Monday, December 18

The Beginnings of Tabletop Games

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The history of the game tabletop industry is an interesting thing to keep an eye on. Even if it doesn’t highly rely on electronics, the industry displays much potential.

To date, such innovations and changes have happened a total of three times in the industry’s history, resulting in the current state. Arguably, it has happened a 4th time already, though the debate on whether or not that is the case is likely to go on until a theoretical 5th time hits.


Tabletop gaming originated from simple board and card games like chess and poker. Having rooted from simple games like these, it has evolved into a much more complicated version of its ancestors. Historically, games like chess and checkers became the first products of tabletop gaming and this phenomenon was otherwise known as the tabletop war game.

This game is made up of small models that represent either single units or whole troops; though most of the time the former is preferred by players. Players are able to control huge amounts of these models over a map with specific markings signifying terrains and strategic locations. The rules would set parameters on the kinds of interactions including movement, troop behavior and morale, damage approximations and limitations on arsenal construction. The final product is an integration of statistical manipulation, strategic genius, smart choices and dice rolls. True enough, a dice roll practically decides on everything’s fate – from the effectiveness of a unit’s attack to the possibility of it hitting the target. One of the most widely known games of this genre is Games Workshop’s “Warhammer” franchise. Another popular choice is “Battletech,” which introduced the concept of the “walking tank” form of giant robot, which is a far cry from Japan’s more human-like version.

Not surprisingly, after a few years, innovation hit the industry yet again. From the genius of David Arneson bred the concept of adapting the rules of tabletop war games so they functioned on a much smaller scale. Here, instead of a single player controlling large troops, the player could concentrate on one character at a time. Eventually, with Gary Gygax’s brainwork, the tabletop gaming would see the first ever role-playing game, starting with “Dungeons & Dragons.” It’s a significant difference from what the industry was used to. It eliminated the need for models, altered for the better the options available and paved the way for an entirely new kind of tabletop gaming time. Aside from “Dungeons and Dragons,” similar games include the sci-fi “Alternity” and the Lovecraftian horror-inspired “Call of Cthulhu.”

After some time another revolution was pioneered by Richard Garfield who entertained the possibility of creating a game that functioned like “Dungeons & Dragons,” but was played with cards, rather than dice. Before long, the world was introduced to the collectible/tradable card game. Calling on enough imagery to connect with RPGs but played with greater similarity to card game, “Magic: the Gathering” was an entirely new experience. Two decades and more than 10,000 different cards later,”Magic” is still as strong as ever.

With three turning points that prodded the industry to evolve, tabletop gaming has definitely evolved from its roots. More than a handful franchises have even managed to exceed their root game and slip into the other forms: “Vampire: the Eternal Struggle” is a card game form of White Wolf’s old “Vampire: The Masquerade” RPG line; “Warhammer 40k” has its own RPG; and “Dungeons & Dragons” has its own miniatures-based strategy game.


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