Board Games: A Love Story, Past and Present

I’ve LOVED board games ever since I was a kid. It started with playing War  and other card games with my friends and eventually evolved into poker with my Dad, and a long running contentious game of Michigan Rummy. We had two teams for Michigan Rummy: team Animal Kingdom (my bestie Nora and I) and team Squirrel (my dad). The teams were named after the receptacles we placed our pennies for betting in. Michigan Rummy is a card based game, with a rollout mat and semi-elaborate betting system. It’s a lot of fun and brought all of us a tremendous amount of joy. These games played during summer evenings when we didn’t have bonfires are some of my favorite memories growing up. This love of gamesmanship followed me to board games.

Here is the old school mat for Michigan Rummy, we had to replace the original tray that Michigan Rummy normally has.

Here is the old school mat for Michigan Rummy, we had to replace the original tray that Michigan Rummy normally has.

When I was a kid I thought there were just the standard board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, and Electronic Dream phone. At this point I should tell you that I am very competitive. I’ve been able to reign in my competitive spirit a lot over the years, but when I was in high school I was pretty intense (Imagine Abbi from Broad City at the Soul Fitness competitor days). I’ve definitely mellowed out and channel my competitiveness into healthy things and no longer get mad at my friends over board games. In college I no longer had a built in board gaming group, which meant I wasn’t able to play very often and that was a total bummer. Not only are college students broke so it’s hard to justify buying a board game, but there are usually other activities like drinking and drinking games that college kids would prefer.

This game was bonkers, unfortunately none of my soulmates from this game panned out.

This game was bonkers, unfortunately none of my soulmates from this game panned out.

When I graduated from college I moved across the country. I realized I didn’t really have any friends besides my family (who are amazing), but they also have their own busy lives. No one really tells you how hard it is to make friends as an adult when you don’t have something as unifying as school. Luckily I convinced my other best friend to move with me so at least we had each other. Then I met two people who changed everything.

I met Rachel and Derek at a wedding and they were so cool, friendly, fun, and took pity on me because the only person I really knew at the wedding was my ex-boyfriend, who was also in the wedding party. My ex introduced me to Rachel and Derek (who he went to high school with). As luck would have it Derek and Rachel both love board games and happen to host a weekly board game night at their house.  They invited me to join and I gleefully accepted. Rachel is an amazing cook/baker. She runs the blog By the Pounds which is a fantastic food blog featuring cocktail recipes, desserts, and other assortments of delicious foods. Every week Rachel makes a dessert for everyone who comes to board game night. We stuff our faces with delicious treats and marvel at Rachel’s infinite talent. Rachel also tries out desserts she is inventing so we can taste test them for the blog (she invents some seriously delicious stuff).  Go check out her blog right now, just do it, I’ll wait.

Photos courtesy of www.rachelpounds.com

Photos courtesy of www.rachelpounds.com

So I started going to game night most Thursdays. As you might expect people who are awesome like Rachel and Derek attract other awesome people. Over the past few years I’ve met a ton of their amazing friends whom I am now lucky enough to call my friends. Now I have friends! Yay!

Through Rachel and Derek’s generosity I have been introduced to a whole new world of board games. There are sooooooooooooo many more board games out there than just Monopoly (and better too!). Those Thursday nights have allowed me to try more board games than I ever thought existed and find some new favorites.  Board games are fun because they allow you to strategize, build, connect, and scheme with very low stakes. It’s basically practice for world domination. It’s also a great way to socialize and have fun with friends. On some weeks Board game night is the only thing that I have to look forward to. I know that the people who will be there are friendly, the games are fun, and the food is always delicious. It also astounds me that Rachel and Derek are able to do this every week. Serious props to those two.

Dominion in action.

Dominion in action.

I’m going to start reviewing new games that we play at board game night. I want to give people who aren’t as lucky as am I to have friends who host a board game night a chance to explore games they might want to buy.

Here are some of my favorite games to get you started:

Dominion- Every time you play Dominion it is a different game, which means you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s also the first deck building game I’ve played that I’ve truly loved, its fun to try and think out a strategy and watch your strategy fall apart when things don’t work out as you planned. Plus there are like 10 or so expansions for Dominion so the game will keep feeling fresh long after you’ve bought it.

Seven Wonders- Aaaaaah, Seven Wonders, I can’t quite pin down what I love so much about this game. I truly think that as with Dominion I like strategy games that I can play out that don’t necessarily go my way, because I feel like strategically thinking is an opportunity for me. It’s always good to try things you aren’t great at so you can be better. At its core, it is a fun game about building different wonders and screwing over the people next to you. Win-win.

Concepts- Concepts is the charades of board games. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but trust me it is. There is no discernible scoring system, but that is freeing in a way because it is just you and your friends using rudimentary symbols to get each other to guess the concept you are trying to get across. It is simultaneously frustrating and hilarious. It also reveals a lot about how people think and how they draw connections between things and drawing on shared experiences and knowledge.

Bring Your Own Book- This game is a pure delight. Everyone brings their own book and there are prompt cards like Apples to Apples or Cards against Humanity and you have to find a good answer in your book. It’s absolutely hysterical and really funny to see what books and passages people choose.

The Sheriff of Notthingham- you get to lie and sneak products across enemy lines and you also get a shot at being the sheriff and catch your friends in their lies. Definitely fun to play with people you know really well and see how good you are at lying to each other and convincing the sheriff of others treachery.

Do you have any favorite board games you and your friends love to play? Do you have a board game group you get together with? Let me know in the comments.