Microgame (mī’krogãm) – The term generally refers to table top games which are packaged in a format that is “pocket sized” (approximately 4×7 inches). Game pieces are typically cards, cardboard counters or tiles and\or dice.
In the 1980’s, some of my favorite games were from Steve Jackson Games and came in a plastic pocket box, selling for less than $8. There were other microgame publishers like the now defunct Task Force Games, and I would love to get my hands on a decent copy of Intruder (obviously based on the movie, Alien) by TFG. The cheap pocket game format fell out of vogue in the 1990’s and popular games were repackaged with nicer components and higher price tags. Most just died.
Microgames have seen a rebirth in the last couple of years, largely through the user-backed game projects on Kickstarter.com. Most of these games sell for $5 or less and have small but well produced components. Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG) has had particular success in this arena, with Coin Age, Burgoo and This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us.
Other producers are rushing into this fray, Tiny Epic Kingdoms by Gamelyn Games and Providence by Laboratory are euro-microgames experiencing huge support, as an example. All of these have exceeded their funding goals by large, even phenomenal margins, indicating a lot of support from the gaming community and desire for small games that setup and play is less than 30 minutes.
Well, I’ve backed every microgame to hit Kickstarter in the last six months, and I’ll tell you why I do it, though it may not be why anyone else is doing it.
Here are my reasons for supporting Microgames:
- Low cost investment, and as I said earlier, some of the best games I have ever played were cheap games.
- It’s fun to back a motivated entrepreneur. Again, my investment is low, but I contribute and get updates about progress and sometimes opportunity to offer opinions on what the finished product will look like. Where else can you spend $5 and get that sort of influence?
- I LOVE board games. I always have. Period.
- Microgames remind me of the games I played in the 80’s. Some were profoundly complicated but they fit the entire game in a zip lock baggie, and that’s pretty damned impressive.
- The new microgames are usually fast-play games, taking less than 30 minutes. This is very appealing to me as I find it difficult to buy out time from my life for things like board games. Also, my son has ADD, so games that don’t take too long to play are good for us and fit into the limited attention span he has.
- Summary: Microgames are capitalizing on the small format, but they still pack a lot of strategy and fun into the gameplay (just like the microgames I used to play as a kid). Couple that with a low investment and quick play time, and this appeals to my demographic in a big way.
Some people say the microgame explosion is a trend that will run its course soon, and it may. I also like playing more expensive games that have nice components, deeper strategy and longer play-time, but I’m happy to have some good choices for a shorter but still enjoyable game. I do not think I am unique in my appreciation of that, and I don’t think it is a fad.
The microgame market has always been there and is only being rediscovered. It didn’t look profitable at first, but the numbers are showing it is extremely profitable, if done right. I will always be interested in low cost, fast-playing games from up-and-coming producers. I’ll continue to support them in safe and limited ways like Kickstarter affords, and I think table top gaming’s future is brighter due to the diversity of games available from TMG, Gamelyn, Laboratory and others like them.