I used to enjoy playing board games growing up. Parcheesi, Aggravation, Sorry, and the over-produced Monopoly were common staples in my family’s household when I was a kid. I even enjoyed many of the card games that were popular around that time, like UNO. My favourites were generally either of the MAD Magazine games – both the board and card game got regular play, partly due to just how funny those games were to me.
Over the next couple of years, I would start to discover other kinds of board games that liked to tease with the idea of thinking outside the box. The Hawaiian Punch game was one, where even though the object of the game was straightforward – get your player piece to the end first – there was an extra, imaginative mechanic to the game that had my eyes twinkle in its conception. Your player pieces were clay pineapples, and you got to smash your opponents’ with a big, plastic “Punchy” if they landed on your colour square.
Seven-year-old mind was effectively blown.
After seeing that there were such things as board games that existed outside of the mold, I eagerly looked everywhere my family went shopping for any other kind of game that dared to be different. And with the popularity explosion of video games and arcades at that time, finding something new and fresh for a young kid like me got easier with board game adaptations like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Other unique board games soon followed. To this day one of my favourites is one whose name I still can’t remember, but it involved a giant creature that could slime your playing pieces.
Unfortunately, the very same electronic innovation that inspired a good portion of my board game collection would also eventually begin to quell my interest. At least, for awhile.
Enter the first Atari my parents bought. Sure, my parents owned one of the first PONG games ever released before Atari was even a circuitboard, but you can only enjoy so much of a white dot getting paddled back and forth across a white line. It certainly wasn’t enough to pull me away from a heated session of “flatten that kid’s clay pineapple as hard as you can”. But the Atari… man. You could play all sorts of different kinds of games on this thing! No longer confined to just playing video games in arcades whenever we went to the mall, the Atari took my quickly-growing passion for two-dimensional bleep-bloops and brought them home. Next thing you know, my board games started to feel like a red-headed step child as they spent more time on the shelf then on our kitchen table.
Not so long after my Atari time started to cut into my board gaming time, another one-two punch effectively put a knock-out on my old-school activities completely:
The Nintendo Entertainment System and Dungeons & Dragons.
With the discovery of Mario and half-elves right around the age of ten, any waning time I had left to play board games was effectively eliminated.
Fast forward a couple of decades later. Earth is reborn. I’ve rediscovered my love for board games(thanks to a friend of mine) while still being able to juggle several other activities enjoyed by me (video games, movies, TV, writing, killing hobos). I’m part of a board gaming group (thanks to the same friend of mine) that has done an incredible job of introducing me to games I never would have thought could be possible.
And what a fantastic array of playables! I thought the board games of my youth were thinking outside the box. Some of the games I’ve been able to play over the past couple of years really make the ten year old in me jaw-drop. From panning for gems to getting your opponents “drunk” to taking on Cthulhu and his Old Ones, the shear variety of different concepts that I’ve had the opportunity to test my meddle in have altered my preferences; I now find that there are times where I have a hard time choosing between Fallout 3 and Last Night on Earth.
Board games have definitely come a long way since the days of hotels and pie wedges. That said, I still manage to find time every so often to play The MAD Magazine board game – partly due to just how funny that game is to me.