It is unfortunate that “board game”, has the word board in it, because every time I suggest playing a board game, the only thing people hear is “bored”. It puzzles me that so many people visit each other’s house and sit staring at the TV screen for hours upon hours. I can think of nothing more boring. “Wanna watch a movie?” they say, “I’ve got Hotel for Dogs!” Then for 2 hours you sit there, not talking, getting to know these pretend characters in front of you when there’s a perfectly interesting and engaging real human being sitting right next to you, and wouldn’t you rather get to know them better? Often I will suggest playing a boardgame, only to hear groans and cries from everyone. A board game? That’s boring!
Board games in general have been given a bad reputation as something for little kids, or for Dungeons and Dragons geeks. People think of images from the 80s board game craze like Mouse Trap, or Trouble, with the Pop-o-matic dice gimmick. These are shallow games based on luck, meant for little kids, that have tainted the name of a worthy and endearing sport. And no other board game has tainted the sport far worse than Monopoly.
I hate Monopoly. If you ever want to buy me a game for my birthday, or Christmas, or whatever, please do not buy me Monopoly, or any such variant, such as Music Monopoly, or Star Wars Monopoly. It’s the worst game ever made, and it’s usually the first game people think of when they hear the word board game. You roll the dice, pray to God you don’t land on your friend’s property, and when you do, you watch as your dear friends turn into these soulless vampires forcing you to mortgage your property just so you can barely pay them a night’s rent. And the game drags on for hours and hours. Once I played, only to be unlucky enough to roll out of the game within a half an hour. Then I had to sit there watching everyone else play for four more excruciating hours. No wonder people don’t like board games.
As a self proclaimed board game connoisseur, Monopoly is like a $2 bottle of wine. Almost undrinkable. I spend lots of time scowering the internet, talking to people from other countries, and researching for the most perfect rare and exotic board games from Germany and France, only to hear my friends chant, “No, let’s watch a movie!” I can understand why they say that. Sometimes you open the game, and the entire game is in Latin, or Spanish, and at first it seems impossible. But like an expensive bottle of wine, it goes down easy, and fulfills all your senses.
Take the game Agricola for example. Agricola is the Latin word for farming, and the entire game is all about raising a farm. Plant your corn and vegetables, breed your sheep and cattle, and build your house and fences out on the prairie, along side your friends, and at the end of the game, the player with the best farm wins. Seems simple, but the game mechanics are so addictive and fun, it’s almost like going on a trip to another country and when the game is over, you can’t believe how much time has passed.
It is odd then that so many board gamers are men. I really don’t understand that. These are not games about killing zombies and catching footballs (although there are some games that are about that). For the most part, these are games about planting flowers, and harvesting the resources to build successful communities while having fun conversations around the dinner table. Is that really so masculine? Where have all the women gamers gone?
Sometimes I feel like the last survivor of an exploded planet where everyone loved boardgames. Perhaps on that planet, board games were accepted into society. You could take a board game into a restaurant and meet new friends that way. Ease the tension of a blind date with an intense and exciting board game. Instead of watching TV, people went to each other’s houses to open up the newest game about the German election system. It was a world where people got excited about the diminishing supply of coal in a power grid. About a true monopoly of grain resources on the distant island of Catan. Now that planet is gone, and today I walk the earth with rare and exotic board games on my back, trying to get someone, anyone, to play with me.