Margin Makers: Guide to tabletop games

The TV screen isn’t the only place to find innovative gameplay and gripping multiplayer. MCV gets physical with the finest board and card games out there

It’s not long now until battered copies of Monopoly and Scrabble are extracted from dusty cupboards in anticipation of Christmas family gatherings.

You might think tabletop games a thing of the past in an age where more teenagers ask for Battlefield than Boggle, but a new wave of innovative board and card games are proving that hypothesis wrong.

In fact, the latest data from market tracker NPD states that games and puzzles are up eight per cent in value so far in 2015 – outpacing the total toy market by three per cent. Physical games in particular have exploded in popularity this year, rocketing 10 per cent.

One major player in the sector’s expansion has been Kickstarter. The crowdfunding platform has been host to several high-profile campaigns for board and card games. These include Exploding Kittens, a card game from former Xbox game designers Elan Lee and Shane Small. The card game raised $8.8 million (5.7m), becoming the third-biggest Kickstarter to date.

Tabletop games are also breaking into the virtual space. Digital card game Hearthstone remains a huge success for Blizzard, while Bethesda will launch its own take on the formula, The Elder Scrolls: Legends, later this year.

Meanwhile, some games IPs are transitioning the opposite way: Bioshock and XCOM have both seen board game adaptations.

Christmas is unsurprisingly the biggest time for tabletop games, with NPD saying 64 per cent of sales are made in Q4 – 41 per cent in December alone.

With a recent Barclaycard and Yes2Chess survey of children aged between seven and 14 (82 per cent of who also play video games) revealing that two thirds would like to try chess or board games, games retailers would do well to pull up a seat at the flourishing tabletop market.

Exploding Kittens

The most-backed game in Kickstarter history, Exploding Kittens was created by two former Xbox game designers and the artist behind the popular Oatmeal online comic. It is a card game adaptation of Russian Roulette, albeit with the eponymous flammable felines. Players draw a card each round, with Kitten cards resulting in instant death – but they can stave off their demise using a variety of surreal defusal tools and actions.

SRP: $20 (13)

Manufacturer: Exploding Kittens

Distributor: Exploding Kittens


Dragon Punch

Inspired by fighting video games such as Street Fighter, Dragon Punch takes the fast-paced blow-by-blow action and turns it into a frantic two-player card game which can be played in 10 minutes. Players attempt to outmanoeuvre one another, carefully timing their attacks, positioning their defences and trying to land a knock-out hit. Designed to be played on the go, with no need for a table or playing surface, the pack consists of 21 cards with a varied roster of characters and number of powerful attacks.

SRP: 7

Manufacturer: Most Mondays

Distributor: Level 99 Games



Dominoes for film buffs, Cinelinx challenges players to connect actors, directors and movies together. Kevin Bacon is the card to beat.

SRP: $25 (16)

Manufacturer: Cinelinx Media

Distributor: Cinelinx Media


Magic: The Gathering OriginsDeck Builder’s Tool Kit

Card collectors wanting to get started with iconic game Magic: The Gathering can kickstart their deck with this set.

SRP: 14.99

Manufacturer: Wizards of the Coast

Distributor: Esdevium Games



This expansive sci-fi title pits players against each other in a battle for control of the galaxy, complete with spaceship models.

SRP: 69.99

Manufacturer: Asmodee

Distributor: Esdevium Games


Pathfinder Adventure Card Game:Rise of the Runelords Base Set

Distilling Pathfinder’s complex RPG mechanics down to an engaging card game, this handy kit is a campaign-in-a-box.

SRP: 49.99

Manufacturer: Paizo Publishing

Distributor: Esdevium Games


Star Wars Armada

Armada sees two players take the controls of miniature forms of Star Wars’ most famous spaceships and dogfight in space.

SRP: 79.99

Manufacturer: Fantasy Flight Games

Distributor: Esdevium Games


Specter Ops: Shadow of Babel

Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell fans will find a stealth game fit for their tabletop in this sneaky four-on-one multiplayer title.

SRP: $49.95 (32)

Manufacturer: Nazca Games

Distributor: Plaid Hat Games


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