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Matt Heath: Bored? Let the games begin…

Catan gives you a strategy buzz but in a much more user-friendly time span of 45 minutes, writes Matt Heath. Photo / File

Top new picks for board games that will get the kids off devices and into all-important personal interactions

We humans do better when we spend real time with each other. Board games are a great way to do that.

Many assumed board games would die off. It says on cardboard you can’t compete with the whole 3D experience you get with video games.

Yet board game sales are on the rise, predicted to reach $21.56 billion by 2025. It’s a long way behind the video game industry, at $180.3 billion in 2021, but it’s still significant.

We humans do better when we spend real time with each other. Board games are a great way to do that.

Board games survive because they’re about real face-to-face human interaction. The kind of connections we evolved to have. Board games are good for us in a way video games aren’t.

In a recent chat with clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire, she pointed me to research out of Hong Kong Shue Yan University that claims face-to-face communication can predict enhanced quality of life, while online communication cannot. There are inherent factors in online communication that limit its ability to promote the same levels of satisfaction as traditional face-to-face communication.

We humans do better when we spend real time with each other. Board games are a great way to do that. So what’s stopping us from playing more? In my opinion, the problem is not only the games we traditionally play but how we are playing them. Monopoly, for example, takes too long because we don’t play the proper rules.

The worst mistake is around property purchasing. If you can’t or don’t want to buy the street you have landed on; the deed goes up for an immediate live auction to the other players.

Most people don’t play it this way, slowing the game down. We also need to stop putting taxes and fines in the middle of the board and paying out when someone lands on Free Parking. This bastardisation of the rules injects too much money back into the system and results in time blowouts.

Monopoly is not the only game you can play with your kids.  Photo / FIle
Monopoly is not the only game you can play with your kids. Photo / FIle

If you want to enjoy a board game, learn and play the current rules. They’re formulated to provide the optimal experience.

If you exclude Chess and Checkers, the biggest selling games of all time are predictably Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo, Trivial Pursuit and The Game of Life. If we are going to excite friends and family into playing with us, we need to move past these old dungers.

There have been significant advancements in board games over the past 50 years. Take Risk, released in 1957. It’s one of the greatest strategy games of all time, but it also takes too long.

That’s why my kids and I play Catan. It gives you the same strategy buzz in 45 minutes. Risk can take eight hours. In today’s attention wars, few people have a third of a day spare — not even for a global conflict.

Of course, length of play isn’t the only factor. If a game is new and exciting, it’s worth leaving set up on the table for you to come back to.

My family is currently playing Arkham Horror, a cooperative adventure board game so complex my 14-year-old son spent most of a day watching online instructional videos so he could teach us how to play. I still have no idea what’s going on, but boy, is it a scary good time.

In search of new exciting board games, I reached out to my friend Laura Daniel, of Taskmaster, Seven Days, Seven Sharp, 60 Seconds and Two Hearts fame. She has a lot of great games. Here are her top picks from her.

Wavelength: The ultimate party game! You give one-word clues to your teammates to see if you are on the same wavelength.

wingspan: Too many games feature war and dragons. Wingspan is peaceful. You put together a bird sanctuary using gorgeous bird artwork.

Here to slay: I was recommended this game by the awesome guys who run Dice Goblin in Royal Oak. You build a deck of cute-animal warriors with pun names, and then roll dice to have them fight monsters.

Quacks of Quendlinburg: You play as doctors cooking up potions in an old-timey German village.

Ticket to Ride: An excellent option for those transitioning into the complex European style games (if you’re mostly used to Monopoly). You link train routes across North America’s rail network. It’s a million times more thrilling than that sounds.

Playing board games with friends and family is better for your mental health than sitting alone in the dark disembowelling game characters.

However, board games can be a hard sell with all the entertainment offered in 2022.

You’re not going to entice kids out of their rooms with Scrabble, but you might with a new exciting game.

So this week, why not buy a cool board game and force someone to play it with you?
It might help them win the real game of life.


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