As I’ve chatted with friends and family throughout the pandemic, one theme has come up over and over — we just aren’t in the mood for the unfamiliar.
We pick up new books, and then abandon them in favor of books we’ve read three times before. Instead of starting a fresh TV series, we re-watch Parks & Rec or Bob’s Burgers episodes.
There’s just so much craziness being thrown at us from all sides, so we’re seeking the comfortable and well-known.
Now I ask you — what’s more familiar than a board game that you played on the kitchen table as a kid? We’ve talked about online games that you could play with friends across the country, but what about games to play with the folks you’re stuck in the house with?
These are the soothing, nostalgia-inducing games that we’re playing during lockdown. Pack a bowl, pour a glass of Sunny D, and have fun.
Sorry! is a game that starts out friendly enough, but can soon get cutthroat.
Each player has four pawns that they move about the board based on the cards they draw. If you land on a space occupied by another player’s pawn, you simply knock them back to their starting position.
It’s a simple premise, but since you and the other players each have four pawns, there are ample opportunities for pawn switching and piece knocking.
Played with the basic rules, the game mostly depends on luck, with each action depending on what card you draw on your turn. But for a more strategic variation, players can pull five cards at the start of the game. This lets you hold cards back to use at the most opportune times — when it will really help you or hurt someone else.
Yahtzee isn’t actually a board game, but I’m counting it anyway.
In Yahtzee, players each get three rolls of five dice on each turn. They earn points on the resulting rolls. What makes it a challenge, though, is that you have to hit certain combinations as you roll, which then get filled in on your score sheet.
The score sheet includes points for rolls of 1 - 6, plus three of a kind, small straights, etc. A YAHTZEE is all five dice of the same number.
After your turn, you then have to decide which box your points will be applied to. For example, let’s say you roll four 3’s. Are you going to count that roll in your “three” box, or as a four of a kind?
If you find this explanation confusing, you’re not alone. Back in the 50s, the man who was trying to sell the game found that ads weren’t describing the game well. So he started organizing Yahtzee parties instead, and relied on word of mouth to do the bulk of the promotion..
You don’t have to go to a party to figure it out. Try this free online version instead to get a feel for it.
I don't know about you all, but four months of confinement to my home has made me feel a bit sluggish in the ol’ noggin. Maybe a game that won a Mensa award for promoting healthy brain activity is what I need.
Released in 2000, Blokus is one of the youngest games on our nostalgia-inducing list. But — as I had to remind myself when writing this piece — 2000 was 20 years ago. Gross.
The game board is a grey grid upon which each player places their Tetris-shaped pieces. The goal is to position all of your pieces on the board, but each piece must touch the corner of another one of your pieces. No flat edges of the same color pieces can touch.
Other players can place their pieces right in the path of yours, blocking you from progressing further in that direction. The player with the fewest tiles left at the end is the winner.
The rules of this game are pretty simple, which makes it family-friendly. It also moves quickly. So it’s a great way to kill half an hour in the interminable, never-ending year that we’re all stuck in.
The game for wordsmiths!
This is the game that challenges your word recall and creativity all at once. Players are given a list of different topics. They have to come up with a word for each category, but each answer must start with the same letter. And if they pick a word that another player also picked, neither player gets the points.
This is one game that actually gets harder the better you know your playing companions.
True story — I played this game with my family in February. The prompt was “Things you find on an airplane,” and the letter was S. Both of my sisters wrote “Skymall Sasquatch” — a hideous garden statue of Bigfoot in the Skymall catalog.
Is it any wonder we’re all so obsessed with true crime when we spent our childhoods solving a murder?
In case you forgot — at the beginning of Clue, three cards are put into a Top Secret envelope, and placed in the middle of the game board. There is one card each for the killer, weapon, and room where the dastardly deed took place.
Then, each player is dealt a series of cards, and it’s your job to figure out who among the players is holding what card. Through process of elimination, players infer which cards are in the Top Secret envelope, and solve the crime.
Make a night of it — play the game, and when you’re too high to function, put on the classic film starring Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, and Christopher Lloyd.
Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game
This isn’t a game that any of us played as kids, since it only came out in 2018. But the subject matter doesn’t get more nostalgic than the King of Chill himself, everyone’s favorite PBS painter, Bob Ross.
Bob Ross: Art of Chill involves collecting paints and supplies in order to “paint” a masterpiece faster than Bob and the other players. But “faster” doesn’t mean frantic. This is a chill game, after all. It even has a Chill Meter.
Unlike Scattergories, you don’t have to come up with clever words. And unlike Yahtzee, you don’t have to do math. In fact, this may be the ideal stoner game. Just paint your happy little tree and be chill.
What are your favorite board games for a welcome taste of the old-school? Leave us a comment to let us know.