The rise of board games in Kazakhstan: Insights from two players

“Everdell” game, where you build a city of critters and constructions. Photo credit: Arman Aisultan/ Kazinform

In our country, the passion for board games is becoming more and more popular, uniting people of different ages and interests. Kazinform News Agency invites the reader to learn more about board game players in Kazakhstan.

We conducted interviews with residents of two cities in Kazakhstan - Astana and Petropavlovsk - to find out more about board games, their preferences and popularity of board games among residents.

A mathematics teacher from Petropavlovsk, Eduard Vituk, shared his experience:

“My acquaintance with board games began at the university in 2016, when we played Uno card game in classes, and the teacher was not against our hobby. Then, until 2019, there were no board games in my life, but after meeting my future wife, they appeared. In their family, board games were used for pedagogical purposes. These were mainly educational children's games, because the mother-in-law is a speech pathologist and defectologist at a school for the deaf and dumb and she has a son who went to kindergarten (at that time). When I came to their family, the coronavirus began and there was no desire to watch TV every evening. And one evening I received an offer to play a game of Uno. This was the starting point into the world of board games.

After the first boxes of games were “Treasure Island” and “Ignis”, given to him and his wife Alena from his mother-in-law Oksana, other games gradually appeared: “Hive”, “Rummikub” and “Sagrada”.

“For some time, we lived under the same roof and almost every evening was devoted to games. Over time, I began to become more immersed in this hobby, watching game reviews, getting acquainted with publishers, ordering games from websites,” recalls Vituk.

Tabletop Day
Oksana’s family board game collection. Photo credit: Eduard Vituk

He notes that gradually the board game "disease" spread to their colleagues, and they began to meet other gaming groups in the city. At the same time, the collection of board games was constantly growing.

“In about a year, our collection has grown significantly. Starting in 2022, we already had a large gaming company, there were gatherings almost every day, 10-14 people could gather, and I personally became acquainted with such a thing as pre-orders and now these shelves are no longer enough,” says Eduard.

Tabletop Day
Eduard Vituk’s family board game collection. Photo credit: Eduard Vituk

In 2022, a joyful event happens in the family - a “new player” is born and games for young children begin to appear in their collection.

“With the birth of my daughter, the frequency of gatherings became less, but did not drop to zero. We try to get together every weekend. All daytime and evening time is devoted to the child, and when the “city falls asleep” the players wake up and lay out the board game. We play from about 8-9 pm until 2-3 am. Many players left the hobby for one reason or another, other players whom we recruited began to collect their own collections. We are waiting for our daughter to grow up and then we will only need 1 player for the collection,” says the math teacher.

Vituk does not have any one favorite game. He plays almost everything. But his favorite genres are hidden role games and Ameri [or American style boardgames, games that emphasize a highly developed theme, characters, heroes, or factions with individually defined abilities, player to player conflict, and usually feature a moderate to high level of luck - Editor’s note], and he also really likes games with players interaction.

He notes that board games have many benefits: from simply spending leisure time to improving personal skills. They help you learn to negotiate, trade, think through strategy, plan your actions, manage and count.

Eduard believes that board games as a hobby are still underdeveloped in the country.

“Do not perceive board games as childish fun but try to play - this is important. Often people do not understand what kind of world opens up at the gaming table,” he shares his opinion.

A psychiatrist from Astana, Diana Tulepova, emphasized that board games are very diverse and like films and books - everyone can find something according to their taste and desire, and depending on age.

She shared her preferences, saying that she plays different games depending on the company: she prefers to play “Lost Ruins of Arnak” with her brother, “Trickerion” and “Bitoku” with one group of friends, and “Endless Winter” and “Yucatan” with another group of friends. She also has a tradition of playing board games after book discussion in a book club.

“Board games appeared in my life relatively recently, almost three years ago, friends of friends invited me to play. And love happened. One of my first games was “Game of Thrones”, I love this world, and as practice has shown, I love area control games [game mechanic in board games where players compete to dominate specific areas on the game board - Editor’s note], namely my favorite game is “Blood Rage”, as well as games like “Scythe”, “Inis”, “Battle for Rokugan”. And then the number of games I played increased like a snowball, and I could no longer imagine my life without an evening where I could immerse myself in a new world,” Tulepova shared her experience.

Tabletop Day
“Blood Rage”,a favourite game of Diana Tulepova, where clans compete for glory as Ragnarok approaches. Photo credit: Boardgamegeek

The psychiatrist noted that board games develop strategic thinking, speed of information processing, especially when you listen to the rules and immediately start playing and broaden your horizons.

Diana emphasized that board games open up a whole world of diverse themes and plots for players. For example, you can immerse yourself in the study of animals and their characteristics, travel through historical periods of industry and civilizations, and explore the mythology of different cultures.

But the most enjoyable thing for her about board games is spending time with friends, when you can experience the whole range of emotions, put yourself in the role of a lady, lord, journalist or even an illusionist, and relax after a hard day or week.

Tulepova emphasized that thanks to board games, she was able to meet many wonderful people and discover new facets in her friends, and one of the brightest moments was compiling her own top board games ranking and comparing it with the preferences of her friends.

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