Fun Time Without Screen Time

Board Games, More Than Just Family Time

Fun Time Without Screen Time

Scene: Five or six close friends sit around a table. The smell of delicious food wafts around them while yummy libations are poured. On the table are several boxes that contain the night’s entertainment.

In my youth, I played tons of games with my family: Candy Land, Monopoly, Checkers, Uno, and many, many more. I’ll admit it, I think I may have fonder memories than most when it comes to this. I remember actually enjoying when the electricity went out, so we couldn’t just veg out to TV during meals. Instead, we played board games to pass the time. Sitting in a dark house with candles blazing around us to light our way, we spun the wheel and found out who would win at the game of Life. Time may have given me rose-colored glasses about my childhood experiences, but I can tell you with current day certitude: I LOVE board games as an adult, especially when played with friends.

My friends and I started a weekly game night about six years ago, and with few exceptions, we have met consistently every week. I would like to take this opportunity to applaud us for this amazing feat in adult scheduling, because none of us work 9-5 jobs (and I have no proof that such a thing exists in large quantities anymore). We do it so consistently, though, because of how much fun we have.

Also, there is a plethora of amazing games out there to fit everyone’s desires. We exist in a Golden Age of Gaming, take advantage of it. Horror, fantasy, science fiction, strategy, cooperative, deck building, and, oh, so many more. Whatever your interest, I am certain that a game exists to fit your desires.

General Disclaimers:

  1. Every game you play will take longer than what it says on the box. Sometimes this is because of learning curves, sometimes because no one stays on topic, and sometimes it’s because what’s on the box is a bold-faced lie, and no one could ever finish the game in that measly time frame.
  2. After most of your friends go home, you will invariably sit with one of these friends and talk about the night’s exploits for another hour or two. Maybe you could have improved this strategy. Maybe you got really shafted by that dice roll. Maybe you were upset that you burned one of the burritos. What? Just me? Whoops…
  3. Food is a must. You don’t have to cook or order-in every time you meet. Although, if you can manage it, I highly recommend it. Maybe do a potluck one week or trade off the responsibility if the host doesn’t want to cook every week. Desserts and snacks are also acceptable. Food just makes everything better, including time with friends. Essentially, have something yummy to insert into your piehole.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Quite possibly, Betrayal is my favorite game. It is a horror game in which three to six people wander around a haunted house finding really creepy stuff. The players sometimes have to make “haunt rolls,” and once that roll has failed, the haunt is revealed. Once the haunt is revealed, we make a haunting discovery about the house, and more than likely, one of the players becomes a traitor that the rest need to defeat, or at least escape.

You will have noticed the ambiguity that I used to describe the plot. This is because the game changes every time it’s played. It has a modular board and the haunt is determined by two different pieces: the omen and the room occupied at the time. As the players explore the house, new rooms are discovered on each of the floors by selecting a random tile for the appropriate floor, building a different house each time. Different rooms and omens trigger a total of fifty different options. I’ve had to thwart a crazed bomb maker, had to escape from the house as it collapsed around us, and been chased by a nanny as I slowly changed into a baby. There are ones that involve ghosts, animated corpses, and all manner of nightmarish beings.

The plot and overall fluff of this game are fantastic, emphasizing the creepy ambiance. Each card has a description on it that ranges somewhere between eerie and macabre with a corresponding image to go along with it. Plus, each haunt has a chilling tale for both the regular players and the traitor with an appropriate ending for each depending on who wins.

Additionally, each haunt has different components, so it’s like you really are playing a different game each time. There are all kinds of crazy, spine-chilling scenarios within the game, and even more if you purchase the expansion: Widow’s Walk. I couldn’t help myself. I splurged and LOVE it as much as the original game. It introduces fifty more haunts, bringing the total possible outcomes up to one hundred. It also brings in some new mechanics and a roof level of the mansion, in addition to more room tiles for the basement, ground, and upper floors.

Bonus points for lighting the room with candles and playing creepy background music

Click here to purchase the original, and here for the expansion on Amazon.

Fluxx

This is the card game on today’s list. The name of the game is Randomness, complete with ever changing rules. It starts simply enough: Draw a card, play a card, complete the goal. Some of those cards involve changing the rules, others changing the goal of the game, but the game remains simple enough, and a it's good time with friends. The game includes cards that allow you to screw with your friends—a personal favorite of mine. As the rules change quickly, strategy is fairly impossible more than a card or two ahead. The goal of Chocolate Cookies (having the Chocolate and Cookies keepers) can quickly turn to Day Dreams (The Sun and Dreams), rendering your keepers useless, until you throw down a Chocolate Milk Goal, and desperately search for the Milk to match your Chocolate. This game really can take anywhere from five minutes if someone is very lucky to an hour if everyone is seriously unlucky, but that rarely happens.

I also own Pirate Fluxx. This version of the game has creepers that will prevent you from winning (watch out for the Scurvy, it’s a killer) and my favorite rule card “Talk Like a Pirate” that allows you to draw extra cards if you use an “outrageous pirate accent.” There are also surprise cards, which can be played at any time like “Avast! Stop that!” which lets you stop someone’s action. Personally, I like Pirate Fluxx better, because of the additional game mechanics and also because pirates are cool!

Click here to purchase version 5.0 of Fluxx, and here for Pirate Fluxx.

Monopoly

Last on today’s list is an oldy, but a goody: Monopoly. Randomly scrolling through social media, I recently discovered something that shocked me. I’ve been playing Monopoly wrong for years, and so have a lot of people. We would occasionally pull it out and no one looked at the rules because it’s Monopoly, and, duh, everyone knows the rules. Well, did you know that if anyone lands on an unowned property, it has to be sold? If the player that landed on it doesn’t want it, it goes up for auction and someone else buys it. I experienced immense pleasure when this happened for the first time and one of the other players started speaking in an auctioneer’s voice and bids started flying around the table. If only I could have participated, but alas, I was bleeding money at that point.

Now, our newest member to be inducted into our game night apparently did play by these strange rules, so I’m sure there are others out there who also did something as crazy as actually reading the rule book, but for those of you who did not, I hope you’re as shocked as I.

I find Monopoly to be a staple in my collection, but something only to be pulled out infrequently, when you feel the desire to test the bonds of your friendship. Personally, I can’t fault someone for playing to win, but I have lost respect for someone while playing. He refused to trade any properties, even if the deal benefitted him more than the other, dragging the game on and on and on… Maybe I was taking the game too seriously. Maybe making obviously illogical decisions that only hurt your own position during gameplay isn’t such a terrible offense. Maybe our relationship was on fairly rocky terms for me when we started playing... but it was one of the last nails in the coffin of our relationship. It’s been almost five years and I sometimes still get agitated when I think about it. RIP.

Interested in potentially ruining friendships? Click here to buy Monopoly off Amazon. This one has some new tokens that are definitely worth a look. Ever wanted to stay on Baltic as a T-Rex? Now’s your chance.

That one event is the exception, and I generally have only had positive experiences playing games with friends. It’s a good way to get together and minimize screen time. We play, we talk, we eat, we drink, and we bond.

Already know these games? My bad. This is just part one on games. Look for more posts in the future on one of my favorite subjects.

Thanks for reading! Remember to check out the chainmaille shop here. Go to the Halloween Shop and receive 10 percent off everything in it for the month of October!

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