Board games mak­ing a come­back – some new, some old but all very en­ter­tain­ing

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

GROW­ING up, ev­ery­one in my fam­ily re­ceived a board game for Christ­mas. We’d spend the lazy days that fol­lowed jump­ing in and out of mys­te­ri­ous worlds, word puz­zles and in­tri­cate ver­sions of cha­rades. But, as we grew up, the fading stacks of card­board be­gan col­lect­ing dust and Net­flix took over as our new post-hol­i­day rit­ual. That was, un­til a few years ago.

In­spired by an ex­cuse to in­dulge in spiced rum cock­tails and bored with our stream­ing queue, my sib­lings and I in­vited out-of-town cousins over to our par­ents’ house, broke out some of the old stand­bys, and started a new hol­i­day tra­di­tion that re­sulted in us adding a few games to our adult Christ­mas lists. Ap­par­ently, we’re not alone. Matthew Hu­dak, toys and games an­a­lyst with Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional, agrees, cit­ing a re­cent mar­ket re­port that sales of games and puz­zles grew by 15% in 2016. “It’s mas­sive. There were more than 5 000 new board games in­tro­duced to the US mar­ket last year.”

There’s plenty of spec­u­la­tion about who or what is driv­ing the boom – video games, the in­ter­net, mil­len­ni­als pre­fer­ring to so­cialise at home – but Barry BJ Rozas, a lawyer from Louisiana who moon­lights as a board game re­viewer, says it comes down to one thing: “To­day’s games are bet­ter.”

Rozas, a vet­eran gamer who cre­ated the blog Board Game Gumbo to share his pas­sion for hobby games, cred­its cre­ative game de­sign­ers with get­ting peo­ple ex­cited about board games again. Some of his favourites for be­gin­ners in­clude Ticket to Ride, Car­cas­sonne and Pan­demic.

“Very few peo­ple ask me for Candy Land any­more,” says Kath­leen Don­ahue, owner of pop­u­lar game shop Labyrinth in Washington DC. “Peo­ple come in and say, ‘I’ve been play­ing Pan­demic lately and I love it. Do you have any other rec­om­men­da­tions?’

“Games give a frame­work to in­ter­act with peo­ple in an easy man­ner,” Don­ahue says. “The rules have al­ready been set up, so you can be in a so­cial sit­u­a­tion and re­late to peo­ple on a non-su­per­fi­cial level with­out be­ing too se­ri­ous.”

And that is some­thing en­ter­tain­ing ex­perts have been preaching for a long time.

“We have a li­brary of gamere­lated books, in­clud­ing six or seven that are from the ’30s and ’40s, on how to throw a party,” says Kyle En­gen, founder and stew­ard of op­er­a­tions at the In­ter­ac­tive Mu­seum of Gam­ing and Puz­zlery of his col­lec­tion.

“They have in­struc­tions for so­cial ‘games,’ such as ev­ery­one putting each other’s coat away or hav­ing ev­ery­one sit back-to-back and say some­thing about them­selves.”

Al­though old-school ice break­ers may feel a lit­tle awk­ward, a board game can still be the per­fect thing to bring ev­ery­one to­gether in a fun way– es­pe­cially when you’re invit­ing friends from dif­fer­ent cir­cles or co-work­ers, says Amanda Saiontz Gluck, cre­ator of the blog Fash­ion­able Host­ess.

Gluck rec­om­mends set­ting the stage for your game night in the fam­ily room with a laid­back at­mos­phere around comfy couches. Her num­ber one tip? Bring ev­ery­thing you need for the party to the cof­fee ta­ble and have ev­ery­thing ac­ces­si­ble, so peo­ple aren’t dis­en­gag­ing to go to the kitchen or to the bar.

Dur­ing win­ter, Gluck loves hav­ing ex­tra pil­lows and throw blan­kets ready, es­pe­cially ones with warm tex­tures. Al­ter­na­tively, she says, you can also in­cor­po­rate a board game or two along­side a cozy drink dis­play at the end of a more for­mal din­ner party.

“If you or your guests haven’t opened a game box since mid­dle school, there are a few com­mon pit­falls to avoid,” Rozas says.

“Have a set time,” he says. “I re­mem­ber the first time I planned a game night, some of the par­tic­i­pants were wor­ried. They pic­tured the old Dun­geons & Dragons days when we played for 12 hours.

“Don’t over­whelm peo­ple with a gi­ant stack of games you don’t know the rules to,” he adds. “Pick a cou­ple and learn the rules ahead of game night. There are plenty of YouTube videos and tu­to­ri­als on Punch­board Me­dia.”

And, who knows: Once you get go­ing, you might just make it a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence.

“Ev­ery Thurs­day night, I play games and it’s a time I don’t have to think or worry about any­thing,” Don­ahue says. “Once peo­ple start that, they don’t want to give it up.”

Look­ing to spice up your game night? Try one of these ex­pert picks:

“It’s a mod­ern-day, re­ally cool, artsy Jenga. It’s easy for peo­ple to jump in and out.”

New gamers. – Kath­leen Don­ahue, Labyrinth.

“It’s a co-op­er­a­tive sto­ry­based game where you act as CDC work­ers.”

New gamers. – Kath­leen Don­ahue.

A tough crowd. It’s one of the most pop­u­lar games in the coun­try. – Kath­leen Don­ahue.

“One per­son knows a se­cret word, and they’re try­ing to get ev­ery­one to guess the word. The were­wolf is try­ing to get peo­ple not to guess it.”Best for: Good friends. “Any­one who en­joys the party game Mafia. There’s a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and a lot of laughs.” – BJ Rozas, Board Game Gumbo

“It’s a good bonding game. You’re put in a strange sce­nario.”

Peo­ple who are get­ting to know one an­other. – Kyle En­gen, In­ter­ac­tive Mu­seum of Gam­ing and Puz­zlery.

“It’s a co-op­er­a­tive game, so ev­ery­one is work­ing to win to­gether. You work as fire­fight­ers out in the wilder­ness. Ev­ery­body has a unique role and works to­gether to beat back fires.”

Mixed age groups, non­com­pet­i­tive crowds. – BJ Rozas, Board Game Gumbo.

“Clue was in­vented as a pas­time dur­ing the black­out in the Sec­ond World War. Now Kill Doc­tor Lucky is a game in which we’re all in­vited back to the house, but we can’t have any­one else see us. It’s a game that hap­pens be­fore the game of Clue. What if we’re the ones who do the mur­der?”

Best for: Nostalgic gamers, “if you’re okay with the moral am­bi­gu­ity.” – Kyle En­gen, In­ter­ac­tive Mu­seum of Gam­ing and Puz­zlery. – Washington Post

Board games are a great way to bond with your friends.

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