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Harrington: Rediscovering Board Games

12/28/11 7:55AM By Elaine Harrington
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(Host) Even with on-line Scrabble and all those downloadable game Apps - many Vermonters still play board games, according to parents, kids, toy store owners, and young professionals. Commentator Elaine Harrington takes a look at the trend.

(Harrington) As long winter nights close in around us, it's time to get out the board games - like Parcheesi, Chess, and Backgammon, or less familiar ones like Sorry. Or maybe even try one of the new ones at the local toy shop.

Children and board games are a natural fit. Preschoolers start with Chutes and Ladders, learning to count and take turns, while interacting with siblings and parents. By age 10 or 11, it's marathon sessions of games like Battleship.

Our daughters and their friends used to play Monopoly at sleepovers until 3 a.m. , making up extra cash if anyone went bankrupt.

My sisters and I loved Clue so much that we played without a board in bed at night for hours, chatting and keeping mental track of weapons, murder scenes, and suspects. Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum became our cousins, Michael and Blaise.

Sarah Turner of Shelburne plays Enchanted Forest - that game with those cute conical conifers - with her daughters, ages 8 and 10. Chess and Backgammon are also big. "We play board games and puzzles at night as a way to engage the girls, to get them to think - not just stare at the TV -- and to spend time together," says Turner. Cognitive focus and non-linear thinking are a plus.

The game of "Go" - with its black and white stones and "surround and capture" objective - was popular in China by the 3 rd century BC and then spread to Japan and Korea.

Parcheesi began as Parchis - Hindi for 25 - the largest combination that can be thrown with dice. In India the dice may still be cowrie shells, and the "board" is a cruciform-shaped cloth.

Europeans know Backgammon as "tables" - a game enjoyed by 11 th -century French gamblers and banned in Elizabethan England .

At age 100, my grandmother Catherine and her 80-year old friend Liz played a board game that involved a series of numbers. My daughter and I played them a few times - but they had us bamboozled.

Young professionals now host "game nights." Jess Johnson of Norwich says that she and her friends gather once a week in the winter "for a glass of wine and to play a game." They like Pictionary (but make up their own cards), as well as Telestrations, Catch Phrase, and Apples to Apples. "It brings people together," she says.

The Settlers of Cahan is the "hottest game" this winter, says Karen Williams-Fox, of Woodbury Mountain Toys in Montpelier . It involves role playing, settling an island, and getting control of commodities. Perhaps board games do imitate life - or reality TV.

Also big at her shop are Quirkle - a game of shapes and colors for all ages - and Quelf - a party game where you might end up squawking like a chicken.

Playing board games with a child is a gift of time that benefits everyone involved. And it's a good mental and memory workout for adults, while sharing a pleasant winter evening with family and friends.
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