I have made several posts about the effective use of maps in videogames, but now I’d like to turn my attention to that venerable precursor of digital gaming: the Board Game.
The classic example of map-based board gaming is Risk, the game of world domination. In that game, the world map has been divided into relatively equal regions which players fight for control over. Many of the regions are somewhat random and divorced from reality. Some areas cover multiple countries, while other areas are just one part of a country. I always felt like Risk should have been more enjoyable than it actually was, but for awhile, there were not many other options for map-based gameplay out there.
Until now! In recent years, there has been a steady stream of new board games with fun and creative concepts. And with new games, comes new maps!
One of my favorites, which I only recently discovered, is Ticket to Ride. In this game, players build railroad lines across the United States, gaining points for linking cities and completing long continuous routes. You build trains by using the right number of the right color cards matching the color of the route (for example, 6 yellow cards are needed to build a line from Seattle to Helena).
Ticket to Ride comes in many varieties, and I played the one set in Europe. In this map, the cities are spelled in the way of the local language (e.g., Roma instead of Rome). Notice anything else strange? Look in Turkey… There’s Constantinople where Istanbul should be, and Smyrna where Izmir should be. That’s because this game is set at the beginning of the 20th century, before these city names were changed. I addition, the borders of the countries show the pre-World War I political geography of Europe, with an enlarged Germany and Russia, and a nonexistent Poland. The below map is from the videogame version of the game:
Many board games are now available as computer games, which are cheaper and less cumbersome than physical copies. Plus, it’s easier to find other players by playing online. But I still say nothing quite compares to physically moving your trains or armies across a real map in your pursuit of cartographical domination.