Geeking on Board Games 

Gather 'round the table for in-person fun

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I’m going to go out on a limb here and proclaim 2012 the year of the board game. If nothing else, it will be my year of the board game. While shopping for my kids during the holiday season, I came to the realization that they are old enough to comprehend most board games, and I received a sudden jolt that rekindled my love for the games I used to play as a kid.

I made a list of the games I wanted to play. At the top of my list was a game called HeroQuest. It was a co-operative dungeon-crawling adventure—think a board-game version of the video game Gauntlet with Dungeons & Dragons-sorts of quest elements. It was popular and fun, and I’d spent so many hours playing it in my youth that I assumed I could just head down to the hobby store and pick up a brand-new copy.

I was wrong. Apparently, it’s been out of print for 20 years, and used copies fetch upward of $300. I broke down and picked it up when I found it on eBay for about $75 with shipping.

There were other games I picked up this holiday season in the same fashion: Battle Masters, Star Wars: Epic Duels, etc. There are a few more I have my sights set on, but the games I bought have provided one of the most enjoyable and memorable holiday seasons I could have ever hoped for. Not only did my kids love playing all the board games to the point of obsession, but it also brought all of my siblings back together. We hadn’t sat down to play a game together in 10 years, but when I brought my stack of vintage board games to our mother’s house for the holiday, we spent 11 straight hours playing together with my kids and everyone else who happened by.

And it didn’t stop with that one session, either. We’ve all taken to getting together every weekend to keep up on our HeroQuest game (and play a few other games besides.) I’m lining up games with friends, too.

I had almost forgotten how far superior the convivial experience of playing a board game is to a video game. You have to interact with your fellow geeks (or family members), you have to look them in the eye and laugh, and you get to spend good, true quality time with them.

I’d like to challenge readers to put down your video games and your other forms of entertainment, and get together with some friends or family for a night of board gaming—even if it’s just a drunken night of global domination with Risk (which has proven to be quite fun for me on numerous occasions). Or pick up something new, like Munchkin, a hilarious card game that pits you against other players trying to kick the door open on monsters and steal all the treasure. The best part about Munchkin is that it’s both cheap and addicting.

My only problem with this resurgent interest in board games is that it’s taking up more and more of my time and brain power. Since the exact sort of game I’ve got in my head doesn’t exist—well, it does, but it was never released in the United States, and copies go for $500 if you’re lucky enough to speak Greek—I’ve been plotting ways to design it on my own to play. And I’ve got my eyes set on other games I want to buy, but are out of print, like Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit. I’m told it’s incredible; if I can ever find an affordable copy, it’s mine.

But my challenge to you is two-fold. First, tell me what games you played as a kid and would like to revisit. Will I find a new favorite there? Second, spend a night this week playing games. Put down the video-game controllers, invite some friends over and break out the refreshments. You won’t regret it. 

Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.

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