Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bonkers for Board Games OR 10 Reasons to Play More Board Games

I grew up playing board games...
      ...Lots of board games. 

Every Sunday afternoon within living memory, Mom, Dad, and I would gather in the kitchen around 3:30pm, one of us would choose a game, and the challenge was on. 
For three rounds (a chance for each of us to go first, I presume), we would vie for the win. Almost, it sometimes seemed, for the title of Champion for that Sunday. 

Granted, I went through the usual teenage jerk phase where I acted like games were dumb, but, for the most part, I loved it.

Clue, Rat-a-tat-Cat, Rummikub, Sorry, Mexican Train... all of them were the bomb dot com if you ask me. 

Then, when John and I got married in May, it didn't take me too long to figure out that we didn't really own any games. A chess board, Uno, Things, and a few decks of cards...that was about it. Crisis. 

And, so, every cent of birthday and Christmas money went to board games, and I got a lot as Christmas presents, too.  Now, we're set: backgammon, checkers, chess, Connect-4, Risk, Monopoly, Taboo, Yahtzee, Rummikub, Clue... The list goes on. 

John and I have played more rounds of Backgammon in the last three weeks than you would believe. And Yahtzee, and Connect-4. Risk, Monopoly. Clue when Mom and Dad were here; Rummikub with Jane Ellen last night.  

So last night I started thinking. While most of us may agree that board games are valuable, we may not have given a whole lot of thought to why. Here's my list:

10 Reasons to Play More Board Games:
1) Community. Some general chatter occurs during games, the family is together in the same room. But it's simple--you talk about the game, maybe related things. It's easy, pleasant. 

2) Relaxation. There's so much hype today about the need to "unplug." Take an hour and play some games. It's a great defrag. 

3) Mental Exercise. Most games involve some strategy or problem solving. You're developing brain strength and stamina in a relatively low-stress. way. 

4) Healthy Competition. Sibling rivalry, general bickering...these things are too common in our daily lives. Games give us an opportunity to compete with each other in a positive way. This includes learning to lose (or win!) gracefully, game talking without trash talking, and sometimes even rooting for another player. I told John recently that one of the things I love about Yahtzee is that I feel like I can root for him even though we're competing. I want him to roll that awesome four of a kind; I can suggest that he take the full house because he may not roll another. Sure, ultimately, I'm trying to get more points than him, but that's not added up until the end, and, to some extent, the chance element of the game will determine a winner. In the meanwhile, we can cheer each other on as we roll and fill up our score cards.

5) Blow off steam. This is connected to healthy competition and relaxation. Sometimes we're just wound too tightly from the other stresses in our lives. Having another avenue of focus and competition can give us a chance to lighten up about the more serious parts of our lives.

6) Humor. Last night, John, Jane Ellen, and I played of Rummikub EVER. After a few turns, though, it became flat out funny. Our two minute turns became group efforts of board organization in hopes of seeing something new in the hopelessly unhelpful patterns before us. I'm sure there's some rule about board reorganization somewhere, but we were all in on it, and we found it hilarious.

7) Team/Relationship Building. Some games require more cooperation or negotiation, and these are also valuable skills. Plus, group games like Imagin-iff, Things, Taboo, or Apples to Apples facilitate learning about each other as you play. For John and I, games have helped us learn about each other's skill sets and ways of thinking. he will smash me at Chess every time and Connect-4 almost every time. But I'm more likely to win at Bananagrams. This is because he is more mathematical and strategic, where as I loooove words. We trade off playing games that he's good at, I'm good at, or that we're fairly matched at so that we can both be challenged and both have a chance to win fairly often. This in itself is a form of teamwork and bonding so that game time stays fun.

8) Time passing. This may sound silly, but, seriously, can you think of a better way to spend the countdown to New Year's? My family traditionally played Monopoly (or some variation) or Taboo on New Year's Eve, and John and I continued that this year. Chips, salsa, and champagne optional. ;-) 

9) Inclusive. There's a game for nearly every age--from Candyland to Risk, you can probably find something to engage the whole family. C'mon, not even movies do that very well. Plus, older siblings can enjoy/learn about teaching younger siblings their favorite games and tricks. For the record, I still love Candyland. 

10) The bottom line is that games are FUN. We too often forget them in our age of movies and video games, but the tactile, simple competition and amusement that boardgames offer is timeless. Go dust one off tonight!

Adventure well; Live fully. 

PS I think all of the above applies to friends as well as family. Just sayin'. ;-)

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