By Annette Chrysostomou
Gaming? A new surge? Hardly, there is plenty of it around, and video games and online gaming come to mind. But there is another new growing trend: board gaming. And I am not talking about classic games like Monopoly, Scrabble or chess, though the ongoing success of those is undeniable. But lately, there has been a surge in new, innovative board games which bring people together, make them think and are not isolated from new technologies, but embrace them.
For some time they tended to be played by ‘Geeks’ only, but are now rapidly gaining the attention of the mainstream market. Amazon reported a 15 to 20 per cent growth in board game sales in 2014, and in the USA specialised board game sales reached $700 million in 2013.
To name just two of the thousands of new games, in Pandemic you can save mankind with the help of your friends. Four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures before mankind is wiped out. Or, if you are into violence, you could try ‘Bloodrage’ which involves taking control of a bloodthirsty faction and waging war with modern game mechanics in the form of new cards which give you additional powers.
Cyprus is following the global trend with the ‘Cyprus Boardgamers’, a group whose aim is to promote the hobby and introduce the public to modern games and show them how much has changed.
The group was co-founded by Costas Taliadoros five years ago and members meet regularly in Ayios Omologitaes in Nicosia. Now, they’ve expanded to Limassol as well.
“There is definitely a growth in Cyprus. We are catching up with the rest of the world,” said Taliadoros. “Initially two or three people would meet once a month. Now about 10 meet every week, and that is only in Nicosia.”
And it is not just a small number of the same people who meet once a week. “We get about three new people every time, some stay on but others learn the games and then move on to form subgroups with their own families and friends.”
An all-day event organised three or four times a year on a Saturday also attracts more people.
Because there are always new people, the games played are of mixed levels, from easy to difficult and seasoned players help the novices.
One of the regulars is Fani Athienitou, 36, who has always liked board games. Though she used to play the classic ones, now she is excited about the new ones.
She discovered the group in Nicosia about three years ago on Facebook.
“There are people in the group who have 200 or 300 games,” she said, adding that they also sell them to each other.
“This makes sense because people get them from abroad and there is not a big choice in the shops in Cyprus. But now there are so many around that we can play a different one every time we meet.”
Fani elaborated on why she likes the games.
“I play them whenever I can with family and friends. It’s a great way to spend your time, you socialise, you use your mind and make jokes,” she said.
“While you play, you are very much present in the moment. You are not distracted. Usually we are distracted by the phone and by our children.”
She believes there is a bright future for board gaming in Cyprus?
“So far, the group has been growing. I think that the notion that the games are only for nerds and kids will disappear when people learn more about them, and they will through the internet. I believe a lot of people would be interested if they just knew more about them.”
Alexis Mihael has also been playing board games from a young age. As with Fani, in the past they were the classic board games, but lately he has been introduced to others.
“Contrary to playing online, you can interact with people and they don’t disappear at the end of the game. You meet them and might make friends,” he said.
“You can see their expressions, if they are disappointed, or happy.”
He believes there is a future for the hobby in Cyprus as the spectrum continuously broadens. “I believe they will reach different people because some can play easy and casual games and others complicated ones that need time to learn,” he said.
And now there is also a place where players are introduced to new games and can try them out while having a drink or a snack, ‘O Drakos tou Kafe’ in Limassol.
The café was opened in August 2015 by Petros Hadjipetrou, 33, who says it was a dream of his to open such a venue.
“There is a trend in the whole world,” Hadjipetrou said, “for coffee shops of this kind.”
He is not sure if it’s going to work in Cyprus though.
“In Cyprus, the idea of going for coffee is to see and be seen, and this is not that kind of place.”
However, he added, there are a growing number of people who are interested, especially students.
He has got all types of games, the classic ones like Scrabble and backgammon, plus different kinds of modern ones. Of the latter, there are three in each category: strategy, action or team. They are chosen by how good the reviews are, and also by degrees of difficulty, easy, medium and hard to play.
Altogether he has 110 games, and the idea is to gradually expand.
“Ideally most of them should be easy, because people want to have a coffee and relax,” Hadjipetrou explained. “I also have some of the difficult ones, like ‘Game of Thrones’. When people want to play that just because they watch the TV show I don’t let them! I tell them to come back when I am not busy and then I can explain properly and they can play all night.” All night sessions are not unusual, as playing some games takes time.
Most of the people who come to the café are students, many of whom have heard about these kinds of games abroad. New groups are also formed in the café.
“Some of them found each other here,” the café owner said. “Two people may come and they find a game for three or four people and they ask another two to join them.”
The most popular games are easy ones that many people can play together such as Avalon, which originally was a party game which has now been improved as a board game.
Apart from the customers who visit the place, there is also a group with more than 10 people from the ‘Cyprus Boardgamers’ community who meet every Tuesday to play.