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Robot Turtles

Technology is giving rise to a new generation of decidedly analog board games, reports Nick Wingfield in The New York Times (5/6/14). It seems that crowdfunding sites are providing capital, 3-D printing machines the production, and Amazon the distribution of board games by independent designers. Such technology, says board-game designer Dan Shapiro, "has unlocked a whole generation of innovative gameplay experimentation that just wasn’t feasible before."

Dan formerly worked at Microsoft and "sold a company to Google … His name is on nearly a dozen technology-related patents." He came up with a board game, Robot Turtles, "so his family had a way to play together." Players must navigate "a maze … to reach gemstone cards." They choose "cards to move their pieces around the board, pushing or destroying obstacles in their way. The pieces," says Dan, "are intended to represent the commands of a computer program" and the game teaches "basic computer programming concepts."

As it turns out, "video game players are often the biggest devotees of tabletop games," perhaps because "the abundance of opportunities to connect electronically with people through games and social media has created a hunger … for face-to-face contact." According to Amazon, "board game sales increased by a double-digit percentage from 2012 to 2013 … Sales at hobby stores in the United States rose 15 to 20 percent in each of the last three years, according to ICv2, a trade publication."