You can’t go out to a restaurant.
You can’t go to the movie theaters.
You can’t do much of anything right now. And after hearing near-constant updates from health specialists about the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19, it’s no surprise most of us have no desire to venture far from our homes at all.
But let’s face it: After you’ve burned through those Clive Cussler novels you’ve had sitting by your sofa for months, and after you’ve binge-watched the latest season of “Better Call Saul” or “Peaky Blinders” on Netflix, you’re going to need something else to occupy your time, right?
Well, it might just be time to break out the board games. You know, those colorful boxes sitting in the back of your closet, where they’ve been since you got your first iPhone?
While that glowing pod in your pocket gives you round-the-clock access to oodles of photos, your favorite music and all manner of time-wasting apps, there’s nothing quite like sitting around the table and digging into a good, old-fashioned parlor game. Whatever your interests—mysteries, strategies, general knowledge or games of chance, etc.—there’s likely something to keep you and your family entertained for at least a couple of hours.
To help get you started, here is a short list of traditional favorites. (I know they’re not all here, but there’s only so much room):
Scrabble: The overwhelming favorite of staff members in The Gazette’s newsroom, this popular word game tests not only your vocabulary but also your speed in finding dictionary listings to discredit submissions from other players. Played by two to four players, the crossword-style game involves using single-letter tiles—each of which has a point value—to spell words and add on to those of others to earn points. Earn extra points by cleverly finding double- and triple-letter and double- and triple-word opportunities.
Monopoly: Have a few days to kill? This might be the game for you. Players make their way around a board featuring various properties in an attempt to obtain wealth while driving their opponents into bankruptcy. Players can earn or lose money through Chance and Community Chest cards, be penalized by landing on tax squares or find themselves in jail. Be sure to collect your $200 as you pass “Go” on each trip around the board.
Clue: There has been a murder in the mansion, and it’s up to you to find the culprit (personally, I think it was Col. Mustard with a lead pipe in the library, but that’s just conjecture). This time-honored murder-mystery game challenges players’ skills of deduction as they move from room to room, asking questions of other players and eliminating clues as they go. The killer, his or her method of mayhem and the location of the crime remain sealed in an envelope until players take a stab at guessing what happened. Whodunnit?
Trouble: Admit it, that classic plastic bubble with the numbered die inside is pretty cool. The game itself is pretty simple, making it an idea choice for those with young family members. Players simply move their pieces based on the roll of the die, and the game moves along quickly so there’s little time to get frustrated or disinterested. Again, the “pop-o-matic” bubble alone is worth the price of admission.
Jenga: A “new classic,” Jenga could be called a modern-day version of “Operation.” With surgical skills, players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower built from 54 wooden blocks. Each block that is removed is then placed on top of the tower to create an increasingly unstable structure. Each player can use only one hand to remove each block, and the game ends when the tower finally falls.
Battleship: This strategy game for two players features individual game units equipped with ruled grids on which each player’s fleet of ships are placed. Each player’s ship locations are concealed from the other person, and players take turns choosing grid coordinates in an attempt to “sink” the other player’s boats. The objective is to destroy the opposing player’s entire fleet of five warships. (Who doesn’t remember hearing “You sank my battleship” in those old 1970s commercials?)
Uno: It took me writing this feature to learn I’ve been playing this game all wrong. Apparently, the goal is to be the first person to score 500 points by playing all of your own cards and scoring points for the cards left in the other players’ hands rather than sticking them with the points. One of the more popular card-type games, Uno involves using cards of four different colors (red, yellow, green and blue) with values of 0-9. Along with “Wild” cards and “Draw-Four Wild” cards, the game also features action cards such as “Skip,” “Draw Two” and “Reverse.”
Sorry!: Another game to play with the kids. Be the first player to get all four of your colored pawns from your specific “Start” space to the “Home” space. But two pawns can’t occupy the same space at the same time, meaning the player who lands on the occupied space can send the other player back to “Start”—hence the game’s apologetic moniker. The game’s simplicity leads to its popularity and, let’s face it, nobody is really sorry about moving their opponents’ pieces back.
The Game of Life: Saving for college, retirement, kids ... doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, right? Well, don’t look at it that way. Consider the game’s intent is to give players a chance to do things differently, or give younger players a chance to make some decisions that might provide valuable experience in the future. Players make their way across a folding board that winds through mountains, buildings and other features, making decisions about careers, marriage, kids, homes and more. In the end, the winner is—not surprisingly—the player who has accumulated the most combined wealth.
Trivial Pursuit: Nerd alert! Which river runs through London? How many Oscars did Alfred Hitchcock win? Know the answers? Then you’d probably do pretty well at this game focused on general knowledge and pop culture. Players move around the circular board trying to answer questions from six general categories, earning wedges for each category as they go. A player wins by filling his or her game piece with wedges from each category and then returning to the board’s central “hub” to answer a final question selected by the other players.