Boards are more graphical displays of your issues. Imagine each issue is a post-it note, stuck on a board in front of your team (that is exactly where the phrase comes from - a board covered in cards or notes). The board has columns representing the status of the issues.
You use them when you need them. They're immensely useful for getting an overview of progress at a glance, seeing what issues are where, what's next and so-on
Generally, I'd use a "scrum" board when you are, um, well, doing scrums for Agile processes. I also have a habit of using Kanban boards a LOT for day-to-day use, as they're often easier to use than JIRA on its own, and as long as you don't click "release" on a Kanban board, you won't break anything other people are doing (I even use Kanbans to slice up other people's scrum boards for my benefit). I also use Kanbans for showing how things are going to people outside the project.
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