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Board Games

by Eric Ginsburg

Settlers of Catan

Ever since a friend introduced me to Settlers of Catan five years ago, it’s been my favorite. My friends and I play online together and have joked about getting matching Catan tattoos. It is what Risk players have long desired after playing late into the night: a much quicker version of a game involving strategy, skill and luck. Catan is quickly growing in popularity and can only be played with three to four people unless you buy an expansion pack. The rules are somewhat complicated, but a friend’s mother still beat us her first time out. I even taught my parents and grandmother to play over Thanksgiving this year.

 

 

Scrabble

Hands down the most enjoyable “intellectual” board game, Scrabble has become my favorite game to bring to a coffee shop with some friends. My first year in college, my roommate and I broke the ice in our dorm by knocking on people’s doors and asking if they wanted to play. Everyone already knows the rules, and if they don’t, they’re much easier to explain than with other board games. I like to pretend I’m getting smarter by playing, though often Scrabble ends with a staggering defeat that makes me question how much I learned in college.

 

 

Yahtzee

Yahtzee is one of those games I will play over and over again due to the fast pace and frequent close matches. When playing with one other person, I’m apt to suggest a rematch. Often it turns into a best-offive rounds and sometimes just keeps going. It takes a little while to learn how to balance different sets and I often second-guess my decisions, but this one can be filed under “fun for the whole family.”

 

 

Trouble

As far as I am concerned, Sorry and Trouble are almost exactly the same. Trouble wins out over Sorry

 

because of the irresistible bubble you push and pop in the middle instead of using the cards in Sorry. I tire of this game quicker than others these days, but kids can stay entertained with the popping bubble for hours (even if that’s all they’re doing). I can still hear the catchy theme from advertisements, “It’s fun getting into Trouble!” playing in my head.

 

Blokus

When I was in high school, my mom bought a number of new board games, most of which were total duds (anyone ever played Rush Hour?). The best was Blokus (pronounced block-us), which is sold in a regular two- to four-player set or a travel kit for two. The travel kit has saved me misery on long plane rides and awkward social settings, and has helped me avoid homework. Some people try to cooperate while playing, which is an interesting alternative to the cutthroat approach I sometimes opt for.

 

 

Taboo

Arguably a card — rather than board — game, Taboo is the best on this list for small party settings. Taboo is the only game on the list where players are in teams. It allows for boisterous yelling and, unlike some games, is easier to play with alcohol. Taboo offers good-natured competition because the game doesn’t end in bitter defeat and frustration for the losers. The knockoff electronic game Catchphrase is fun too, but can’t upstage the original. The only downside is if you play too often, especially with the same people, it begins to grow old as you memorize the words.

 

 

Candy Land

A definite childhood throwback, I wonder if Hasbro has increased their sales since Katie Perry released her Candy Land-themed music video for “California Girls.” I grew out of most childhood board games (Clue, Life and Monopoly) but still enjoy Candy Land. Almost nobody I know owns this game anymore, so when I see it I’m more apt to choose it. Candy Land sails past the competition artistically too, which adds to the lighthearted feel of this more traditional game.

 

Battleship

My parents were one of those couples who didn’t allow their kids to play with violent toys, be they ninja turtle action figures or Super Soakers. Battleship was one of the exceptions in our household, and I reveled in it. The simple yet captivating twoplayer game is hardly violent, though some peaceniks might object nonetheless. When I finish work for the day I’m looking for mindless entertainment, and Battleship is a better option than Facebook-stalking and most television shows. We’re still in the heart of winter, so if you don’t own a copy it might be worth a trek to the store to keep busy.

 

 

Bananagrams

Some refer to Bananagrams as a newer version of Scrabble. While there are similarities that place them in the same category — along with Boggle — Bananagrams is markedly different in that you rearrange pieces as you go. Someone borrowed my copy without asking before I ever used it (and has yet to return it), so my experience is limited. It is undoubtedly the game on this list I am most interested in playing more of, enough so that it surpasses old greats like Guess Who and Operation into the Top 10.

 

 

Mastermind

It’s time to dig this one out of your parents’ storage closet. Mastermind is a nearly forgotten classic that appealed to my grandfather and me at the same time, which is an admirable feat. I may find it more enjoyable now than when I was a kid, but its possible to still have a good time playing with your 10-year-old niece. While some luck is involved, this game is skill-driven without rising to the level of chess.

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