A new approach to competition is leading a board game rebirth.
Nostalgia is not winning the board game wars.
The recent resurgence -- board game sales nationally were up 6 percent last year, continuing a five-year upswing -- is not about parents and grandparents buying Strat-O-Matic, Candy Land and other games of their youth to play with the kids, but rather a new type of game, plus a more recent favorite.
"A lot of adults are not exposed to these new games," said Logan McKee, district manager of Games by James. "They still think of board games as being for kids."
Actually fueling the renaissance are what McKee calls "Euro-style" games. "You're starting to see these strategy games really get incorporated into family game night."
Games by James' runaway sales leader for six years' running has been Settlers of Catan, in which players win by constructing an island on their own rather than by leaving a rival in ruins after landing on hotel-laden Park Place.
"In games like Monopoly, you can't win without taking something from someone," McGee said. "Catan and other Euro-style games are more successful now because you build something on your own and not just bash others."
Europeans, McGee added, call foe-walloping games such as Risk and Monopoly "Ameritrash."
Catan, he added, "has been kind of this gateway for all these better games, opened the world for a whole new customer who might play video games but they know that nothing replaces the tabletop game.
In fact, video games are a big reason behind Games by James' other recent success story, Magic the Gathering, "up like 500 percent this year, and last year alone we sold 10,000 units.
"It was released on Xbox," McGee said, "and that got people around 30 who had played in high school wanting to get back involved in card games," he said.
And it's a safe bet that when their kids reach a certain age, most of these Magic the Gathering fans will make that, and not Diplomacy, the game the family plays together.
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643
Poll: Which title least deserves to be on the book-banners top 10 list?