Growing up, my folks kept an array of board games and table-based entertainment that helped us to while away many a rainy afternoon. I remember attempting to defeat my brother many a time in a fiery game of Battleships and the time I suddenly recalled the name of a sun god in a loud-mouthed family game of Trivial Pursuit. My parents had this brown briefcase that held dominos, chess pieces and a backgammon set – and I remember that case so well, as it held within it so many opportunities for fun.
My dad trained us in many a card game, including Gin Rummy and the brain-tickling Spite and Malice. I also remember my mum being a dab hand at Patience Solitaire
But that’s where the story of board and card games end for, not too long into my teens, we got a Windows 3.1 computer and – well – if you were growing up in the 90s, you’ll know that card games quickly became a really cool way to pass the time in front of your screen.
I’ve never lost my whimsical love for board games though but, it’s been a little difficult to instil that love into my kid, who is a typical example of her environment – screens are something to which she’s well accustomed.
Sure, we own a super 3D set of Snakes and Ladders (gosh, no longer just a flimsy piece of cardboard there!), a beautiful Disney Princess set of Monopoly and we've had many a rowdy game of Twister on the lounge floor. I still couldn't explain it though – she wasn't quite as smitten with board games as I was growing up.
The other night, while I was browsing an online shopping siteinstead of working (shhh…we all do it…), I happened upon the board games section and scrolled through it with a little grin on my face. But I like to think, in hindsight, that that idle scroll through the range of games promising hours of family fun had a purpose.
For there, in amongst the 30 Seconds, Risk and Pictionary, I found the one board game I’d forgotten to tell her about from my childhood. Scrabble. I feel so silly in retrospect, because my daughter loves to write stories and reads more than anyone I know. I should’ve thought of it sooner! Scrabble, with its mind puzzling word creation tasks, triple letter scores and double word points. It took me about thirty excited seconds to click, buy and check out my Scrabble purchase.
And when it arrived via courier shortly afterwards, we unwrapped it and I explained the rules of Scrabble, to which she replied: “Mom, I get it. You make words, they join together, we get points and whoever makes the best words wins. Can we play now please?”
I was determined to let her have fun with Scrabble first, and had resolved to help her along the way when she needed, with letters that were difficult.
I should’ve known when she picked the letters Q and Z out of the little green bag and responded with an “oh cool!” that I was in for a surprise. Q and Z usually fill Scrabble players with a sense of dread for, whilst they’re high-scoring letters, they can be difficult to play.
I watched her closely as she strategized her way towards playing these high-rolling letters, and planned her next words, based on words I placed on the Scrabble board. She did it, you know, quite easily. Before I knew it, she’d played the words “quiet” and “zoo” and I was left quite taken aback at her skill.
But my surprises weren't over just yet.
For when our letters ran out, and we huddled over a notepad to tally up our scores, I counted up our respective letter plays and… she beat me.
Worse, she defeated by a full fifty points. I, the mom and the writer, was wholly defeated in a game of Scrabble, played for the very first time by her sparkly-eyed eight year old.
With a gleam in her eye and a quick shuffle of the letters she looked up at me and said, “Mom, let’s play again!”
Which board games do your kids love?