learning,” the study noted.

BOUNDLESS FUN: The school club is always filled with joy and laughter. VNS Photo Đức Mạnh

Hanoi Westminster School has established its own board game club since it opened three years ago.

They also encourage students to play at home with their family.

“For me, it also has an extremely important role for parents because you also know that when children grow up to middle school age, they begin to gradually grow apart from their parents," said Nguyễn Thu Hà, the principal of the school.

“They want to prove their individuality and as the gap between generations widens, for example, the different tastes in music, hobbies, and slangs become too obvious. If the families still keep up their board game culture, then board games remain an extremely effective tool to connect the families during outings and parents will have things to talk about with their children.”

With positive feedback from both students and parents, board games will continue to be one of the major extracurricular activities of this school.

An ancient form of entertainment that has evolved over the years at a mindboggling pace, board games remain a fun tool to educate, entertain and inform.  VNS

Board game facts

  • The oldest known board game is Senet, an ancient Egyptian game with pieces that date back to 3,000 BCE.
  • Board games occasionally inspire screenwriters.
  • In 2008, 3,000 Monopoly fans around the world united to set the world record for the most people playing the game at the same time.
  • For Scrabble’s 50th Anniversary in 1988, a giant game was played in Wembley Stadium. Each tile was six feet across.
  • Around the world, the colourful cast of Cluedo can look quite different. And it's called Clue in North America.


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