With the season of good will just around the corner, we feel it’s time to send out a huge ‘Thank You!’ to all the board games out there. You sit patiently, tucked away in cupboards, garages and attics, waiting to be retrieved, dusted off and readied for the Christmas holiday frivolities. Nothing else can get the family together for a light hearted afternoon of fun like a board game, not even a re-run of Raiders of the Lost Arc on the telly is going to manage that.
Simple games as entertainment date back to 3,500BC. The ancient Egyptians whiled away their afternoons playing a backgammon-esque game called Senet, while classics like Snakes and Ladders can be traced back to an almost recent 200 BC.
New games emerged sporadically through the years until massive improvements in manufacturing meant games were more readily available, becoming a solid foundation of any family gathering. Not even war could dampen the family spirit when huddled together, board game in hand, in a tin shelter at the bottom of the garden.
Games continued to develop in topic and style as our hunger for them increased. What board games do you have fond memories of? Are you a classic board game family? Do you have original Monopoly and Cluedo tucked away in the loft? Maybe you swayed towards games like Mousetrap and Frustration, or even the more manic Hungry Hippos. Perhaps you preferred one of the new board-less games like Kerplunk, Tumblin’ Monkeys, Guess Who or Operation?
It could be that your family were big-time board gamers and so may have owned some of the less known games. Like the unforgettable Don’t Step In It, Crocodile Dentist, Toilet Trouble, Beehive Surprise, Pie Face Cannon Game or Burp The Baby. Plus who could forget the fantastically titled Greedy Granny Action Game. True classics indeed!
Or do you hail from the Trivial Pursuit generation, where everyone enjoyed flexing their knowledge of questions like ‘Hamburgers get their name from which European city?’ But would cower if asked ‘What is the scientific name for a rabbit’s tail?’ or ‘How many rings make up one arm of the Michelin man?’.
Next we crash headlong into the ‘80s and ‘90s, the birth of the digital age and the sad decline of the humble board game. There may have been lacklustre efforts to produce digital versions of the classics, but these re-imaginations would fall flat on their faces. Simply put, if it ain’t bust, don’t fix it!
The decline of traditional games continued as video games took hold. Small traditional game revivals try to fight back through the 2000s in the form of large gaming conventions or strategy board games, popping up in the back of toy shops. These were seen as a bit geeky, so for a while the tradition of family friendly games at Christmas was forced to take a pause. Luckily the digital backlash is live and kicking and so with a warm, fuzzy feeling we look to welcome back these dearly missed family traditions.
It’s only right we raise a glass and remember the fallen heroes - games in local charity shops looking for new homes, and of course the walking wounded, games with crucial parts missing and their dodgy DIY replacement pieces.
So this year, we hope there will be a box-shaped parcel under the tree, waiting to be revealed and welcomed by a happy family assembled around the dining room table, ready to supply fun and laughter for an afternoon of board game fun.