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?

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