Photo by Reyer Boxem

Students turn to boardgames

Pass the time playing Pandemic

Photo by Reyer Boxem
How do you pass the time when you’re not allowed outside? Students have re-discovered the fun of board games, playing games ranging from the classic Life to the poignantly current Pandemic. ‘You get to know your housemates so much better.’
By Felien van Kooij
16 November om 16:55 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:16 uur.
November 16 at 16:55 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:16 PM.

At Kas Jansma’s student house, they’re not lacking for board games. The shelves are filled with them: quick little games like Qwixx and 30 Seconds, but also Game of Thrones, after the eponymous television series, which takes at least six hours. Kas, a student of energy and environmental sciences, meets with his friends once a week to play a game. ‘I know it’s kind of nerdy, but it’s a great way to spend the evening.’

Biology student Rianne Gerard has also been playing more board games with her housemates since the corona crisis started. ‘We would play these short games together, but now we’re into more extensive games’, she says. Their favourite game is Ticket to Ride, but they’ve also played many rounds of Life. ‘It’s brought us closer together. It’s a great way to get off your phone and get to know your housemates better. In Life, it’s always interesting to see who goes for the career path and who goes for a family.’

Now we’re into more extensive games

Lars van Lee already enjoyed playing games with his friends before the pandemic. Now, he has to make do with his housemates. ‘It’s harder to meet up with friends these days. But apart from the odd pack of cards and a few dice, we didn’t have many games in our house’, the psychology student says. He and his housemates set themselves the challenge of playing a new game every month, and to expand their collection. One new game they’re particularly fond of is the cooperative Magic Maze. ‘Unlike in many other games, you don’t play against each other; you have to work together to beat the game.’ 

Computer games

At game store Wirwar in the Oude Kijk in ‘t Jatstraat, owner Edo Hoetjes says board games were becoming increasingly popular even before the pandemic. ‘I think they became more popular because the current generation of young people grew up playing computer games. They’re used to the concept, and it’s become normal for them to keep playing as adults.’ 

It’s normal for this generation to play games as adults

It’s clear that business is booming at Wirwar; the basement is filled to the brim with games. ‘It’s a lot, I know. But I have to put my stock somewhere’, he says, laughing.

The past few months have had an impact on the kinds of games people play. Hoetjes says he hasn’t been selling as many games for bigger groups, while sales of two-player games like Patchwork have been rising. ‘Ironically enough, the game Pandemic, where players work together to stop a virus, has been extremely popular lately.’

Chemistry student Andy Sardjan confirms that he’s been buying different games lately. ‘A few weeks ago, six or seven of us could still get together for a game, but now you can’t have more than three people over.’ That means that games like 30 Seconds, for which you need a lot of people, stay on the shelf. ‘Now, we get together with a small group once a week to play more complicated games, like Through the Ages.’

Regional Monopoly

The students’ passion for games isn’t new, though. ‘I’ve always played board games, ever since I was a little kid’, says Rianne. ‘We played a regional version of Monopoly, and this weird energy game from the seventies my grandma used to have.’ Lars also started young. ‘My parents enjoyed games after dinner, rather than watching television. We started out with simple card games, but then we started playing these longer games, like Risk, that would sometimes take all day.’

Computer science PhD student Lorenzo Urban had a different experience; he didn’t discover board games until he moved to the Netherlands. Now, he plays Settlers of Catan with his friends almost every week. ‘We don’t play games as much in Italy, since we tend to meet outside. Catan isn’t popular there at all.’ 

He greatly enjoys the game: ‘A colleague and I even have plans to create our own educational game about our research into data visualisation, since people are so unfamiliar with the field’, he says.


Once you get started, it’s easy to get hooked, the students say, and it’s not necessarily a cheap hobby. ‘Board games can cost anywhere from 30 to 50 euros, which is a lot on a student budget’, says Rianne. ‘There are cheaper games, of course, but they tend to be simple card or dice games, like Take 5. Fortunately, I play with a lot of different people and they all have different games, so I don’t have to buy everything myself.’

People have different games, so I don’t have to buy everything myself

Andy doesn’t mind the expenses: it’s his hobby and he’s okay with spending some money on it. ‘I’ve got sixty-four games right now and they don’t fit on my shelves anymore. There’s a few at the bottom that I don’t even play anymore, but I still end up buying the expansion packs.’ 

He does have a tip to keep costs down, though: ‘In our group, one person will sometimes buy the basic game while the rest spring for the expansions. It’s a great way of splitting the cost.’ 


Kas buys his games second-hand, on Marktplaats. ‘It’s a good way to get games on the cheap’, he says. Some people who have huge game collections decide to sell part of it on the website. Kas has also bought a few mystery boxes. ‘If you don’t know what to buy it’s a great way to discover new games. I also check rankings on websites like for inspiration.’ 

If you want to play with a large group of people but your housemates aren’t feeling it, you can check online versions of games. A lot of the time, they’re cheaper, too. You can download apps for popular games like Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, Clue, and Catan. ‘Obviously, the real magic of games lies in getting together with your friends and playing a game’, says Kas. ‘But sometimes you just have to make do.’

Photo by Reyer Boxem