Beating coronavirus isolation: Bring out the boardgames!
PUBLISHED: 15:30 19 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:33 20 March 2020
Mouse Trap. Cluedo. Monopoly. What can you find in your cupboard?
Several evenings a week see my son and I lock horns over Yahtzee. It’s heartening to know a simple game involving five dice, a pencil and scorepad has cross-generational appeal in the digital-dizzy 21st Century.
A competitive undercurrent helps. I had a bad run of being tonked, but the tables turned recently. No-one wants to keep going to bed after 0-3 defeats...
Yahtzee? It’s a blend of chance and skill, and thus addictive. Decisions taken along the way can influence how well you do.
Players take turns to throw five dice. Each turn involves up to three throws each, but you don’t have to keep throwing each dice. So you can change strategy mid-turn. (Stopping collecting fives in favour of three, say.)
You complete a scorechart. Sections include “four of a kind” (four of the same number) and a “low straight” (four consecutive numbers). A coveted Yahtzee has all dice showing the same number.
You have to fill a box of your scorechart on each turn... even if that means writing a dreaded zero.
The best thing about playing games is that conversations flow easily, while you’re shuffling, throwing and thinking - some quite profound. Laughs, too.
The Fastest Gun: This 1970s favourite is a Wild West-themed Monopoly with a twist, basically.
Your cowboy figure buys saloons, ranches and other property. If you stop on someone else’s, you have a gunfight on the “main street”.
You can hire a professional gunfighter or, if you’re on your uppers, put your figurine in danger.
The gunfights involve throwing dice and turning a cardboard wheel. Holes appear, down which the loser falls.
The winner of the game is the last man standing.
Cluedo: Ahh... the Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery that’s seen Dr Black killed in Tudor Close. It’s our job to out the culprit through a process of elimination. Was it Mrs Peacock in the ballroom with the lead piping?
Sift the clues and think like Vera, pet...
Card games: I know few, but there are rules online and in books. A quickfire round of Snap always raises the spirits, as does Kings and Queens (or Bleed the Well Dry, as my mother called it).
You know the one: you lose four cards if your opponent lays down an ace, three for a king, one for a jack – unless you produce a picture-card in time and turn the tables.
You may also want to watch:
Mouse Trap! As a child fascinated by automata and moving parts (so to speak) I always wanted one. But it was then out of our price range.
Parenthood offers an ideal opportunity to fulfil 30-year-old dreams, so a modern version has long rested on our games shelf.
I’m pleased to see the phrase “easier set-up” on the box. I’ve childhood memories of kneeling on a friend’s carpet and learning how fiddly and hair-trigger-like the gadgetry could be.
Little beats the thrill of watching a silver ball roll down guttering into a bucket that, in dropping, turns a wheel that dislodges a cage that traps a plastic rodent.
Take the Brain: Another 1970s success. Like chess, but more colourful and simpler.
Each player has a Brain piece (when he’s captured, you lose), Numskulls and Ninnys.
The squares on the board have arrows on them; pieces move only in the direction shown. Brains and Ninnys move one square at a time; Numskulls more. Good fun (though not for one Ninny, which was gnarled by our dog and still bears the war-wounds).
Rummikub: Exercises the grey cells. You have tiles with numbers on them and win by getting rid of them by making sets (such as number sevens, or a run of consecutive numbers).
Things can heat up - you can often filch a tile from one group to help form another, for instance – so it’s a game that can be played at any level of understanding and experience.
And don’t forget: Chess, draughts, backgammon, solitaire, Connect 4, Monopoly, dominoes, Mastermind, Operation... crosswords!