I once saw a very nice write-up of the ways in which people enjoy board games. It was somewhat similar to this answer but more comprehensive, focused on different ways of enjoyment rather than different types of people, and it had more technical sounding terms.

I'd really like to find it again. I specifically remember that it had terms for the enjoyment of strategic thinking and finding the optimum strategy, and another for creating interesting or unusual situations -- which I related to a lot and had never heard described before.

What are the ways that people enjoy board games, as generally and technically as possible?

  • 1
    This may be related: a "What-I-Like Glossary" for RPGs.
    – Alex P
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 18:23
  • @AlexP very related! I think this is what I remember seeing, but a board game centric version would be exactly what I'm looking for. Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 20:05

3 Answers 3


The ways of enjoyment: 1. Joy of playing 2. Joy of winning 3. The Social event of gathering to play 4. Joy by Tinkering 5. Joy of collecting 6. Joy of sharing 7. Joy of Learning

In detail...

Fun of Playing

For some people, the play of a game is its own reward. For many people, this is true of some, but not all, games.

Fun of Winning

For most of us, winning is, itself, fun. One experiences some joy at winning, especially in the face of adversity, be it a hard solitaire or a multi-player contest.

For a few, playing isn't fun, but winning is; playing is the cost for the chance at the fun of winning.

The Social Event

Some people's enjoyment is about or enhanced by the social event aspects of board and card games. The gathering is itself fun, even if the games themselves turn out not to be.

Conventions are an extreme example of this. My own local group of friends seldom gather without something hitting the table.

The Joy of Tinkering

For some people, house rules aren't for fixing things that didn't work, but a way of finding enjoyment all their own. By expanding, revising, "pimping," or strategizing, outside the playtimes, one can find enjoyment of a game.

Pimping a game means acquiring or making better looking components than the included ones... and it borders on...

While not properly "tinkering," strategizing falls into the same basic mode - deriving non-play enjoyment from spending time figuring out how the game works.

The Joy of Collecting

For some, enjoyment is in the having. Either by getting everything for one game, or having lots of games.

The Joy of Sharing

For some, the joy is in the sharing of the games. Either by teaching, by revieing, or by discussing with others.

In some ways, it's similar to the joy of the event; in others, it's different. As with collecting and tinkering, a lot of this is outside the actual realm of playing the game.

The Joy of Learning

For some, this is part of the joy of playing, or of sharing... for others, it's an enjoyment factor all its own.

  • Nice list to start with. What do you think of adding "The Joy of Learning?" I know that typically the first game or two I play of something is somewhat annoying as I spend a lot of the time just getting used to the rules but once past that a really fun part for me is learning what strategies work and what don't. Another joy for me is the rare super dramatic game, like the time I won Settlers of Catan without building a road link or the time someone blew up every one of my home planets in a single turn at (Eon) Cosmic Encounter, only for me to claw my way back to a shared victory . . .
    – Joe Golton
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 2:29
  • I agree with the joy of learning - I might reword it as "the joy of mastery". For me, "cracking" a difficult boardgame by completely understanding its intricacies is an important feature. Once I feel like I know exactly how to play a boardgame I'm less likely to want to play it lots... but many games are sufficiently mechanically complicated that it takes a while for the optimal strategies to become apparent. Maybe "the joy of puzzling" is the right word for it? We enjoy boardgames because how to win them is a puzzle often not easily resolved. Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 10:37
  • @thesunneversets that falls under tinkering.
    – aramis
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 11:27
  • 1
    I would say tinkering is a little bit different - I have no particular interest in changing aspects of a game to see if it works better, but a great interest in being as good as I can at the game as it stands. But I agree it could be a similarly obsessive type of thing... Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 12:21
  • @thesunneversets You're still tinkering with your playstyle.
    – aramis
    Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 19:35

Magic The Gathering is an unusual type of "board game" (if at all!) but its creators have spent a lot of time subdividing Magic players into psychographic profiles, and I think a lot of their conclusions are applicable across the board:


To give a brief synopsis:

Timmies want to "experience" something. The fun and social aspects, the exciting moments that you can tell people about how cool they were later on.

Johnnies want to "express" something. They want to show off how creative or clever or strange they are through the medium of gaming. Obviously it's easier to express oneself in a deckbuilding game of near-infinite scope like Magic... but I guess people who are constantly coming up with house rules for boardgames are Johnnies of a kind.

Spikes want to "prove" something. Winning games, or mastering games, or coming up with better ways to win than the rest of the group has yet discovered.

There's potentially another group called (oddly) Vorthoses who like the art and flavour of games, but they're a bit of a quirky subcategory even in MtG...

Anyway the article I link to says it all better than I can, but it's definitely a good read for anyone thinking about gameplayer psychographics, so I urge you to check it out!


Understanding the reasons why people play the games will help when going through the process of publishing a board game. If your game does not excite people in one these ways, then it will be unlikely to sell very well to the public or to a game publisher.

Board games create a framework within which we can interact with our friends in a friendly competition.

Board games require us to think, experiment, and otherwise exercise our minds. Board games provide us a way to escape from our current lives. They provide a desired experience that we cannot obtain in real life. Good examples of games that accomplish this are Terra Prime, Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition, Railroad Tycoon, War of the Ring, and all role playing games.

Board games provide an easy way to have fun with family and friends in a personal way. It is not as personal as direct conversation or sports, but it is significantly more personal than watching a movie, television, or playing video games.

These motivations are not meant to be an exhaustive list. I want to concentrate on the escape from life motivation for board gaming, because it is the most difficult to accomplish. The process begins at the game design stage, and boils down to this question.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .