Board Game Player Information

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dotAt the Olympic Games, athletes from around the world challenge each other's physical and mental abilities.

Another type of game played worldwide finds players challenging each other with almost the same amount of strategy and level of skill as Olympic athletes. (Well, maybe not quite as much, but pretty close, depending who you talk to!)

This type of game doesn't involve Nikes or Gatorade, but cardboard, little pieces of plastic and two spotted cubes -- board games, of course!

dotBoard games are a fun way to pass the time, and if you're like the majority of North Americans, you can probably find one or two hiding in a closet in your house. These games require players to use skill, strategy and knowledge of the rules to challenge opponents.

dotPeople play board games at kitchen tables; in rec rooms; at schools; in community centers; in local, national or international tournaments; or on their laps in cars. Really, any flat surface will do!

Serious board game players find themselves talking about games, playing games and traveling to club meetings or tournaments in their spare time. The stakes for the game depend on the level at which you are competing.

dotBoard games have been around since 4000 to 3500 BC. The earliest known board game can be seen in Brussels, Belgium, at the Musee du Cinquantenaires (a museum).

That game is made of a board surface divided into three rows of six squares, with 11 pieces shaped like cones. Not much is known about this game.

dotSenet was a game played by the Egyptians that is similar to backgammon. Archeologists have found drawings on the pyramid walls with people hunched over this game.

There is also evidence that board games were used in every ancient culture except for the aboriginal people of Australia and the northern Eskimos. That's a lot of games!

dotEvery year, it is estimated that 3,000 new games find their way to store shelves. Of those, only a handful last on the market for two years. Families, friends and board game players everywhere decide which ones are fun enough to stay and which ones will go.

Monopoly, RISK, Scrabble, Life and Trivial Pursuit are some of the classics that have withstood the test of time. These games will probably be around for years to come, but without a crystal ball it's anybody's guess which of the new generation will become classics.

With CD-ROM versions of the classics coming out, many people will discover new ways to play these oldies but goodies.

dotIt's hard to say how many hard-core board game players there are, but think about this number: 1.5 million people voted on what the new Monopoly token should be. That's a lot of people.

This is a big deal to game lovers because this will be the first new piece to be introduced in 40 years. Voters cast ballots on the Monopoly Web site, at FAO Schwartz stores and on a toll-free hotline.

The choices were a piggy bank, a bag of money or a bi-plane (old-fashioned airplane). Early next year, the winner will be announced on the Monopoly Web site. What would you pick?

Getting Started

dotFor anyone looking to get started playing board games, there are only a few things you need to find. Of course, the game is the first thing. If you like going to yard sales, you might find used games for as little as a dollar.

If you'd rather get a new one (to make sure all the pieces are there), travel to your local toy store and browse the shelves for one that looks good to you.

Usually, the cost is under $25. Every game seems to have a deluxe edition, and if you think you'd like features such as a rotating game board, be prepared to pay $50 or more.

dotAn opponent is the next thing you'll need to dig up. Find a friend who has some time to kill, or if you want some more stiff competition, search your community for a club or association. These clubs get together to share their love for board games and do battle.

Scrabble clubs charge about $2 to $3 per meeting. If you get really confident and skilled, there are tournaments in which you can become involved. A two- or three-day Scrabble tournament entry-fee is between $25 and $35, which includes your games and food (to keep you thinking straight).

dotBoard games are mentally challenging, but people at all levels of physical fitness can play. Scrabble manufacturers also make a braille edition, for people with visual impairments. Young or old, there's a game out there for all.

(BEWARE: The only physical strain may come from trying to keep your eyes open as you try to take over the world in RISK or gain that last piece of pie in Trivial Pursuit.)

dotFor people who find that playing games just isn't enough, there are some game-related jobs out there:

Game Designer or Inventor: With 3,000 new games on the market every year, it would seem that lots of people give this a shot.

There's heavy competition, frustration and challenge involved, but if you're the next Scott Abbott or Chris Haney (inventors of Trivial Pursuit), then it could be worth your while.

Game Reviewer or Author: Matthew J. Costello loved board games from the time he was a child. He makes a living writing books about board games, reviewing games for magazines, and creating one or two games of his own.

English skills, creativity and perseverance are traits you would need for this occupation.

Tournament Organizer: Official Monopoly and Scrabble tournaments are run strictly for charity, so there's no money to be made here, but it is an excellent volunteer opportunity to test your organizational and people skills.

Manufacturers can help out by sending out a tournament kit, offering advice and putting you in touch with other organizers.

dotIf all of this sounds good to you, there's just a few more bits of advice that seasoned veterans can offer.

Glenn Dunlop, who has been playing Scrabble his whole life and now organizes tournaments and clubs, says that new players should be willing to learn.

"That's one of the best things about Scrabble, it teaches people new words and gives them more knowledge and word power," he says.

dotAs well as being prepared to learn, you should also be prepared to lose. Until you know the rules and strategies, more experienced players may have the upper hand.

But then again, there's always that little thing called beginner's luck. Don't forget that good sportsmanship is important when playing board games.

dotIf you start playing board games for a hobby, and find that playing with family and friends just isn't enough, there's a good chance that others at your school or in your community share this feeling. If a club doesn't already exist, why not look into setting one up?

The next time you're looking for a challenge, poke your nose in a closet and see what board game challenges await! You may also discover a new hobby in the process.


National Scrabble Association
P.O. Box 700
Greenport , NY   11944


The Game Inventor's Handbook,
by  Steve Peek
The Greatest Games of All Time,
by  Matthew J. Costello


Hasbro Games
Great game information on old favorites like Trivial Pursuit, RISK, Monopoly, and Scrabble

Discover Games
Resource for inventors as well as cool links

"A nice, ruthless, money hungry Web site"