“The Junk Drawer”: Board games end the boredom


Whether it’s family game night or just a little exhibition among friends, board games provide an extra spark to the competitive fire in all of us. If one were to expand the field of board games into card games, such as Skip-Bo and Uno, then there is a wide variety of activities any number of people can partake in, providing an hour or so of entertainment when they have nothing better to do.

I’m not just talking about the classy game of chess or the oversized checkers board your grandparents got you from their weekly trip to Cracker Barrel for your 11th birthday. I’m talking about the knock down, drag out games of champions, such as Sorry!, Trouble and Uno. Games that require the ability to keep track of paper money, utilize small plastic triangles meant to represent armies, or just need a roll of the dice and some love from Lady Luck separate the men from the boys.

Board games have been around for centuries. Epigrapher Peter Piccione mentioned in a 1980 article for the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago a game he found in tombs dating back to Predynastic Egypt, about 3,500 B.C.

The game, called Senet, consisted of 30 squares and a few pawns. The exact rules are debated. Several other games were discovered in ancient lands as time went on. Games such as the Royal Game of Ur and Mancala, a game still played today, show through history humans have wanted to combine game and board.

“The Junk Drawer” is a weekly column written by Journal Opinions Editor Tim Doty.

Fast forward to approximately 1930, and the granddaddy of all board games, Monopoly, is released by the Parker Brothers. The game of dice, property trading and fighting over who gets to be the racecar versus who is stuck being the thimble (Really? A thimble?) has for more than 70 years had people playing for hours on end to be the first to … own all the property? Sure let’s go with that. Just don’t ever volunteer to be the banker if you want to keep your friends.

If you don’t want to just own the fictional world of Monopoly, attempt to own the real world with the 1957 classic Risk. There is no such thing as a quick game of Risk. Up to six players can compete to control the world using dice and cards just like real armies. See who’s first to take control of Kamchatka for the sole reason that it is fun to say “Kamchatka.” Variations can include secret missions, alliances and speaking in the accent of the territory you control when announcing attacks. Go ahead and risk your Friday nights and friendships with this game; it’ll be wonderful.

Card games bring another element. The relative of board games that don’t necessarily require a board but do need someone who can actually shuffle the cards can provide hours of fun and fights. Nothing ruins a game of Uno like drawing eight cards to play a measly one. I have personally partaken in an Uno game that, I kid you not, took an hour. A freaking Uno game with only three people. It’s hard to find something more satisfying than throwing down a +4 Wild card right as your opponent is about to win.

While not everyone may excel at Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary or have the detective skills to solve the gut-wrenching mystery of Clue, every player has a chance when it comes to the revenge games. My personal favorites are Sorry! and Trouble. Strategies abound in these games which, yes, both use the same colors and a basic concept of sending other players back to start. I have played both numerous, numerous times. My love for these games was reignited over the latest Christmas break while I was visiting friends down in Springfield, Mo. One of my friends busted out his old Trouble game, and from then on we must have played that game for 12 hours total that weekend.

By the way, I got fourth place out of four people each time I played except once when I got third. There was only three people that particular game.

As the weeks went on, I practiced with my friends. I got better. When there was nothing going on during the weekends, we would play board games.

We eventually rediscovered Sorry!, “the game of sweet revenge.” This game lives up to its moniker. More often than not, someone will draw a Sorry! card and send one of your pieces back to start while sending you into a fit of rage. I have dropped kicked the board before, my friends have thrown pieces and we have cussed more than sailors. Sorry! uses cards rather than dice, so the strategies rely more on what you think is left in the deck versus random luck of a die roll like in Trouble.

If you’re up for some fun and ferocity, nothing quite suits the situation like a board game. Sit back, relax with some friends, and let the good times, and dice, roll.

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