What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Are board games a part of those?
Historically, it’s a family gathering time to share in the year’s blessings with a guilt-free feast of food and drink, followed by a recovery time in front of the TV for sports and more helpings of pie. Some interject the action right there in the living room, crossing political swords with relatives, or hazing newcomers – whether spouses or significant others – for the rights of passage into the family.
Sometimes that action comes with the roll of dice, a card drawn, and the moving of tokens.
Board games were a part of my childhood, and they were sometimes part of the holiday festivities. Those early games consisted of snaking colored paths through some fantasy landscape, and a race toward the finish; your basic Candyland scenario. Land here and you get an extra turn, or the dreaded “go back two steps.”
As I got older, I moved into more challenging games. Monopoly. Oh, now here is a shared experience for many out there, which either brings back fun memories … or moments of when the board cartwheeled into the air, scattering tokens, cards and money across the carpet. Checkers (regular and Chinese) and chess were standards for throughout the year. Clue introduced me to the ways murder could be committed (so, please, be wary when I am packing a candlestick…), and it was a good introduction into deductive logic. Tripoley (a card game based on a combination of hearts, poker and rummy) primed me for learning poker later on.
Lots of odd or uncommon board games have come and gone.
A friend of mine, whose parents were from England, introduced me to Broadswords and Buccaneers, where you captain a ship and raid a treasure island for loot, trying to get it back to your port, or fighting other players on the high seas in card duels to steal a portion of their cargo. Countdown was a 1966 space race game with players earning money to purchase the components for their moon rocket, assembling their team, while also working to thwart or sabotage other players’ progress. The game, Bigfoot, added a menacing component to the “race to the finish” by having a plastic sasquatch stop along the trail, leaving tokens that either left you unscathed or … out. Bermuda Triangle had you focusing on running a fleet of trading vessels, while a mysterious cloud roamed the board, which swinging across your magnetized ship tokens would either leave them be…or mysteriously take them into the unknown.
For our family, at least, board games have been much less present in comparison to video games. Thanksgivings for our kids see them disappear with their cousins as they compete across first-person-shooter battlefields or historic real-time strategy games (… in which dads and grandpas occasionally participate) or watch a single-player move his assassin or monster killer through a vast online world.
We will still break out the classics – Monopoly or Clue, chess and checkers – and we’ve been introduced to newer games, such as Settlers of Catan. My sister-in-law and her husband have taught me new games they pick up and play with friends, and I have yet to learn Bang, a wild west theme card game, which was a gift from my brother-in-law.
What’s your game? Take the opportunity this coming Thanksgiving to allow yourself a time of simple play, preferably a multiplayer game – whether Monopoly or Mario Cart -- where you can compete, strategize, battle and scheme with no real-world implications to follow. The triumphs and losses you experience will be of the moment; the memories of the fun with others is the real prize you’ll win.