Olaf Pyttlik is a Winnipeg board game enthusiast and co-owner of Across the Board Game Café. In a regular column, Pyttlik will look at the renaissance of board games and share games ideas for families and friends of all ages.

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This article was published 26/4/2019 (1127 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Olaf Pyttlik is a Winnipeg board game enthusiast and co-owner of Across the Board Game Café. In a regular column, Pyttlik will look at the renaissance of board games and share games ideas for families and friends of all ages.


Virtual reality, hig-definition TV, augmented reality apps. As technology keeps giving us new entertainment options, you might be surprised to learn that one of the biggest areas of innovation and excitement in entertainment is in good old tabletop board games.

People all over the globe are discovering (and in some cases re-discovering) the joys of face-to-face interaction with friends and family and the pleasures that come with a tactile, non-virtual gaming experience.

Olaf Pyttlik owns Across The Board at 105-211 Bannatyne Ave. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Olaf Pyttlik owns Across The Board at 105-211 Bannatyne Ave. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

What’s not to like? Sitting at a table with others, sharing a few laughs and enjoying some time together away from the distractions of our everyday lives.

Boardgamegeek.com, a popular website and database for board games, lists and ranks more than 100,000 game titles, while in 2018 more than 3,000 new games were published.

I grew up in Germany and moved to Canada when I was in my early 20s. As a child I played the same classic games you are probably familiar with such as Monopoly, Risk, Clue and The Game of Life. But in Germany during the 1980s when I was a teenager, board-game players started to question why the selection of games was so static and limited.

By the time we started playing Monopoly in the ‘80s, it had already been around for close to a century, having been patented in 1904. In response, some European game designers challenged themselves to come up with innovative ways to approach and structure gameplay (this is called "game mechanics").

Soon, new kinds of board games began to appear, now referred to as "Euro games."

Most traditional board games (like the one in our battered Monopoly box) were based on the concept of elimination. As a result, you might have memories of languishing on the couch while your friends finished a four-hour game of Risk without you because you failed to defend your borders.

Pyttlik stocks hundreds of games at Across the Board. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Pyttlik stocks hundreds of games at Across the Board. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

However, many of these new Euro games worked in a completely different way. Euro games introduced the idea of having a gaming experience that would allow all players to affect gameplay, interact with each other and influence the game’s outcome even if they found themselves in a weak strategic position.

There would still be a winner, but by allowing every player to have an influence on gameplay from start to finish, this provided a more positive and engaging social experience.

My high school math teacher was an enthusiastic game collector. He would have groups of us playing games after school and I was enthralled by some of the new games that I learned.

Get your game on

Do you want to try one of the classic, easy to learn Euro games? Here are some suggestions to get you going.

Do you want to try one of the classic, easy to learn Euro games? Here are some suggestions to get you going.

Labyrinth

Two to four players, ages 8 and up

Players move around the shifting paths of the labyrinth in a race to collect various treasures. Whoever collects all of his treasures first and returns to his home space wins. Labyrinth is simple at first glance and an excellent puzzle-solving game for children; it can also be played by adults using more strategy and more of a cutthroat approach.

Scotland Yard

Three to six players, ages 10 and up

In Scotland Yard, one of the players takes on the role of Mr. X. His job is to move from point to point around the map of London taking taxis, buses or subways. The detectives — that is, the remaining players acting in concert — move around similarly in an effort to move into the same space as Mr. X. But while the criminal’s mode of transportation is nearly always known, his exact location is only known intermittently throughout the game.

Survive: Escape From Atlantis

Two to four players, ages 8 and up

An island made up of 40 hex-tiles is slowly sinking into the ocean (as the tiles are removed from the board). Each player controls 10 people (valued from 1 to 6) that they try and move towards the safety of the surrounding islands before the main island finally blows up. Players can either swim or use boats to travel but must avoid sea serpents, whales and sharks on their way to safety.

Take the game Labyrinth, for example. In this game, players try to move their pawn through a maze, but every player can actively change the arrangement of the maze, allowing them to confound the efforts of their opponents while simultaneously making their own path easier.

Then there was the game, Scotland Yard. In this game, played out on the streets of London, one player takes the role of "Mr. X," a fugitive wanted by the police, while the other players assume the role of detectives and work together to find out where Mr. X is hiding. The game introduced the concept of working co-operatively rather than playing against each other. I loved it.

Board games quickly became a big part of my social life. My friends and I would spend many nights trying out new titles and refining our strategies.

By the time I moved to Canada in the early ‘90s I had accumulated a rather substantial collection of board games. Because most of my Euro games were, as of yet, unavailable in the North American market, I would take cards or tiles that had text on them and translate them into English by writing on them with a pen, making them playable for my new friends in Winnipeg. If you wanted to spend time with me, you had to learn a new game. That was the deal. As a collector, board gaming was not only a passion for me, it had become a lifestyle.

 New games encourage more interaction instead of eliminating participants after a strategy doesn't work. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

New games encourage more interaction instead of eliminating participants after a strategy doesn't work. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

The success of Euro games meant they soon began to be released in English and made available in North America. Since then, the selection of new games available here has grown exponentially.

Around five years ago, I decided to share this passion by opening Across the Board Game Café, a restaurant that allows customers to try many of these new gaming titles (and some classics, too).

Nothing makes me happier than seeing people of any age, gender or background gathering at a table to spend quality time together over a good game.

Hopefully I have intrigued you enough to try a new (or older) board game with friends or family. There are a lot of new and exciting games available and trying to decide which one to buy can feel overwhelming at times.

In this column, I’ll help guide you through the "cardboard jungle." I will explore different titles, games styles and other aspects of the board gaming hobby, and talk about what types of games best suit different group sizes, social settings and types of people.

So, let’s go and play a good game!

Have any ideas or questions for Olaf Pyttlik? Email him at olaf@acrosstheboardcafe.com

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Olaf Pyttlik

Olaf Pyttlik
Board Game Columnist

Olaf Pyttlik is a Winnipeg board game enthusiast and co-owner of Across the Board Game Cafe.