Board Games

Among my many interests, the one I have been neglecting the most in recent years is collecting, learning, and playing board games. But this has changed now!

I’m into my hobbies with a vengeance. As someone put it: I’m like a dog with a bone, I can’t let go. Yes, it applies here, too.

The modern history of board games is very interesting. What I call the modern history starts with the game of the year in Germany, or “Spiel des Jahres.” A history, alas in German, is here.

What’s important to me is that some clever and cool people got together and supported the idea of an annual selection and prize for the best game. This would spread the word that there are new games every year and some of them pretty damn good enough to earn the official game of the year stamp.

Somehow the word even spread to the U.S. and of course other countries, and now I’m able to play with people even though I’m far from home.

There were games before that, of course. Who doesn’t know chess and checkers and monopoly? But these games are different. I could rave about them all day long, but the best would be to try them yourself.

If you happen to live close to us, you’re lucky to have access to hundreds of these games on my shelves. But every town seems to have gamers that welcome new players. Check on boardgamegeek, it’s the online equivalent of ravelry for knitters. You’ll find us at the user name “gbergs,” and you can check out our game collection and some other stuff about us.

The first game to earn a prize from the “Spiel des Jahres” folks was “Hase und Igel,” a.k.a. “Hare & Tortoise.” That was in 1979, and they haven’t missed awarding the prize since. Not only that, they now have 3 award categories: game of the year, children’s game of the year, and gamer’s game of the year.

I would still recommend Hase und Igel to everyone, even after all those years. It’s a very simple game that keeps our interest. You know about Chutes and Ladders, right? I always wonder why anyone even bothered to waste resources on making that game, and yet people continue to buy it. Roll the dice, move along a track, and sometimes something happens because of a space you land on. No decisions to make, very brainless.

Hare & Tortoise has a track too. But you don’t roll a die or dice to move along. Instead, you’re propelled by carrots, which you receive at the beginning of the game. Of course you don’t get enough carrots to make it to the finish line, so along the way you have to replenish your supply by moving backwards on the track. Be careful though, because you have to have less than 10 carrots to pass the finish line. You might want to land on some of the fields that let you look at cards and do what they tell you. And you have to get rid of the 3 lettuce cards you start the game with, by landing on a limited number of lettuce fields and missing a turn. Perhaps that will give you an idea of how much more interesting than Chutes & Ladders this game is.

Hase und Igel is a game for 2 to 6 players, ages 10 to 99, though I can imagine a spry 100-year-old would still enjoy it.

So what’s the price for these games? That depends, they start in the $10s and go all the way to $100 and possibly more, especially if they’re out of print. But I imagine you’re not that hooked yet. You can get a good collection together with games that only set you back $20 to $50 apiece.

Think about it. You go to the movies, how much does that cost you? For a family of 2 to 4? And once you’ve seen a particular film, you most likely had enough of it, a one-time affair. With a game, you’ll be playing it over and over and over and over. Let’s say it costs you $40 and you play it 10 times, that would be $4 per game, not even per player. It doesn’t get much cheaper.

And compared to the price of yarn, don’t get me started.

If you’re in search of a hobby, this is a good choice. A byproduct of gaming, and one I’m counting on, is the mental factor. That’s my brain keeping engaged in a game and therefore hopefully slowing down its demise. As we get older, this aspect is becoming more important to us.

I’ll bet you would like to see some of my game collection. Here ya go.

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