All a-board for games fun
DURING a Christmas conversation, my stepdaughter revealed she had a holidayseason plan to wean her two boys (15 and 12) off their huge armoury of gadgets, phones, screens and games.
They were going to have some “real family time” and return to the happy, lo-tech world of board games. I instantly recalled with pleasure all those from my childhood. We started off simply with tiddlywinks (ping a small plastic counter into a cup, using a larger one).
You graduated to Ludo and draughts and later to the bigleague tussles of Monopoly.
I’m not sure whether Monopoly teaches kids the right values.
After all, the aim is to amass as much wealth and property as you can and drive the other players to financial ruin.
I bet this game featured in the Trump nursery. Its inventor, Lizzie Magie, named it “The Landlord’s Game” and it was intended to show children that honest effort and community-mindedness would be rewarded, and that owning and renting property unjustly enriched landlords and impoverished tenants.
When we played it, we all turned into prepubescent Gordon Gekkos, becoming ruthless, greedy and gloating as we clutched our cash and counted our hotels.
Lizzie would not be happy. Parker Brothers were though. They acquired the rights in 1935 and it was instantly a bestseller.
A similar Australian property game, Squatter, encouraged the buying of sheep stations and stock, but running the terrible financial risk of your flocks dying from the attractively named “pulpy kidney”. Remember Cluedo? It always seemed to be Colonel Mustard who’d done the deed in the library, armed with the lead piping. Or was that just my memory? A game that brought out the worst in our family was Risk, which is basically world domination at any cost as you invade and subdue as many other nations as you can. The games that made me the most competitive were Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit.
I loved to win, and am still mortified that the first time I played them against my now husband, he beat me. Takes courage to marry a man who beats you at your own game.
Humans have always loved games. A board and tokens for Senet, a passing game with 30 squares, was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, with his other treasures.
Snakes and Ladders originated in India about 200BC and was intended to teach children to aspire to goodness via the ladders, and to avoid the evil snakes of Satan. Seeing that your consequences are entirely random, that doesn’t seem quite fair. The Romans loved dice, and theirs look very much the same as ours.
The Han Dynasty tombs also contained the remains of various board games, and chess seems to have been internationally popular.
Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1750, praising chess’s value in teaching thinking and strategy. He’d be mortified to know that now machines can often play better than we can.
Does your family still enjoy the occasional return to board games?