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Five From Finland

Tabletop games

Put away the electronics and explore the world of tabletop games hailing from Finland.Credits: : Julia Helminen

Known as a mobile and computer gaming hub, Finland also has a lot on offer for those who prefer gathering around the table for an exciting board or card game.

There is no doubt that Finns like playing games. According to a study by the University of Tampere, 98.2 per cent of Finns play games at least occasionally. Along with booming interest in video games, the study also revealed the popularity of more traditional forms of gaming, with 34 per cent of Finns regularly playing card games and nearly 31 per cent enjoying board and social games.

One of the go-to places for all board game enthusiasts in Finland is Lautapelit.fi, a leading distributor and publisher with a focus on localising quality games for Nordic markets, as well as publishing original titles. In addition to an online shop, the company runs a brick-and-mortar shop in the heart of Helsinki.

Read on to discover five innovative approaches that Finns have taken to tabletop gaming.

Get the party started! Alias is one of the most well-known Finnish board games exported to dozens of countries. Image: Tactic Games

Ask a Finn what makes a perfect game for a family evening at home, a relaxing weekend at a cottage or a fun party with friends, and the answer will be Alias. The word explanation game was developed in Finland over 30 years ago and since then more than five million copies have been sold worldwide, making it the top-selling board game in Northern Europe and one of the biggest international success stories for Tactic Games. Staying true to Nordic values, the company manufactures the game at its own factory in Pori, using sustainable and recycled materials.

“The Alias product family is one of our flagships,” told sales director Juha Nieminen. “The sales have grown organically in all markets. We export Alias to 40 different countries, and there are almost 30 different language versions available, including Chinese, Korean and Icelandic to name a few. Alias clearly has some magical qualities because players make it come alive all around the world.”

Now, Alias comes in many different versions suited for players of all ages. Designed for children over five years old, Junior Alias is often seen also as an educational tool helping young players to broaden their vocabulary, as well as to develop important cognitive and social skills.

“Based on sales and compass points, someone in the world is playing and enjoying Alias right now. They’re explaining and guessing words, laughing and spending time with friends thanks to our game. How amazing is that!” Nieminen added.

World of Insights designs board and card games which help to transform workshops, meetings and trainings into participative learning activities. Image: World of Insights

It’s no secret that games are not only for entertainment. They can teach, inspire and provide players with some much-needed skills and useful knowledge. Keeping that in mind, Espoo-based World of Insights has made it its mission to transform corporate learning with the help of games.

Designed to be an integral part of impactful learning experiences, the games cover various aspects of business, ranging from innovation and personal development to leadership, and are directed towards business schools and consultants, managers and leaders.

“Our core value is to move away from lectures; from one person having the knowledge delivering it to an audience that doesn’t,” co-founder and learning experience director Eliza Hochman told us a few years ago. “We wanted to create an experience through which people can be engaged and acquire the information that they need.”

“We work with a lot of professors,” Hochman continued. “It could also be a CEO trying to communicate strategy or HR trying to inform values. Basically, any time you want to create knowledge without telling people directly.”

In addition to a wide collection of games available for purchase online, World of Insights creates customised games. The company’s engaging and human-centred solutions have resonated well with customers in over 35 countries, with the clientele including the likes of Finnair, Nestlé and Siemens.

Snowdale Design crafts approachable board games with engaging gameplay which take the players into the fantastic world of animal folks. Image: Snowdal Design

Pori-based Snowdale Design has found its niche in elegant thematic board games in which deep gameplay meets outstanding artwork. The main driving power behind the company is game designer Sami Laakso, who has been passionate about playing and developing board games from an early age.

The flagship titles are Dale of Merchants, Dawn of Peacemakers and Lands of Galzyr – all set in Daimyria, a fantastic world of animal folks created by Laakso.

“My designs spark from various sources,” he explained in an interview with Roll to Review. “Dale of Merchants was born from my personal dislike for deck building. I wanted to see if I could make one that I enjoy! Dawn of Peacemakers began with a simple idea: what if in a war game, you weren’t the one doing the fighting, but actually tried to stop it? Finally, Lands of Galzyr’s roots are in some conversations with the co-designer and the idea of creating a board game with a memory. How would a game behave if it remembered the actions of players – even after multiple games?”

In addition to being a creative mind, Laakso has vast experience in running successful crowdfunding campaigns, with the latest title, Lands of Galzyr, having exceeded its crowdfunding goal by a whopping 400 per cent. Among the factors contributing to the success Laakso named a steadily growing fanbase and people’s interest in story-heavy games set in a non-grim setting.

Dare to Tngl makes self-reflection fun and lets players practise awareness and empathy, as well as enables them to feel more at ease exploring their own fears and aspirations. Image: Tngl

Specialised in leadership services, the Helsinki-based startup aims to help people in improving their skills in communication, teamwork, decision making and problem solving. According to Tngl, these skills are crucial for creating a positive change in life, be it from a personal or professional perspective.

One of the tools the startup has come up with is Dare to Tngl, “a self-reflection card game for connection seekers”. The idea for the game hit service designer and founder of Tngl Mustafa Alshihani during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he was considering new ways of making people more connected and filling the social void.

The game is simple yet beautiful. Players are invited to answer questions printed on a 50-card deck. “Does it matter what others think about you?”, “What is the greatest goal you have achieved?”, “Name three great things in your life at the moment”, “What would you like to promise to yourself?” – these are just some of the questions the players get to reflect on.

“It’s an ice breaker and a tool to form connections and discuss topics such as life values, dreams and goals between friends, family or colleagues,” Alshihani and business designer Daniel Shaya explained in a video. “The idea with the cards was to get people to think, talk and reflect on their lives and bring them closer to each other through conversation.”

Learning to play a new board game is often challenging and time consuming, but the problem is conveniently solved with Dized. Image: Playmore Games

Helsinki-based Playmore Games was founded in 2014 out of a passion for tabletop games and a dream of making them even better. Co-founders Jouni Jussila and Tomi Vainikka assumed that instead of spending an hour or so on reading the rulebook, players should be empowered to jump right into the fun. This is how Dized was born.

This ultimate digital companion for tabletop games, available both as a mobile application and on the web, offers play-along interactive tutorials making the process of learning a game easy and fun. Moreover, Dized can enrich the gaming experiences with digital game expansions.

Already containing tutorials and interactive rules for dozens of the world’s most fascinating tabletop games, the Dized library keeps on growing. And given that in today’s market more than 10 new board games get published every day, the sky is the limit.

“The tabletop game industry has been growing for several consecutive years, and we’re hoping to be a service that’s able to bring board gaming to more people and help with the future growth of this wonderful hobby,” summarised Jussila.

By: Zhanna Koiviola
17.10.2022