Snookered

I recently went to the Watford Colosseum to watch the Snooker Shoot Out. I have enjoyed snooker for most of my life now and used to play it regularly with friends, even though I’ve not played in many years now. I know most people find snooker boring, and it can be, but you would have loved the Snooker Shoot Out, which is fast paced and a real laugh. Afterwards I thought about the idea that snooker could be considered a two player only, dexterity tabletop game. I appreciate it’s stretching the concept a little, but then I reckon there are other terms in the tabletop games industry that are used loosely.

Let’s look at “board games”, which are games that require a board or some other sort of surface where you place tokens or markers during gameplay. By that definition, tile laying games are also a sort of board game. The board is created as you lay each tile and you play tokens onto those tiles, such as in Carcassonne, therefore satisfying the definition of the term “board game”.

Similarly there are many dice rolling games that use a board – be it a player board. Just think of Roll Player where you roll dice and slot them into different parts of your player board to adjust your character’s abilities. So again you’re placing tokens on a board. Yet, the term “board game” is probably not the first thing people would associate with that game.

If you want to be really pedantic, you could argue that KeyForge is a board game, because when you use the optional playmat, you actually have a surface where you place your tokens, the cards in this case, into specific places on the board, the mat. As I say, that would be stretching that definition a lot, but it could be one way of defining the term.

In fact, when you ask people who aren’t hugely familiar with the tabletop games industry, what their favourite board game is, the answers you get may very well include Fluxx or Codenames, as well as the obvious Monopoly. I would say that for many people, the term “board game” is much broader and really used interchangeably with the term “tabletop games”. That isn’t a problem of course, as long as we all know what we mean.

So going back to where this all started then, the term “tabletop games” in relation to snooker, or table tennis for that matter. You could argue they’re both “board games”, because they are played on a board or other surface, where you place counters – the snooker balls, or the table tennis ball. There is the extra element of dexterity with these games, but that is also true for Catacombs & Castles for example, which most of us would happily classify as a “board game”, or at the very least a “tabletop game”.

Yet intuitively nobody would classify snooker or table tennis as “tabletop games”, let alone “board games”, at least not in the sense of how we understand our industry – and I would agree with that. So there is something that differentiates these games. Maybe it’s that snooker and table tennis are considered sport. I would argue that there is very little physical exertion in snooker – mental exertion, sure, but not physical. So let’s rule out table tennis and put it squarely into the sports category, which leaves us with snooker.

I think snooker is really similar to chess. They both have a large strategy element and both require you to think a few turns ahead to ensure you play most efficiently. The thinkyness is what makes snooker very much like many other tabletop games. The main difference is the dexterity element of course, like mentioned above, but that’s about all I can see.

Now, if we take this further, we can look at chess as a kind of sport. I think some people would agree with that classification, and maybe it has to do with the fact that chess is very competitive on a high profile, international level – and snooker is very similar in that respect. Video games have moved in a similar direction, and have started to be viewed as a sport, because of the international tournaments that are held these days and that attract huge prize money. That isn’t the case for tabletop games – at least not yet.

I suppose ultimately it doesn’t really matter whether snooker is a tabletop game or a sport – or both. I think we can probably agree that snooker is a game that you can enjoy with friends. So we might be able to bring some of the tabletop games we know and love more into the limelight, and one day Terra Mystica tournaments could be televised live around the world, with huge prize funds and a really competitive edge. However, the question is if we want this or not. For me, playing tabletop games, or other games, is about having fun and enjoying the experience – and not about being a famous player on an international level.

What do you think? Do you feel tabletop games should become popular and attract more attention with respect to tournaments? Or do you feel what happened in the video game industry shouldn’t happen with tabletop games? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear what you think.

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