Whether they were the original remedy for rainy day boredom, the stuff of post-Christmas dinner family bonding time or something to pester your parents about during TV advert breaks, board games occupy a fond, nostalgic place in many of our hearts. And yes, we have Fortnite and Red Dead Redemption II to fill some of those places now.
But board games have been making a massive comeback recently as people look for fun pastimes that bring them together in one place and don’t involve screens. Plus, they’re great for building problem-solving and analytical skills (did you know that the CIA used to use them to train agents?) and a fantastic way to infuriate your friends and family. Here are some old school classics that are worth digging out and taking for a spin.
Fun fact: Monopoly was originally created in the very early 20th century to show the consequences of property rental for the poor. A few decades and an acquisition by the Parker Brothers later and it had been flipped on its head to become the celebration of making your family miserable through punishing rents that it’s known as today. It remains a family classic, and if you have kids around who might need a little encouragement to get playing you could do worse than bringing out one of the many weird and wonderful licensed versions of the game, like the recent Mario Kart edition.
OK, technically there’s no board involved, but it comes in a box and you always found it in the same part of the store as Trivial Pursuit. Jenga is, literally, a game of layers. On the surface, it’s about dexterity and keeping a steady hand (and if you’re lacking on those fronts you’re certainly in trouble). Once you’re warmed up, though, there’s a surprising level of strategy in selecting the right block to remove and, ideally, forcing your opponent to make a fiendishly tricky move.
It’s far too easy to make some of Scrabble’s many virtues sound like the stuff of school syllabuses, but it encourages a laundry list of skills: vocabulary, spelling, imaginative word associations, even numeracy, and arithmetic for score-keeping. None of those is the real reason people play Scrabble, though – it’s that magic feeling that comes when luck and skill line up and you manage to lay down the word ‘gherkins’ for 180 points.
Connect 4 is the classic example of a game that’s easy to learn but difficult to master. When you start out you’re just looking out for where to place that next counter until… BANG! Out of nowhere, your opponent creates a line seemingly out of thin air. A few games later, though, you’re planning eight moves ahead and looking at your red and yellow counters like Neo looks at the matrix. It gets bonus points for being quick and very playable on the go if you have the travel version.
Risk is the original ‘kiss goodbye to your afternoon’ board game. A game of armies, empires and grand strategy, it has a seemingly simple rule set that allows younger players to easily get to grips with it while offering a lot of depth for those looking for something more advanced. There are different flavors of Risk now ranging from Game of Thrones to Star Wars, and for hardcore players, there’s even a Legacy version that plays out over multiple gaming sessions!