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Free Parking

As I sit here, it’s December 20th--the Sunday before the big week kicks off. As you read this, it’s the first week of the new year. I usually don’t point out the chronology of written to when read, but I feel I need to this week as being the week of Christmas, I have a thought on my mind. Board games. I’ve talked a lot in my column about the things I love and collect. Records, movies, but I don’t think I’ve talked much--if any--about my love of board games. 

I’ve collected board games for most of my adult life, new or old, I don’t care. As long as the game is in decent shape and fully playable, let me at it! I have a closet in my house that’s sole purpose is to house most of my board game collection. I’ve always liked board games. When I was a kid I used to get board games as gifts a lot. Some of those I played then are still favorites, Sorry, Monopoly, and to this day I love Clue most of all. Yes, I am one of those who does love Monopoly. 

Monopoly isn’t a terrible monster if you play it exactly by the rules--we’ve just developed so many house rules by each family over the years that it breaks the mechanics of the game--I’ve played four player games that were over in two hours or less because we didn’t keep fueling money into the game. Getting tax money when you land on free parking? Not in the rules! Refusing to auction a property? Not in the rules! Bankrupt quick and the game ends. My family played MANY games of Monopoly with me growing up. I own four copies of it, eight of Clue. 

Board games are on my mind as I have cousins of young ages that will be hanging around a lot this week, and I hope we can find some time to play games together. Be it part of the new wave of standards like Ticket to Ride or Qwirkle, to something as crazy and simple as Risk--which can go on for years, if you think Monopoly is long. When the older and more mature relations come around, I’ll break out Cards Against Humanity and learn things about them I perhaps never wanted to know. 

I do hate that a lot of the classic games have been homogenized down into super cheap editions. Hasbro bought both Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers and their branding is long gone. Clue has been revamped to appeal to young kids by changing rooms and weapons and produced so cheap the boards are almost paper. Fortunately, there is a game company that makes Clue in it’s original style, with nicer playing pieces and call it “The Classic Edition.” Then again, you can always dig around on eBay. 

That’s how my collection exploded, cheap games on eBay. A lot of them pop culture related oddities I just had to have. I miss when movies and TV shows all got a board game--and sometimes a video game! I’ll even admit that part of my pop culture gaming collection is an embarrassing amount of Game Show Home Games. I admit that at more than a few recent game nights I’ve dragged along a copy of “The $25,000 Pyramid” game and forced/asked nicely for all to indulge me in a few rounds. “It’s like taboo, but better, go!” I yell at them while they stare at me wondering why I’m geeking out about playing a home game to a show that hasn’t been on the air in almost 30 years. 

But the pop culture games allow a nice blanket of connectivity we can all identify with. One of my pop games has brought quite a bit of bemusement to game nights lately. People delighted to learn it exists, and quite surprised to find it’s a fun game to play. What game am I talking about? “Murder, She Wrote.” That’s right, Jessica Fletcher has a board game, and it’s awesome. 

One player at the table is the killer, and everyone else is J.B. Fletcher. If you’re the killer, you gotta kill five people and escape. If you’re Jessica, you gotta catch the killer. The game has smart mechanics that keep things from being a, um, dead giveaway. If you find a player is dead, you put your hand in a box of tokens and replace it with a similar one. If you’re the killer, this lets you swap them out for dead tokens, and no one is the wiser. It’s more fun than it should be.  Let’s face it--you got a smile on your face learning there’s a “Murder, She Wrote” board game--didn’t you? 

Point of it is board games are fun and awesome and man do I love that I have a closet full of them. I hope this coming year brings many nights of games with friends and loved ones. I need to improve my Scrabble game tremendously. You can’t imagine how embarrassing it is to be a writer who often opens up games of Scrabble by playing “Cat.” Happy New Year to one and all, and now I gotta get my 13 year old cousin to give up Utrusk for my marching army.


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