Remember Playing Board Games?

Remember playing board games?

I do.

When I was a child we did not have HBO or video games or a computer, so if I wanted to have fun I had to either set something on fire or play a board game.

Candy Land was where I matched my wits against other members of my family.  The object was to advance your piece along the path until you reached the gum drop castle or you got up and quit in a huff because it looked like your little brother was going to get there first.  There was a stack of cards, each with the picture of another sweet food like a candy cane, peanut brittle, or an ice cream bar, and whichever card you pulled, that was the space on the board you advanced to.  The ice cream bar space was the closest to the end, so one time I fixed the cards so that I would pick the card with the ice cream bar.  My plan was foolproof.  But it was not momproof.  My mother made me go first and I ended up pulling the card for soy chips, automatically losing the game.

When I got a little older my father taught me how to play chess.  I had thought he said “chest” and that the felt on the bottom of the pieces would be used to stick the pieces to our chests.  I was disappointed when the pieces stayed on the board, but my disappointment turned to glee when I beat my father my very first time playing.  I bragged about it for the next twenty years until my father told me in an email that he let me win.

In the late 1980s my family succumbed to a massive TV ad campaign for Mouse Trap.  The point of Mouse Trap was to go around a board collecting pieces of cheese and assembling plastic pieces into a complex mechanism where at the end someone would turn a crank and set the little plastic pieces in motion that culminated in a plastic cage that looked like a small overturned laundry basket falling down on the little mouse-pieces, “trapping” them.  The game would have been great if the mechanism worked.  But it only worked on the commercial.  In real life you had prod each component of the game until it did what it was supposed to do.  Only a mouse that was already dead or had given up on life would have gotten caught in Mouse Trap.

There was Monopoly, where my strategy was to collect the cheap properties and jack up the rents like a slum lord.  And Trivial Pursuit, where I always answered the questions in the form of a question, like Jeopardy, until someone flicked a small plastic wedge at my eye.  And the Game of Life, which required so little strategy that it must have been designed by a Calvinist.

Scrabble was a game changer.  I would comb the dictionary for obscure words that were short and contained the letter “e” to use on my opponents.  The word “en” was my favorite, even though it was a prefix.  Nobody called me out on it, and I was reigning champion until someone told the authorities that I was forming words diagonally.

The board games for adults are very different.  There is a lot more dependence on TV trivia or awkward topics or devices that make noise.  One time I was at a party where I was forced into playing a game that had a digital timer that started beeping loudly if you took too much time to think of movies starring Kevin Bacon.  The noise was so irritating that when everyone else got up to look at a YouTube video of a stranger falling down the stairs, I tossed the device out the fifth-story window into the alley below.  I played dumb when they asked what happened to it, but I don’t think they believed me.

I was visiting my ancestral home last weekend, and during the time of the visit where my mother sends me to the basement to throw out more of my “junk” I came across Candy Land.  I wanted to take out the board, fix the order of the cards, and challenge my brother to a rematch.  But I knew it would not be the same as I remembered.  I was too mature to play games.  So I put the box down, covered it with old issues of Highlights, and told my mother that I’d thrown it out.

29 thoughts on “Remember Playing Board Games?

  1. Hah! Our favorites were Clue, Mall Madness, and Scategories, which my brother cheated at horribly. An N-word for a type of spice? Nine peppers. He was he oldest so we let it slide*.

    And I mostly liked the Highlights cameo.

    *cried until he threatened not to play anymore, which shut us up.

  2. One of my favorites was The Bride Game—a mid-to-late 70s board game designed to further the idea that the most important thing in a girl’s life is her wedding day. The object was to move around the board collecting cards of all the things you need for a wedding—a ring; the bouquet; a wedding cake; the bridal party, something old/new/borrowed/blue, and—of course—the bride and groom (my sister and I always fought over our favorites, like the hippie bride and the blue lacy nightie). Once you collected everything for the perfect wedding, you could take the wedding march. First girl to make it to the ceremony, won.

    I bought this game recently on ebay (ironically it led to one of the worst fights in my marriage because my husband was pissed that I spent $35 on it). I figured it wouldn’t be the same but I always regretted getting rid of it. My sister, a friend and I grabbed a couple bottles of wine and played not too long ago. It was a fun memory trip, but as you said, not the same. I still liked all those groovy 70s images, but I was bored with the lack of strategy. Sorta like Candy Land, I imagine.

    1. They should re-release the game where in addition to the ring and something–borrowed, you get save-the-date refrigerator magnets, custom ceremony programs that allow you blend up to four religions, and a videographer who will produce an ad hoc music video of the bride and groom and all their guests dancing to “Jump Around” by House of Pain. And they should sell it for $35,000.

  3. I don’t have a TV in my apartment (by choice), so I definitely remember board games. When people come over and we have run out of things to talk about, I’ll point to the bottom of the bookshelf and ask, “Which game would you like to play?” Boy do I get some strange looks from people like the games are the plague or something. But really, are we so dependent on TV and we can’t manage to play a board game and carry on an intellectual conversation?

  4. My adult kids still love to play board games, and do so with their friends. When I was a kid, we were jealous of the other kids who had Mouse Trap. My parents wouldn’t buy it. It just looked like so much fun. They also never bought Life. We thought that looked so cool, too , with the little cars. But the best game we ever had was “Green Ghost”. It glowed in the dark. We went into a dark closet and scared ourselves silly. We had a blast!

  5. The Mouse Trap paragraph is brilliant. Useless game. The rest of the breakdowns are so funny, and that line about Life being designed by Calvinists is a keeper. In addition to the ones you mentioned here I always liked Clue too.

        1. I do remember that game. I used to press the Pop-A-Matic dice even when it wasn’t my turn because I liked the noise. And I was often told that I was “in trouble with a capital T,” but I don’t think that was the game you’re referring to.

  6. This is a timely post for me. On Friday, my department was responsible for hosting the monthly “fun event” at work. We came up with an “indoor recess” theme, including goldfish crackers, Oreos and Capri Sun, with the addition of some beer and wine to make it a bit more grown up. The huge hit, though, were the board games. I was embroiled in a particularly bitter game of Sorry and there were some pretty intense faces surrounding the Operation game too. Turns out, when adults are given a chance to play children’s board games, we tend to regress a little.

    1. Pound a few beers and play Operation – sounds like a recipe for fun if I ever heard one. I’m not sure what would’ve been more difficult, not setting off the buzzer in Operation, or getting the straw in the Capri Sun and not through the other side.

  7. I LOVE BOARDGAMES! I asked for boardgames in general for my 22nd birthday, and did not receive one, so my gift to myself that year was Clue. It’s a fancy schmancy edition where they are all famous or something, but it’s still Clue! My brother and I have even gotten together recently with family friends to play Clue a few times.
    I remember once that my brother and I played the same game of Monopoly for like a week. I have no idea why it took us so long. Maybe there were actually several games. We played that again a couple weeks ago – our board is so old and so is everything else in it, we were very careful not to ruin any cards or anything! But it was fun (and I won). Dunno where the houses and hotels got to though.
    In conclusion, you should have whipped out that Candyland and demanded a game!

    1. I’m sure I would have gotten some takers, too. Stores still sell Clue? It was Professor Plum in the Study with the iPhone. Or I guess an iPad would be heavier. Of course, the location tracking file would remove all the detective work from the game. And I definitely remember days-long Monopoly games.

      1. Yes, stores still sell Clue. At least in Canada, they do. They are still trying to push the family game night on us. Well, professor Plum is not a professor, he is a former geek turned internet millionaire or something. They did however get rid of the lead pipe and add a trophy and some other weapons changed. Like poison! That’s true, tracking it would take out the detective work which is no fun! Imagine Clue of the future? Plum with the hoverboard in the space lounge?

  8. Candyland is a favorite because you can get the little ones to play at an early age and it is good early mind training and eye/motor coordination and counting activity. With my granddaughter, I would pretend to act victorious and dance about if I won and would act dejected and defeated if I lost to bring a little animated spirit to the contest. Then one day she admonished me: “Grandapa, it does not matter who wins or loses because we are having fun.” I almost lost it.WHAT IN THE SAM HILL ARE THESE SCHOOLS TEACHING OUR CHILDREN TODAY WITH THIS SOCIALIST , ONE WORLD UTOPIA OF JOY AND HARMONY?
    I DO NOT WANT MY GRANDCHILDREN TO BE EXPOSED TO SUCH “” I LOVE EVERYONE NONSENSE. It is the Christian American way to destroy and mercilessly crush your opponent leaving them a shuddering mass of humiliation no matter what age they may be. I will certainly make this an issue now that I have determined to run for president in 2012.

  9. Very funny.

    I’ve never played Candyland or chess. Must be because they’re both too easy.

    I grew up playing Payday and Clue and Have Gun Will Travel (an antique game that was 30 years old by the time my salt-and-vinegar coated hands got a hold of it.

    And, because I’m an afterthought in my family with a large gap between my older siblings, I played a lot of games by myself. Like Simon, Perfection, and memorizing Trivial Pursuit cards.

    1. Clue was a family favorite, and Trivial Pursuit was probably one of the few games where just reading the cards is more fun than the actual game. I remember a few times where people were having so much trouble answering the questions correctly that their adversaries gave them hints just to end the game before dawn.

  10. We played a lot of board games when I was a kid, after I got married and we had kids, and now with our grandkids. We love them all. So many to choose from, but my very favorite has always been Stratego. Unfortunately, my spy almost always got caught first, and I ultimately found all the bombs. Just a lot of fun!

    1. I played Stratego once, with a friend of mine, but I don’t remember how it went. There are so many games that I played once or twice at someone else’s house, but now I can’t recall what the object of the game or its rules. When I was a kid I played cards with my grandparents, and this game called pokeno, which was kind of like bingo but with cards instead of numbers.

  11. My child (age 11) always wins at Monopoly. It’s because he is a slum lord. He buys all the seriously bad properties, you know, the one’s you land one every time but think, well, this will never make me money… but he buys them and immediately starts putting up houses. And then hotels. And soon my husband and I are pooling our pitiful white $1 bills together and considering stealing from the bank. Except our son is usually the banker. And he would totally catch us.

    And trust me, he is NOT stealing. The kid has ethics up the wazoo. He is just a Board Game specialist. He always wins. The one game he can’t win – Blokus – he won’t play. And, like you, he says Mousetrap wouldn’t catch a real mouse, so it isn’t worth his time.

    Clay was right. I love your blog so much. I wish it were mine. 😉

    Come and visit me at “Lessons From Teachers and Twits” sometime.

    1. Champions play the games they know they can win. That’s part of what makes them champions.

      I’m really glad you seem to be digging Schlabadoo, and I hope to have more posts soon. But I’m going to check out “Lessons from Teachers and Twits” first and see if there’s anything I can add to the discussion there. Thanks for your comment!

  12. My new favorite board game is Spontuneous. I can expose the kids to real music instead of that whoopin’ and hollerin’ they call music now. They don’t believe me when I sing portions of “Rump Shaker,” and I have to blow the dust off the cassingle and play it for them. In turn, they have demonstrated a shocking ability, at the ages of 7 and 9, to remember every word from every song on Glee, American Idol, and everything on the radio.

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