E is for entertainment for the whole family

In the 1980s, I ROCKED at Trivial Pursuit

UnoIn November 2018, Slate came up with The 40 Greatest Family Games, entertainment for the whole family. There are five things games should be: the right length, fair, action-packed, helping you learn something, and encouraging spontaneity. “Not every good game follows all these commandments, but the best ones balance them well.”

I will only note the ones I have actually played.

Sorry! – wrote about its greatness here eight and a half years ago
Concentration – I’ve always been notoriously bad at this. By the time my daughter was eight, she could beat me. I used to watch a TV version with Hugh Downs as the host.
Uno – I am a harsh competitor. Even when she was much younger, if the Daughter didn’t say “Uno” when she played her penultimate card, I made her take two more. I also insisted she keep her cards above the table. Slate calls it Bloodthirsty, Thrilling, and Desperate
Air Hockey – when we’re at the timeshare, the daughter, nieces and I often play. Something visceral about it.

Apples to Apples – “asks players to decide which of a set of proposed nouns best fits that round’s designated adjective.” It’s often hilarious.
Boggle – My wife is MUCH better finding words than I.
Cribbage – I actually have a cribbage board and deck of cards both in my office and at home
Pictionary – I’m lousy at it because I cannot draw worth beans
Chess – I learned how the pieces move, but that is about it

Scrabble – I played this with my great aunt over 55 years ago. My college roommate painted me a Scrabble board. I’ve reviewed a book about Scrabble. I haven’t played in a while. No, I’ve seldom played Words with Friends online.
Scattergories, Stratego – I’ve played them but never owned them
Trivial Pursuit – in the 1980s, I ROCKED at Trivial Pursuit. Now, any 21st century pop culture question would ground me
Yahtzee – a dice game that I like because it requires decision-making and odds calculating

Slate also notes the 10 Worst Family Games

Candy Land – pretty lame, I thought, even as a child
Clue – I never “got” Clue
Hangman – boring
Life – I actually liked it as a kid, but quit by my teen years

Monopoly – I’ve played it enough that, at one time, I could have told you the price and rent of every property on the board. I suppose they’re right, though – “the most famous branded board game of all time can be made enjoyable — with the help of some aggressive house rules”
Operation – hated it from the start
Risk – never warmed to it
Tic-tac-toe – statistically boring

For ABC Wednesday

Co-opoly and other games people play

When we got to the dates category, I realized that not everyone knows them as well as I.

At the conference I attended in Syracuse at the end of April, we were encouraged to bring board games to play on that Tuesday evening. This was a new thing, and no one was sure if there would be any interest.

I brought backgammon, which I described here, and the word game Taboo, plus a couple decks of cards.

My group ended up playing three games. In Co-opoly. “players start a cooperative (a democratic business or organization). In order to survive as individuals and to strive for the success of their co-op, players make tough choices regarding big and small challenges while putting their teamwork to the test.”

It has elements of charades, Taboo, Monopoly, Life, and other games. Do we buy health insurance or risk going without? How about property insurance? The ending round is the most exciting. It did remind me once again that I CANNOT DRAW to save my life.

I had played Apples to Apples before, but never before was it such uproarious fun. “The object of the game is to win the most rounds by playing a ‘red apple’ card (which generally features a noun) from one’s hand to best ‘match’ that round’s communal ‘green apple’ card (which contains an adjective) as chosen by that round’s judging player.”

At one point there were nine of us, which was a great number for maximum fun. Here are some examples of how it plays out.

Balderdash was last. “One player reads out a question to the others. They each write down a made up, but believable answer and hand it to the person who read the question. This person then reads out the REAL answer and all the made up answers, in random order. The others must guess which is actually correct. You score moves on the board for each player who is conned into believing that your made up answer is the real one, as well as for choosing the real and often unbelievable answer.”

The person who has the REAL answer has to write that down too, and late at night, that sometimes didn’t happen. When we got to the dates category, I realized that not everyone knows them as well as I. For instance, someone read a date in 1946; one bluff was VJ Day, and a couple people were fooled. I had written down the Suez Canal crisis for a date in 1956, which I gather was too vague a reference. When I drew a card, it was for January 19, 1946, which I KNEW was Dolly Parton’s birthday.

Elsewhere, people were playing Cards Against Humanity, which, until it was floated on our listserv the week before, I was not familiar with and still have not played. On the other hand, no poker was played, in a break with tradition.

B is for the game Boggle (ABC W)

While this is a 4X4 Boggle cube, there are 5X5 cubes as well.

Boggle, the Wikipedia says, is a “word game… using a plastic grid of lettered dice, in which players attempt to find words in sequences of adjacent letters.

“The game begins by shaking a covered tray of 16 cubic dice, each with a different letter printed on each of its six sides. The dice settle into a 4×4 tray so that only the top letter of each cube is visible.

“After they have settled into the grid, a three-minute sand timer is started and all players…” search “for words that can be constructed from the letters of sequentially adjacent cubes… -horizontally, vertically, and diagonally neighboring. Continue reading “B is for the game Boggle (ABC W)”

Y is for Yahtzee

The strategy comes when one gets a roll that could be used in more than one box.

There’s a game that involves five dice and a score sheet called Yahtzee, which I’m teaching to my daughter. I like it because, while it involves an element of luck, it also requires some strategy.

“In the upper section, each box is scored by summing the total number of dice faces matching that box. For example, if a player were to roll three ‘twos,’ the score would be recorded as 6 in the twos box. If a player scores a total of at least 63 points, [which corresponds to three-of-a-kind for each of the six rows], a bonus of 35 points is added to the upper section score.
Continue reading “Y is for Yahtzee”

B is for Backgammon

Backgammon is a simple game, at least in concept, where one rolls a pair of dice to move the checker pieces around the board.

When I was a kid, there was this weird board on the backside of my checkerboard; I had NO idea what it was there for. As it turned out, it was almost perfect for a game called backgammon. I never learned it, though, until I was in the latter stages of college in the mid-1970s. I went to a bar in New Paltz, NY, appropriately named Bacchus, and saw a bunch of people playing this game. I eventually befriended one of the players, a townie named Anne, and ended up playing a lot of the game.

I discovered that backgammon Continue reading “B is for Backgammon”