In terms of gaming, board games can be a difficult genre of game for classification.  The intuitive definition would be a game played atop of a board or other adequate playing surface.  However, this would neglect other games that lack a genre but are games no less (e.g. Tic-Tac-Toe).  Board games might better thought of as paraphernalia games, games requiring specific tools for play.  This would cover almost every game, so a another characteristic needs to be added to aid in distinguishing board games from other games.  In this case, board games are self-contained, meaning that when acquired everything that is required for play is available.  However, this does not account for games with expansions, retroactive additions that can add to the value of play, but these additions are not required for play.  So, instead of being “self-contained” board games are relatively self-contained.

Examples– Tic-Tac-Toe, Monopoly, Chutes ‘n Ladders, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Formula D, Kingsburg, Zombies!!, Twilight Imperium, Chaos in the Old World, Descent, Runebound, Risk, Axis and Allies, Acquire, Diplomacy, Settlers of Catan

Developmental Potential
Mental-in comparison to dice games and sports, board games are much more complex and involved in terms of strategy.  Board games’ rules can range from rudementary (e.g. Tic-Tac-Toe) to highly complex such that the  strategy involved is as developed as the rules themselves; many board games offer multiple ways to achieve victory and therefore there is no single winning strategy.  Knowing the various means to win also calls upon the players to plan out their actions within the game ahead of time.  No single strategic or tactical style is mentioned as each game will enforce certain styles over others (e.g. risk management over resource management).  Interpreting the rules and discovering new ways to win at a board game are one of the key methods to effectively planning out one’s strategy and tactics.  Finally, as some games require the use of dice to determine various effects (e.g. success at an action, movement), understanding probability is important in deciding one’s actions within a game.

Intersocial-while the majority of board games simply pit one or more players against each other, many of the newer generation of board games actually have the players cooperating with one another in one form another.  As such, this opens up opportunities for social growth.  Games like Twilight Imperium and Settlers of Catan have players forging temporary alliances or actively negotiating trades for resources or promises.  Even a few of the classical strategy board games ala Risk offer some socialization and negotiation.  Other games like Betrayal at the House on the Hill have the players work together until the final act of the game, where one player is most often pitted by chance of the game against the other players; even after the Traitor is discovered, the other players need to cooperate in order to survive and ultimately win.