At 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!
Board 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.
People 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.
Board 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
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.
Senet 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!
Every 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.
It'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?
For 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
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.
An 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).
Board 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
(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.)
For 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
English skills, creativity and perseverance are traits you would need for
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
Manufacturers can help out by sending out a tournament kit, offering advice
and putting you in touch with other organizers.
If 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.
As 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.
If 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
The Game Inventor's Handbook,
The Greatest Games of All Time,
Matthew J. Costello
Great game information on old favorites like Trivial Pursuit,
RISK, Monopoly, and Scrabble
Resource for inventors as well as cool links
"A nice, ruthless, money hungry Web site"