Tabletop Games

COVID-19 Update: There will be some in-person meetings of lecture and discussion with appropriate distancing. All meetings will be able to be completed online. Games will be played online.

"There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games." —William S. Boroughs

From a game of mahjong in the park to a 5-hour wargame in a residence hall den, board games have provided a lifelong hobby for people all across the globe. This NEXUS experience will explore why board games are so endlessly fascinating, from art and design, to mathematical principles, and interpersonal motivation and behavior. We will meet once a week to learn from faculty about an aspect of board games that intersects with their expertise. Then, in small groups, we will spend time learning different types of games, including: cooperative, asymmetrical, team-based, solitary, and non-competitive. At the end of the semester, in addition to new knowledge about the theory and design of gaming, students will have been introduced to variety of specific games and a deeper understanding what makes them so compelling.

Sessions will include:

  • Mathematical model of games
  • Games as illustrations of various mathematical principles
  • Introduction to micro-economic theory
  • Introduction to computational psychiatry
  • Intrinsic motivation (why do people play games?)
  • Information theory and artificial intelligence
  • Game design and marketing; design thinking; studio-based teaching
  • Field trip to Fantasy Flight Games for board game design and production
  • Guest lecture by a professional game designer


Activity Period: Fall 2020 semester

Meets: Mondays from 3:30-5:30pm. This experience can be completed remotely with in-person options

Students Admitted: 25