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Subject: Why so unpopular? rss

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Charles Ward
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I was wondering why "sports" board games are not more popular...

Is it the theme?

Is it the mechanics?

Is it because its a game about a game?

Is it because they don't tell a story?


EDIT: Here are some of the games mentioned so far:

Formula Dé

Um Reifenbreite

APBA Pro Baseball

Tipp-Kick

Strat-O-Matic Baseball

Crash Tackle Rugby Board Game

Blood Bowl (first edition)

StreetSoccer

Subbuteo

Bowling Dice

NFL Strategy

Strat-O-Matic Pro Football

Reiner Knizia's Decathlon

WWF Wrestling Challenge

Pizza Box Football

Button Soccer

Leader 1

Formula D

Giro d'Italia: The Game

Rallyman

Leader 1: Hell of the North

Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game

1st & Goal

BASKETmind

Thunder Alley

Kaosball: The Fantasy Sport of Total Domination

Baseball Highlights: 2045

NHL Power Play Team-Building Card Game

Bottom of the 9th

Techno Bowl: Arcade Football Unplugged

Flamme Rouge

Blood Bowl (2016 edition)

New

Lords of Baseball

Legends Of Football

JAB: Realtime Boxing

This list might contain errors.
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Bleicher
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ex1st wrote:
I was wondering why "sports" board games are not more popular...

Is it the theme?

Is it the mechanics?

Is it because its a game about a game?

Is it because they don't tell a story?


I guess it's because the audience would be an "intersection of niches": people who play board games, and people who enjoy that particular sport.
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B C Z
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Some sports Fans like watching other people play their sports-game.

Some sports Fans like pretending to be the coach of other people who play their sports-game.

People who want to play their sports-game are going to go play their sports-game, and not play a simulation made of paper, cardboard and wood.

It's much harder to actually go run a power company, transport through time to the middle ages to become a merchant or be the shogun of Japan.

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Kathleen Mercury
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ex1st wrote:
I was wondering why "sports" board games are not more popular...

Is it the theme?

Is it the mechanics?

Is it because its a game about a game?

Is it because they don't tell a story?


I would think because they already are games, and creating a simulation of a sporting event would probably pale in comparison. If you like football, the things you love about football are hard to recreate on a board. I think any sports themed game would have to offer some sort of twist that makes players forget about the "real" game and applies the sport's theme, mechanics, or feel to a tabletop experience.

Daryl Andrews has Fantasy Fantasy Football in development and I'm interested to see how this addresses that.
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Jason Brown
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I think it's just that most sports don't translate well to a board game. I'm an avid baseball and American football fan and I've yet to find a game that models either one while remaining entertaining. Baseball Highlights: 2045 is in my Top 10, but it's not really a baseball game.

I played NFL Strategy 30 years ago and have fond memories of it, but it was a pretty simple game and I was only in elementary school. I don't think I'd enjoy it now.

Edited multiple times for iPad shenanigans
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I actually haven't heard about that many sports games...as long as they're euro, I would play a sport game if it works and has good mechanics.
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dennis bennett
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Drugo81 wrote:
I actually haven't heard about that many sports games...as long as they're euro, I would play a sport game if it works and has good mechanics.


I probably wouldn't. I despise most popular sports.
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Alexandre Santos
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I do think it's an untapped potential. I believe there a lot of game to be found taking the sports manager theme. If it works for farming, why not managing a team through one or several championships?

Also, Blood Bowl (2016 edition)
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Hedyn Brand
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Personally, I'm not interested in any sports game that isn't Blood Bowl. So not really a fan of real-world games simulated (or the real-world games in general).

Football games sell in various forms in digital form, even games which could be made into card games quite easily. I'm talking about Football Manager from Codemasters, of course. It's doing well enough to be on three platforms now, and getting yearly updates. Perhaps it's mostly the British and Irish (with a few Scandinavians) holding that side of their business up, but at least one thinky sports game sells well in a virtual form.

But as Jason Brown mentioned above, at least one popular baseball game isn't really about baseball
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Phillip Harpring
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I think it's mostly just the theme is unattractive for both designers and consumers.

While things have changed a lot in the last few decades, in US culture there still isn't much overlap between sports fans and game enthusiasts. You might be surprised at how few self-described gamers are willing to recognize team sports as complex games with many layers of strategy and depth beyond being able to run real fast or put a ball in a net.

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Charles Ward
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Thanks for your answers.

I'm tempted to start another thread and change "sports" for "food" or another minor theme to see if I got a different slew of answers. I won't. I see that some of the answers here (answers the question) would also be applicable, but not specifically about "sports."

If I may, with all due respect, take my point further and bring to bare something which you already know: "intersection of niches" or "unsatisfactory simulation to the real thing" "pale in comparison" "translate well to a board game" all can be said about food, or slaying vikings, zombies, or anything else.

Is it that slaying vikings is way cooler than hitting home runs?

Is it that game designed around sports try to emulate the sport too closely, and fail?

Is it that sports games often have teams with so many characters that you never quite feel like you are one of them (for the duration of the game)?

Is it that sports games fall awkwardly between the kinds of games players like (euro, ameri)?

Is it that sport games have yet to adopt the fun mechanics we love to play (drafting, worker placement) [I have no resaerch to back this up]?

Thank you for your replies so far. Claudio's is my favorite laugh so far.
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Hedyn Brand
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I know people who eat things. Some of them play Cooking Mama. Personally I wouldn't touch a food game that isn't exclusively about spicy food.
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Haakon Gaarder
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I see no reason why sports games would not be popular. If the big designers made sports games, they would be popular I think. There might be more of audience for behind the scenes stuff like managing a soccer club, arranging sports events and so on rather than actually kicking a ball etc.
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Phillip Harpring
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ex1st wrote:
Is it that slaying vikings is way cooler than hitting home runs?


I think this is a big part of it. I've also many times heard the line, "if I wanted to play sports I'd just go play sports," as a reductive way to brush off the idea of sports-themed games.

I'm on your side. I'd love to see more interesting sports-themed games where the theme isn't pasted on (looking at you, NHL Power Play Team-Building Card Game). I'm working on an MMA game, but it's slow going.

My favorite sports game is Thunder Alley. It does a great job of representing the critical and somewhat unique parts of the sport (drafting, car wear, teamwork, anything can happen) and brings them to the forefront in a way that's fun. I think a good sports themed game can do a lot to teach people unfamiliar with the sport to some of the technical depth beyond just being athletic or turning left a lot.
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marc lecours
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The main problem is that sports games are way too slow.

1. I would want a game about a sport to have as many interesting decisions and as many dramatic moments as the real sport. Most professional sport have about 1 to 2 hours of actual play time. (hockey 1 hour, soccer 90 minutes.) So the game should last no longer than that. Games that are good simulations of a sport take considerably longer to play than the sport.

2. An example is car racing. Most car racing games take 30 to 60 minutes to complete ONE LAP. Whereas in a real car race, a lap takes 1 to 2 minutes to complete. So that means that a game about a sport has a fraction of the excitement as the actual sport.

Possible exceptions :
1. You could have a game about running a sports team for 10 seasons condensed into a two hour game.

2. Games about sports that do not exist in our society. For example: Chariot racing, gladiator combats, sci-fi sports (spaceship racing), sci-fi sport that include death of athletes, etc.

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Ryan Keane
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I love racing games, and prefer those that try to more closely simulate the real sport. I am also a cycling fan and enjoy watching cycling, so that helps. I like to sail, but watching sailing is super-boring. I find most sports popular in the US pretty boring to watch, and don't really seek out games that simulate them. But I think games that simulate the management end, rather than playing the sport, would be more attractive to me.

Is it that slaying vikings is way cooler than hitting home runs?

Yes.

Is it that game designed around sports try to emulate the sport too closely, and fail?

Not sure. Cycling and sailing games that emulate the sport but still focus on interesting player choices are great. But I wouldn't be interested in game emulating the minutia of baseball.

Is it that sports games often have teams with so many characters that you never quite feel like you are one of them (for the duration of the game)?

This might be the problem with team sport games. You can't be just one participant like you can be in a racing game, so the games feel like you're emulating somewhere between the individual players and the manager and get neither right.

Is it that sports games fall awkwardly between the kinds of games players like (euro, ameri)?

I don't think that matters. Good game design is good game design, whether it's more euro-leaning or not.

Is it that sport games have yet to adopt the fun mechanics we love to play (drafting, worker placement) [I have no resaerch to back this up]?

Lots of recent racing games like Flamme Rouge, Automobile, and Steampunk Rally incorporate different types of modern mechanisms.
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No doubt the temptation to add real life rules to the game.
It does not work very well.

I have designed a decent dragster game. There are no dragster games, and I wanted one. I am happy with it, but there are extremely few with the same interest.

I have used the same time mechanism (converting points to seconds) in my Alpine ski game (Slalom and similar).

I am happy with the design. Need more playtesting to find the general interest.

My advice:
You have to abstract. Drop real life rules, and adjust number of players on a team as necessary. But the game flow must still have the soul of the game you try to simulate.
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secoAce -
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For me, I'd actually go play that sport or watch a real game of that sport. I have no interest in playing a game about a game. If I really wanted to play a game about being a sports player, a sports video game would be more engaging with real-time dynamic actions and responses. A tabletop game trying to simulate a sport would be too slow and drawn out unless it was made to be a dexterity-type game, which wouldn't be too realistic anyway, so might as well just play the real thing.

As others have mentioned, managing a sports team would work out better on a board game, but you'd have to like that type of game too.
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Dan Cichoracki

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I always played Avalon hill baseball games with my dad. In fact, if I can find it, I'm inclined to play it again.

But as many others have said, the intersection of niches, the fact is already a game.

There might still be an active statis pro sporting group or two.
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secoAce wrote:
For me, I'd actually go play that sport or watch a real game of that sport. I have no interest in playing a game about a game.

Football manager games are even more meta - you're playing a the manager of players who play the game. What's next? A game about managing an MMO gold farmer sweat shop?
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Geoffrey Burrell
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It might be more difficult than not to simulate live action games and make them into board games. Playbook Football does a good job by making it as close to real as a simulation can be.
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Michael Debije
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I love a good stats-based boardgame.

Dynasty league baseball, Pro Football Fantasm are awesome.
Statis Pro basketball pretty good.
Dynasty take ~1/2 hour to play. Fantasm is long. So is the basketball.
Most non-stat based sports games suck or leave me very, very cold.
And I play baseball as well: its not like you do one or the other.
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Jeff Woodman
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For me it's the theme. I have zero interest in popular sports. (I flyfish and have studied falconry and fencing but I just don't get what people get out of football or baseball) The closest to any sports game I've ever played was BloodBowl waaaay back in the day.

In my particular area our best boardgame stores are also comic book stores and it's possible that distribution methods don't perfectly line up with target demographics. Do the sell football board games at the sport stores (I've never gone in one myself).
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Brennan Sheremeto
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The sports I like the most are racing ones, so I do get games made about the sports I like.
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Matt Lee
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Personally, I suspect it's a combination of a few things.

Sports fans in the US (which really translates to mainstream folks) look down on board games in general due to the general anti-"nerd" mentality - tabletop games are for children/only played by "nerds". This has been changing, but is slow and the fight against this stereotype is harder to break than you'd think despite the popularity of Catan and Ticket to Ride.

Sports fans who do play board games often appreciate the depth of rules and interactions in the sports rules, which run counter to a tabletop game's need to refine the gameplay and rules to play reasonably fast. The general feeling that games lasting over about an hour and a half are too long to non tabletop gamers would run into problems with introducing that depth without abstracting a lot of the game (which causes its own issues with accuracy of the sport that the sports enthusiasts usually like).

Combining the cultural issues with the need for depth but also awareness of game length and you run into a few hurdles that is hard to overcome, and even then, often at the sacrifice of a lot of what makes certain sports appeal to certain people.
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