As a kid, I loved board games but had a lot of trouble finding people to play with me. My most faithful partner was my little sister, Sarah Jane, but when my devious tactics became evident, it was hard to convince her to play with me. My favourite game was Monopoly and I was known for threatening such things as, “You either sell me Reading Railway or else I’m going to quit playing.” Sarah Jane, who by then was enjoying the game and had invested a fair bit of time in it, would reluctantly sell to me at the extremely discounted price I’d named. It was totally unfair, of course, but I got away with it whenever my mother was out of the room. As a result, my board game phase slowly came to an end because it became harder to find willing players.
Recently, however, I’ve rediscovered board games. Some of it is thanks to the influence of my friends Laura and Christine, who love games and have reintroduced me to their awesomeness. Most of it, though, is due to our family lifestyle. Jason and I no longer spend our weekends going out for a number of reasons, not least of which is exhaustion and general disinterest at the thought of going anywhere after 10 p.m. I’d rather be in my sweatpants, playing a board game with friends while finishing off a pot of tea!
My latest obsession is Settlers of Catan. I bought it as a Christmas gift for my little brother and we spent most of the holidays playing it over and over again. In fact, it was so popular among all the siblings and cousins that we were vying for the limited four spots per game. It’s a wonderfully addictive game, with easy straightforward rules that make it easy to explain, yet allow room for complex strategy. This past weekend, we had a three-hour Catan marathon using the Knights and Cities expansion. And the surprising winner was none other than yours truly.
Another great favourite of ours is Dutch Blitz, a quirky Mennonite card game using special cards that have pictures of wagons, pumps, ploughs, and buckets. It’s an energetic race to build piles of 10 cards in numerical order, with everyone slapping down cards simultaneously, trying to beat each other to the piles. Inevitably, it turns into shouting and fierce competitiveness (of which I’m rather guilty, I admit). This game is so good that our friends Christine and Derek actually hosted an entire evening dedicated to Dutch Blitz, with three separate tables of players. It was quite impressive.
A new discovery is Balderdash, when I found an old edition at the thrift store for $1. When I brought it home and opened it up, it had never been used before. We played it on Friday night and had plenty of good laughs. Word games are special for me because I spend so much time thinking about words, definitions, and interpretations, and Balderdash requires players to invent convincing definitions for words that most people have never heard before (but are recognized by English dictionaries). I was amazed at the strange and funny words we learned, such as glip, goonch, porbeagle, mangel-wurzel, etc., and the simplicity of their definitions.
Other family favourites are Apples To Apples, perfect for a large crowd of people and even better after dinner and a few glasses of wine. It’s another word game that involves matching adjectives to nouns, but it’s very subjective; one must think of who’s picking the winner and what their personal preferences would be. For example, if my thirteen-year-old brother is choosing, guaranteed he’ll pick anything to do with aggression, violence, or speed, i.e. “lovely bombs” over “disastrous bombs.” Ahh, the thirteen-year-old male mind is so bewildering to me.
Do you have any great board game recommendations to add to our collection?