Board Games & The Grand Master

Does anyone still play board games? Do you even remember board games? No, not video games or the video version of board games. Don’t you remember? Close your eyes and think……….way back….further…….further. There! In the cabinet under the TV or in the game room closet. They came in a box with pieces, dice, maybe a spinner or a timer,  a little pencil, score pads, and instruction sheets that read like the Magna Carta. You better know the rules, by the way, because if you didn’t, no mercy on you. There was no plug, CD, or circuit board to malfunction. No 1-800 support lines or sounds other than the ones made by the players yelling, talking trash, or laughing.  Just good old fashioned fun designed to pass the time with healthy competition and  little brain work in some cases. Right! Board games.

Parcheesi, Scrabble, Risk, Boggle, Life, Chutes and Ladders. We used to play all those as kids but moved away from them as we got older. Why? Even the ones that weren’t truly a board game were great, like Yahtzee, Checkers, Connect Four, Battleship, Operation (ok it plugged in but it counted because it was cool and had pieces).  I liked Triple Yahtzee because it let me have multiple places to put duplicate scores. Not to brag but I was “so good” I couldn’t roll just one Yahtzee (5 of  kind). I needed the ability to record 2 or 3 of them. Ah, those were the days.

Family game night  used to be a common activity before TV,  the internet, and packed schedules of soccer practice and dance classes took over. In the old days before video games (GASP! There was such a time, Dad?) kids played outdoors until we HAD to come home. When we couldn’t go outside to play because it was raining and HAD to stay inside, it was game time. It would take hours to play most games but it could take days to play RISK and you better believe that every piece on that board was memorized by each player. If “the breeze” blew my piece onto your space “accidentally” while someone wasn’t looking, there would be some serious childhood conflict until Mom brought the Kool-Aid and cookies to settle things down. It worked too, because if you couldn’t calm down, you had to take a nap and there was no worse punishment than that! A sign of immaturity.

It’s odd how we change over the years.Naps are now rewards for adults. I would give anything for a nap most days and don’t even need Kool-aid to get there. Oreos and milk do me just fine. .

As I became a young adult, weekend get-togethers to play games like Balderdash, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, and even the hybrid video trivia games like Scene-It were so much fun, especially when with close friends or family. Why did those pastimes go away? Perhaps because games are really for kids? Maybe, but maybe not.

At my house, the game was Monopoly, especially if Dad wanted to play. He loved it, being a businessman, and was a fierce negotiator who was so good that nobody in the extended  family would dare play him alone. We had to team up against him to have a chance. You could hear the groans from the adults  when he would say “I’ll make you a deal” so you could keep playing after you lost all your money. He could bankrupt you from the slums of Baltic Avenue, the cheapest properties on the board. Forget about the penthouse on Park Place. “Too obvious. Not a good investment, Mr. Trump”.  Aunts and Uncles buckled to the pressure. Cousins were no challenge. Mom knew better but I was always one of the last left because 1. I didn’t know what I was doing,  2. I  knew I could buy something with my last white one dollar bill, and 3. He wanted me to have a chance to come back and win, though I never realized that till I was a dad. Three hours later when the damage was done and the box was packed, we would limp away from the table, bruised and battered from landing on the hotels he placed strategically at every space he owned. “Don’t give up. It’ll be better next time” as he laughed in triumph once again. I knew it was hopeless, like flying to the stars, but I kept coming back for more. A sign of childhood innocence. 

One day, though, in a moment predestined by God from the beginning of time, pieces flew from the table as tears of joyous ecstasy fell. I finally beat my Dad, the “Monopoly Grand Master”. He previously had been undefeated and without a true challenger….until I came along,,,,,the underdog and now REIGNING CHAMPION of the family. Rematch was guaranteed but for the time being, I was the king of the table, pride and boasting overflowing like any young teenage boy. What an awesome moment! I held onto that victory for a long time, never thinking that maybe he let me win. That was inconceivable. I had to take it, being a boy, after all.  A sign of growing up.

Being a father of boys, now young men, I have an idea where Dad came from. We played games when they were small and even played Monopoly on occasion. I “made deals” to let them keep playing and sometimes win. Sometimes they beat me flat out, which was always a triumph for them, though I was no “Grand Master”, but it didn’t matter because they were boys learning to win at life. I am no longer the master of games with my boys. I lose every time I play, whether it is basketball, football, MMA, car racing, and definitely any kind of shooter game. I just don’t have the reflexes and multi-tasking skills they have and try as they might to let me win, I just don’t have their skills. They are the masters now.  A sign of growing older.

Our Monopoly game  hasn’t been seen in a few years, largely because t takes 3 hours and who has that kind of time any more? A sign of the times. I miss the days when we would sit around the table and open the box, pass out the money, and argue about who gets the top hat and  who gets the car. I was always the car, by the way. What do you say guys? Time seems so rushed these days now that you are growing up. Maybe we can recruit Pa to play too. I bet the “Grand Master” will make us a deal one more time so we can keep playing. He might even let us win, but if we’re lucky, he’s gonna make us come and take it. I hope so.

7 thoughts on “Board Games & The Grand Master

  1. Love this. I’m young but I did catch the tail end of the board game era, before video games took over. My family use to play monopoly all the time.
    Now, my brothers and some of our friends got hooked on a game called “Settlers of Catan” its kind of a combination of Monopoly and Risk, super fun, especially because it brings us back to the board game days.

  2. This is great. I love games! So ironic that you wrote about this because my 3-year-old’s birthday party this month is all about games. I’ll have to show you the invitation one day. It’s pretty cheesy with lines like “GUESS WHO’S turning 4?” and “Join us as we CONNECT FOUR candles on his cake” and “CANDY LAND of fun”. My little one LOVES, LOVES, LOVES, LOVES, LOVES games.

    • You are too creative! perfect age for b-day parties. We always did the superhero or dinosaur or pirate party. Lots of battlin’ goin’ on with my little baggies. Not civilized enough for sit down game parties.Of course we didn’t have a breakroom with 7 microwaves either!.

  3. The GRAND MASTER has really enjoyed this trip down memory lane! The good ole days! The Monopoly set may be a little dusty but he said to tell you that he will be glad to play that game with you again anytime. Also, he asked, “Wanna make a deal?” You bring your’ “car” and he will bring his lucky “dog.” Thanks for the memories!

    • Glad to hear it! We will definitely have to set that up the next time we are together! Thanks Mom and tell The Grand Master I will be gunning for him! Hopefully we cn get the guys there too. Love ya’ll.

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