Before computers or consoles were a thing, and even when they were expensive gadgets that began emerging through the 1980s, gaming was typically a hobby that involved a coffee or dinner table in most Australian homes. Board or card games kept people entertained for hours on end, as they shuffled the pack or threw the dice, hoping their next move would be a winner.
But inevitably, following changing technologies and trends, such table games are often perceived as being a thing of the past. Oh, plenty of modern-day Aussies do still play them, for sure, albeit mostly via digital devices these days.
Indeed, it’s fascinating to look at which table games have joined the digital revolution, and some have been far more successful than others, still going strong and entertaining folks Down Under after all these years.
As card games go, they don’t come any more classic and easier to play than blackjack, which scholars believe dates back to the 16th century Spanish game of veintiuna, given it was written about by famed author and playwright Miguel de Cervantes. Also known as twenty-one and pontoon, it’s fair to say that after hundreds of years blackjack has always remained popular.
These days, online blackjack in Australia has breathed new life into this classic game, taking it from the casino tables and onwards to a new digital frontier. Many blackjack games are based around the classic original concept, while others explore new variants on play, and some take things to a whole new level with stunning 3D graphics or streaming live dealers.
If you haven’t heard of Monopoly, what on earth have you been doing? It’s only one of the biggest selling board games of all time that just keeps ‘Go’-ing in popularity, having sold more than 275 million copies worldwide by 2015. Of course, by that time, countless variants had become available, including those themed around Australia and cities like Melbourne and Sydney.
One of the first computer game versions of Monopoly came in 1985, and it remains one of the most enduring titles across all platforms. From the Commodore and Spectrum era, variants of the game have appeared on PC and console, passing ‘Go’ without stopping and making its way to mobile and handheld platforms. The most recent digital version was Monopoly Madness, launched in 2023 by Ubisoft.
They don’t come any more Australian than Squatter, and while it looks a bit similar to Monopoly, the aim of the game here is to run a successful sheep station, featuring all the challenges that come with raising livestock. This includes coping with droughts and bushfires, all while trying to make their farm profitable.
Capturing all the original fun but with graphics and sound effects, the PC game version of Squatter in was launched 2003, although 20 years later it’s hard to find a copy of that. Nevertheless, the Squatter family board game continues to sell well at online stores Down Under.
Dungeons & Dragons
We can’t finish without recognising one tabletop game, originally inspired by the pen and paper wargaming scene. The first edition of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was released in 1974, and has consistently received updates to the rules, helping dungeon masters and players alike develop their characters and gameplay.
The game idea quickly gained popularity around the world, and lots of clubs and groups are still playing the tabletop version today. However, the biggest switch came with video games, particularly digital role-playing games (RPGs), including the 2023 release of Baldur’s Gate 3, which uses edition 5e of the D&D rules, and quickly topped the gaming charts in Australia.