The magical nature of board games

Photo by Nik Korba

Ever since my childhood, I have loved playing board games. If memory serves me correctly, the first game I learned to play was something called Ludo. It involved throwing the dice and then moving my token per the number on the dice.

If I landed on a square which was already occupied by my opponent, I would gleefully return that token to its appropriate starting point.

The object of the game was to race around the board and be the first player to get all four tokens into home plate. Of course, the other objective of the game was to knock the opponent’s tokens back to the starting square as often as possible.

Those first Ludo boards I played on only had four designated bases, but as I grew older and more competitive, I remember playing on a board that had eight bases. More bases meant that more people could play, and with more players, the game became even more competitive and exciting.

During my teens, I ended up in the hospital and to keep me entertained, one of my friends bought me a game called Sorry. This game is similar to Ludo but uses cards instead of dice. The cards instruct the players on how many places to move their pawn forward in a clockwise direction. However, some cards instructed the player to move backwards instead of forward. Moving backwards was especially fun when one landed on a square already occupied by one’s opponent. Then, one had to say “Sorry” with as much meaning as possible, before returning that pawn to its starting position.

There were many other games to play, such as Monopoly and Stock Ticker, but I could never hang onto my money long enough to enjoy the game. Especially in Monopoly. I don’t know how it happened but almost every time I played, everyone else seemed to have a hotel on every square I landed on. I don’t remember going passed go, nor collecting $300.00 but I know I landed in jail a few times. I was not good at handling my money and in no time I was bankrupt.  Can’t say that I enjoyed the obvious pleasure it gave my opponents as they gleefully rubbed their hands together when I handed over my last remaining dollar.

I had a wonderful neighbour who used to come over and beat me at Rummy tile. Vicki would not be rushed, instead, she would take her time and always managed to rearrange the tiles so they would form a threesome. Guess I just do not have the patience that it takes to maneuver the tiles around, either on the table or in my head. The same goes for chess.

I am not a strategist so once I have made my move, I am not able to see the perils that eventually put my King and Queen in jeopardy. 

Chinese Checkers was one game that I was sort of good at. Not great, just sort of good. My mother, on the other hand, was the champ at our house.  She had a real knack for blocking my marbles and restricting my movements. We would play best two out of three. Then, the best three out of five.

But no matter what the odds were, I never seemed to come out on top. My father, on the other hand, could not beat her and seldom played the game. Instead, he would watch and enjoy the rest of us getting whipped by the champ. 

Backgammon is also a game I enjoy. I still have all the components for that game, but unfortunately, I no longer remember how to set up the board. I am hoping that someone in my building will share my love for this game and spend a few hours playing it with me.

At one time, I played backgammon on the computer, but I always seemed to get a partner with a killer instinct, so my games were doomed right from the beginning.

Rummoli was the game I enjoyed most of all. My husband and I spent many fun-filled Saturday nights playing this game. Once our friend’s kids were put to bed, it was time for the adults to get down to business.

We settled in for some serious gambling with our plastic chips. With one penny I could buy five little green chips, so with my grand investment of a nickel, I was ready to make a killing. It was serious business this high-stakes gambling, and the cheese and crackers helped keep up our stamina while the beer kept us focused.  Around midnight, we stopped for some high-calorie refreshments which included smoked oysters, slices of garlic sausages, pickles, potato chips, hot sausage rolls, apple pie and ice cream. Then fortified by food and strong hot coffee, we were battle ready to continue until the wee small hours of the morning. Sometime before sunrise, we would finally call it a night, thank our friends for an enjoyable evening and head home.

The games were entertaining, but the best part of the evening was the friendship, laughter and comradery we shared.

Nowadays, I find playing solitaire on the computer fills my competitive nature. The fact is, there is very little competition or skill involved in solitaire or mahjong. At least it helps pass the time, but it can never replace the hours spent in the company of others.

We are social beings after all, and sharing time and connecting with other people, keeps us happy and healthy, and it’s what makes our world go round.