Board Games: A Trip Down Memory Lane
Games of the Past
I remember many happy hours spent during my childhood, playing various board games with my mother and my neighborhood friends. There were several of these games in my closet, and my friends had others. Among the games they had were Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders.
I do not recall the game play aspects as well of those games, as I obviously did not play them as often as the ones we had at home. As I've mentioned in several other places both in other Hubs I've written and in my profile, we did not have a TV. My dad refused to buy one. We read and played games.
However, board games were more of a thing to do when the weather was rainy, and playing outside was not an option. Otherwise, we were outside playing most of the time, in spite of San Francisco's nasty, chilly climate.
We had a game of Parcheesi when I was a child. It was a lot of fun, and I remember those times fondly.
This game was played, as many were, on a cardboard field that folded in half for storage. (At least, that was the version we had. I’m sure there are or were more expensive models with wooden playing boards.) Upon opening the board, you found four multi-colored circles placed at the corners, and many colored rectangles, arranged into blocks between the circles.
This game is for 2 to 4 players, and uses game pieces similar in shape to chess pawns, and 2 dice per player. Luck and strategies go hand in hand, as your first dice roll must be a 5 in order to leave your start position (tricky with two dice). Opponents can block you on your way around the board. The first player to reach their "home" space wins.
In a way, game play resembles chess, in that it is easy enough for a child to learn the moves, and enjoy basic game play, but there are many layers of complex strategies that can be employed, making it a game that can grow up with you.
The name of the game seems very exotic and mysterious sounding. It should. It originally hails from India, and has been around since the 1860s! It was first known at “Pachisi,” which in turn, descended from a more upscale version of the game, called “Chaupar.” It is said that an ancient Emperor had a life-sized Chaupar board built into his gardens, and used his harem girls as the pawns moving about the board.
The game went through various incarnations as it traveled first to England, and other parts of the U.K., and later came west to America, where it picked up the name “Parcheesi® ” that we know today, and by that name, it has been copyrighted by the Hasbro company, so any other company making a similar game must call it by another name.
If you look at the layouts of "Aggravation" and "Parcheesi," you will see that they are very similar. Aggravation is an updated version of the older game, as the rules are similar. The one we had was cardboard, making it even easier for the marbles to escape. This version looks much better!
This is another game we had for a while. It allows for up to six players, but seems essentially to be an updated version of Parcheesi, discussed above, which in fact it is. As described in the Parcheesi section, other game makers must invent new names for their versions of the game, to avoid copyright conflicts.
The game pieces are marbles instead of pawns, and this can be a distinct disadvantage with kids playing. First, you must be aware of the choking hazards of marbles if very young children are in the game area. Next, there is the obvious tendency of marbles to roll and fall off the table without much provocation. When kids are playing, they sometimes also "fall" off the table rather in the "accidentally on purpose" fashion. Not saying I did that...ever...ha ha ha...but...it makes a nice distraction from the aggravation of not being able to get the plays you need to progress in the game!
This tactic, however, leads to the additional "aggravation" of not remembering where your markers were, or providing unintended 'toys' for the cats to bat around the room and lose under furniture. (Although we did not have any cats when I was a kid--I now have six of them--hence this wry observation.)
Aggravation can be a very aggravating game in more ways than one. In certain lights, the darker marbles look similar in color, (blue and green, usually), making it easy to accidentally move the wrong markers by mistake. Ooops! Your opponent may thank you, or maybe not, if you have managed to get sent back to the start box. In which case, duck!
Like its older cousin from which it derives, the game is simple enough for kids to learn, and complex enough to hold the attention of adult strategy players. Try it, you may be hooked!
My mother and I and a family friend used to play "Yahtzee" all the time! My mother and her friend would play for hours on end. I still have the original game we used, as well as an electronic version on my Game Boy!
Ok. I surrender in advance of the accusation! I know this is not really a 'board game.' However, it has been an eternally popular game for young and old for many years.
Yahtzee™ is based around an older game of public domain known as "yacht." (No relation to the boat by that name.) In one sense, it could be called "poker dice," because many of the combinations are related to those sought in a game of poker.
The advantages to dice over cards however begins with being able to play outdoors without so much concern over wind. Only 5 dice are used, instead of 52 cards (54 if using jokers). Everyone uses the same set of dice, passed around by turns. There is no dealer and no 'pot' or ante-up.
Yahtzee is also educational. Any age can play. Of course, that said, it depends on the patience of other players if pre-school children are involved. At that level, they can learn to count and spot patterns, learning to quickly see at a glance what patterns on the dice equal what counting number. But don't tell the little darlings--let them just believe they are having fun!
As the kids get older, they will learn to quickly add and subtract in their heads--including a few double-digit figures; adding up your score; subtracting needed points from already-gained points to plan strategy of what you need in following turns.
Game play is simple--roll the dice, look at what you need on your scorepad, and decide what to hold and what to throw back. You get 3 rolls of the dice per turn. (Think "Texas Hold'em;" with it's "flop, turn and, river.")
Of course, there are categories that do not exist in poker, such as 'large and small straights.' Poker has only a straight...no size measurements involved; and the ultimate jumping-out-of-your-chair-hollering, "YAHTZEE!!"™ does not happen in poker, where there is no such thing as five of a kind (without jokers).
We played a lot of Yahtzee,™ and my mom and a good friend of hers used to sit several evenings a week and play an entire scoresheet of 6 games each time! Best of all, the number of people who can play at any one time is, in theory, limitless. Naturally, there are limits of practicality, but there are no game-imposed limits. It is not a game designed for any certain number of players.
I love Scrabble! I play all sorts of word games, and I like Scrabble even for a tactile means of figuring out scrambled words in other games.
My mother and I used to make up 'house rules,' meaning that we overrode rules about using foreign words; we'd use French, Latin, and whatever we could think of.
Now here's a game for the 'wordsters' of the world. There are general rules, tournament rules, and the often-invented "house rules." House rules are all kinds of fun. You can work on lessons in another language, by allowing words only in that language, or allowing them in addition to English, or whatever your native language may be.
For example, among the standard Scrabble® rules is "no foreign words." In our family, we stretched this by quite a wide margin, reasoning that after all, English is rather a bastard language, with a high percentage of its words either derived or directly taken from other languages. Ergo, "there is no such thing as a foreign word." We sometimes also pretended that we were French, so only French words were allowed. That can be a real challenge, if, like my mother and I, you are not fluent, but know only enough to barely get by, asking perhaps where the restroom is, or the bus station.
There are versions of house rules that are for adult players only; I'll leave those rules up to your imaginations, but I'm sure you can figure it out.
For vocabulary-boosting, dictionary skills, spelling and social skills, there are few board games rivaling Scrabble.A four-player game, there are some rules that can be decided by the players, such as agreeing on which dictionary will be used to settle disputes, whether or not a timer will be set for each turn and whether to keep score or just play for fun.
My mother kept score, and often played solitaire games, challenging herself to keep beating her prior highest scores. I prefer to just play for the fun of it.
Children can also learn and play Scrabble, and it can even be used as a teaching aid to help them learn their vocabulary words. In fact, some kids learn better when they have a physical item to manipulate. They now make a "junior" version, but I'm not sure how it could be much different. Maybe the rules are less strict? The tiles a bit smaller? (They are already small enough for kids to manage.)
At any rate, it is a game I remember fondly, and still play to this day.
Want to Play?
Good old Uncle Wiggily! I have fond memories of this game from my childhood. It was one of my favorites! Lookout for the dreaded Skeezicks, or you'll lose a turn!
Last but not least, I come full circle from my opening passing mention of "Chutes and Ladders" and "Candyland," to what was perhaps my favorite game of all in my young childhood years.
Oh, how I loved to play the Uncle Wiggily game! I'm sure my poor mother got quite weary of it, as my neighborhood friends were mostly from a year to three years older than I, and not much interested in that game. (It's funny, how a couple of years makes such a difference in interests at that young age, but virtually none at all as be become adults.)
The Uncle Wiggily game is similar in play to both Chutes and Ladders, and Candyland, but uses a character from a children's novel. The story is an anthropomorphic tale about an elderly gentleman rabbit, Uncle Wiggily Longears, who has a 'touch of rheumatism,' and has to visit Old Doc Possum. The book has several other characters, and there are other aspects to the storyline, but the game is based solely around Uncle Wiggily's attempt to get to Doc Possum's house. (You'll recall from my hub about children's books that animal stories were my favorites.)
There are cards drawn to instruct the players in which moves to make, and there are various forest friends used in the cards to help him on his way "so many hops," at a time....and of course, roadblocks, detours, and the occasional 'go back "x number of spaces" situations.
There is a bad boy character, known as the 'Skeezicks,' and, beware! If you land in his domain,you lose a turn. That name just struck my fancy, or my funny bone if you prefer, and I use it to this day to call out any one of our cats who are being particularly mischievous at that moment!
© 2011 Liz Elias