I'm wondering if LittleBobbyTables' definition here, might be a good, simple, definition of what this site covers?

What potential grey lines, or exceptions might there be? Are they serious enough to make it unworkable?

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    It's a good start. It doesn't directly cover electronic tools/versions of our games though.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 15:02

3 Answers 3


There are a few axes on which we need to figure out where to put the dividing line between on and off topic. For instance, the rule you mention, can it be played on a table, is a good one, but not sufficient, as you can sit down and play an RPG on a table, but I think that's off topic for this site.

Here are a few areas where we need to figure out exactly where to draw the line. To the left are what I would consider solidly on topic, to the right probably off topic, and we need to figure out where the line is in the middle.

  • Coop games - Solitaire games - puzzles
  • Diplomatic games - creativity games - roleplaying games
  • Dexterity games - lawn games - sports
  • Board games with random or rule-based extra players - computer implementations of board games - board games with electronic components - computer games

For the first category, I think that solitaire games are on topic, while puzzles (such as Sudoku or crosswords) are off topic. But how to distinguish solitaire games from puzzles? I believe the criterion would be that solitaire games essentially produce an endless or large variety of different puzzles through randomization (most solitaire card games involve just shuffling a deck of cards, solitaire or coop games might involve rolling dice or other forms of randomization), while puzzles are static and new puzzles in a particular category (such as Sudoku or crosswords) must be created by another person or computer. I would, however, say that questions about puzzles that are specifically related to a board or card game, and commonly used in training for playing board and card games, would be OK; for instance, "I'm working on this chess problem, and the book lists this solution, but I just can't figure out why this other line of play doesn't work."

For the second category, I think the distinguishing criterion is that there are objective rules and win conditions in a board game. The win condition or outcome of a situation might be based on subjective votes or other actions from other players, but once people have made their decisions, there is a set of rules for determining the winner or outcome of a situation. In a roleplaying game, a GM is needed for deciding which rules to apply, running NPCs, etc, and so there is no objective set of rules for resolving situations or the outcome of the game.

In the third category, I believe that dexterity games can be on topic (such as Jenga or Pitch Car), but I think that the rule you mention, that you can fit them on a table, is a good one. Thus, crokinole would be OK, but foosball or pool would not.

In the last category, I think that the rule that you can play it by hand, with no computer involved, should apply. You may use electronic equipment to aid you (an electronic dice roller in place of physical dice, or using a spreadsheet to keep score instead of doing it by hand), and questions about how to do so may be on topic, as long as it's all stuff that you could do by hand. You can't play a game of Quake by hand, so questions about Quake are off topic; but you can play Ticket to Ride by hand, so asking about places to play ticket to ride online are OK.

Or to use Pat's example, Civilization and Advanced Civ are clearly on topic, Sid Meier's Civilization is not, as it can't be implemented as a boardgame. The computer game port of Advanced Civ would be on topic, as it's a game that could be played on a board, though for technical questions about it there may be better forums (or may not; people on a boardgame question and answer site may have more familiarity with the online forms of the games than people on a computer game or computer software question and answer site, and a good measure of whether something on topic is whether this is the best place to find people who can answer a question about it), and Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame is on topic, as it's obviously playable by hand on a board instead of on the computer (and if anyone ever implements Civilization: The Boardgame: The Computer Game, asking about that would be on topic too, as it's still playable on a board).

Do those seem like a reasonable set of guidelines? In summary, for a game to be on topic, it must:

  1. Be playable on or around a table
  2. Have objective rules of play and win conditions
  3. Offer dynamic challenges, either through other players, randomization, or both
  4. Be playable by hand, by human players implementing all of the rules

For a question to be on topic, it must relate to a game that is on topic, but the particular instance that the question is referring to may loosen those rules. Questions about playing games with giant pieces will make a game not playable around a table, but if it's a game that could be or is normally played around a table, it's fine. Questions about Go problems or Chess problems are fine, even if they are static puzzles, since they are related to a dynamic game. Questions about computer implementations of board games are fine.

I think that gives us a pretty good definition of what's on and off topic; there will always be some grey zone, but it will solve most of the problems.

  • Cool, I didn't realize an off-the-cuff comment would stimulate this kind of discussion. This answer sums things up very well, I think. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:56
  • Voted +1, although I personally think that all games purely based on dexterity should be out. (Jenga and Twister have a strategy component though, and should be in.)
    – Erik P.
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 0:24
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    @Erik I don't really have an opinion one way or the other about dexterity games. They don't interest me that much, but it doesn't bother me if they are discussed. Most of them have some strategic component, so it's hard to distinguish on that basis. I don't think they'll really be a problem, unless we start allowing all sports and lawn games, which are pretty clearly off topic. Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 1:29
  • @Brian: to be honest, I don't have too strong feelings either way either, but I felt I should write it down in case there turned out to be a silent majority, willing to reveal itself by massively upvoting my comment :) I'm happy to accept the games as on topic as it stands.
    – Erik P.
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 4:14
  • I love dexterity games, @Erik, so I'm glad they're still on-topic.
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 6:41
  • As usual, @Brian, your answer is exhaustive and I agree with most of it. However, I'd suggest more lenience on board games that include electronic components. Knizia's King Arthur for example seems like a full board game to me, even though the board has conductive ink and a voice speaks to you from the sword in the stone. I think there are a few other games where some electronic component gives the players clues or reveals goals throughout the game. There have been a few VCR / DVD games (no good ones that I know of). I suggest all of these are still primarily board games.
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 6:47
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    @Don Sure, as I said in the answer, there will always be some grey zones. There are sometimes board games with minor electronic components, and there are sometimes computer games with a few physical components (feelies). There will always be a certain amount of judgement. If it's packaged and sold as a board game (like King Arthur), then it'll count even though there's an electronic component to it. I generally say that we should err on the side of being inclusive, unless there's clearly a better place for the question (like gaming.se.com). Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 7:56
  • Air Hockey yea or nay? I'm assuming off-topic. I searched meta and the main site. Reviewed the About page. Any definitive answer?
    – Preston
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 0:22
  • @PrestonFitzgerald I'd say that's just past the line, but it's off topic. As mentioned in this answer, "...I think that the rule you mention, that you can fit them on a table, is a good one. Thus, crokinole would be OK, but foosball or pool would not." Given that air hockey the game is the table, it's not played on a table, rules it out. From the discussion I was referring to: "If you can't sit down at a table and play it, it's not a board or card game." Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 15:59
  • That's what I was thinking too @BrianCampbell. I just wanted to double check with the natives. There doesn't appear to be a better place for that kind of conversation on SE. I guess I'm off to Area 51. Thanks!
    – Preston
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 16:34

To expand on my comment above, we would want to consider these four games. Which of them are on topic, and why?

  • Civilization, a boardgame by Francis Tresham. And the later Advanced Civ version. These are definitely on topic.

  • Sid Meier's Civilization, a computer game that was probably inspired by the boardgame but isn't very similar in game play at all.

  • Avalon Hill's Advanced Civilization, a computer game that is a direct port of the Advanced Civilization Boardgame. Can also be used for PBeM.

  • Sid Meier's Civilization, the boardgame - This is a boardgame that is directly inspired by Sid Meier's computer game.

  • I love Sid Meier's Civilization games myself, but I wouldn't call that a board game. The Avalon Hill's Advanced Civilization example is a gray area. I lean towards yes since it's a direct adaption, but that's hard to define. What if they made some small tweaks to the game then, does that count? Between between Avalon Hill's Advanced Civilization and Sid Meier's Civilization would we draw the line? Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 16:47
  • To give an example of a game that was ported to the computer with some tweaks, consider Europa Universalis. I don't know where the line is either.... But I think we can find some people for and against anything but the first boardgame Civilization
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 16:54
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    I'd count the first and the last as being on-topic. The Sid Meier computer game series is definitely off - that's a gaming.stackexchange.com question. AH's Adv Civ is arguably on topic as long as the question is equally applicable to the board game - if the question is "Will it run in DosBox?" then that's off-topic. Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 17:09

One rule I would definitely have is that anything with a computer-programmed AI opponent is banned.

Computer games, where they are really electronic versions of boardgames - and where there are actual copies of the game made from atoms not bits - are at least arguable. Certainly, the majority of questions relating to Diplomacy are the same whether it's FTF, PBM, PBEM, DiPjudge or phpDiplomacy, and I think very few would object to questions relating to black-press, public-press or gunboat (all variants that are only possible in non-FTF formats). Where it's a commercial implementation of a straight conversion (e.g. Matrix Games' Empires in Arms) then it's more arguable, but again if the question is about the game and not the computing aspects, then I think it's on-topic.

The only AIs that we should be discussing, though, are the scripted pen-and-paper AIs, like the solitaire game of Republic of Rome. I guess a computer implementation of a pen-and-paper AI might be acceptable.

  • gunboat can be played FTF. And if you use enough paper, you can use any kind of press in a FTF game. Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 14:51
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    I think a better phrasing would be "anything dependent on a computer-programmed AI" is banned. I don't mind discussing a computer implementation of a board game which happens to include the option of an AI opponent, as long as it can be played against humans. (As long as we're discussing the game tactics, that is; questions about AI are obviously off-topic here in most cases.) Otherwise we have to ban Chess, for a start.
    – Tynam
    Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 10:48
  • @Tynam Fair comment. Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 14:15

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