It’s one of those magical things about Christmas, that sometimes the things you remember most are not the things you’d expect to remember. I mean, I can remember very few presents that I was given as a child, and very little about what anyone else got, but I can remember memories of particular moments.
I remember some of the big films that were on on Christmas afternoon: back before videos or DVD players, let alone streaming on demand services, when there was usually a Blockbuster Movie on either ITV or BBC and the whole family would settle to watch it. I remember painting peg dolls to Oliver, or writing in a fresh new notebook during Raiders of the Lost Ark.
And I remember time during the holidays spent playing games with my three brothers. Cluedo, Monopoly, sometimes Risk. I remember getting frustrated most of all and storming off because I am a very upfront person with no tactical skill at all. I can’t plan ahead too much, especially if that means being able to anticipate other people’s reactions. I just don’t get what people mean when they say they’re planning ten moves ahead… just… how?
I don’t storm off anymore, I just appreciate that if you ask me to play a boardgame I will, for preference, choose one that relies on trivial knowledge rather than tactical skill. Or one that relies on artistic ability, perhaps. Or, best of all, I play for fun not to win, because then I can watch everyone else getting frustrated and it takes no skin off my nose.
I do actually like playing boardgames with the rest of my nuclear family. The fact none of them have the stated or unstated aim of causing third world war by winding me up probably makes a big difference. My children enjoy games of strategy and skill, I still prefer knowledge based games and we all play card games knowing that if we play to our strengths there’s a game for everyone out there.
This year has been a great year for getting old favourites out and finding new ones to share. Not every night, or even every week, but when TV gets dull and outdoors isn’t available then grabbing a game and having a go can be a real life saver. And so revealing about my own weaknesses and other peoples’.
So, which games are good value, and which leave a dull thud as you play them? Here are a few of the (many) that we own, and that have proven to be good fun or value over the years.
- A decent, dull, workable pack of cards. We have had fancy packs, including Kings and Queens of both England and Scotland, but any pack of cards will do*. Even better, have two packs so that a wider range of games is available. We keep ours in a decorated box on or near the table to grab at the end of a meal. A good book on card games, like The Card Games Bible, is also useful since it gives you inspiration for games beyond Go Fish and Patience whether there’s 2 or 20 of you. *NB: This pack of cards are currently working their way towards me as a belated Christmas Present. They arrive too late for the Christmas season, but just right for hibernation.
- Pandemic: I can understand if some families feel this is just too close to the bone this year, but my older-than-teenage family found the idea that a contagious virus could only be overcome by cooperating and working as a team was a suitable metaphor for the year’s events. It says for ages 8 and above, but only you know whether you want to raise the age limit in your family. It’s a cooperative game, so the competition is against an external force, and that’s a nice touch in games. If your family is younger, perhaps a game like Cauldron Quest would suit better. I’ve never played it, but reviews look good and it’s recommended as suitable for players 6+ as a cooperative game, while the picture-spotting game, Eye Found It is suitable from ages 4 and upwards.
- The Absolute Classics: Monopoly, Cluedo and Risk. In the days of Woolworths, I bought beautiful wooden boxed classic editions of both Monopoly and Cluedo. I haven’t ever felt the need to update them, either, but all three games are available in special editions meaning you must be able to find one that suits your family… Game of Thrones Risk is good fun, simply because it encourages one to play as the House you’re representing… so I got really into character playing as Cersei and had the family laughing. Shame. Classic board games last because they don’t need fiddling with: they’ve been designed to play well, and work.
- A Risquee Card Game. We started off with Exploding Kittens when the children were about ten, but over 18 year olds (16 in our house, because I’m a Bad Mother, apparently) will also enjoy Cards Against Humanity. Exploding Kittens is the less rude of the two, and describes itself as a card game version of Russian Roulette, while CAH is a party game for horrible, despicable people… so suits us perfectly!
- Chess. The King of Games. Or Queen, following on from the rave reviews around The Queen’s Gambit. I am seriously bad at chess, I know the moves and that’s about it. I’d rather sing along to the Musical. That said, I can appreciate how tactical it is, and have great respect for anyone who plays it well (hello, Mr Hygge Jem, I’m looking at you!). It also looks so darned clever when you have a game half-played out on the coffee table. And chess clubs exist all over the country and the world, especially virtually, so there’s always someone there to play against.
Whichever games you have or choose to play, use them as learning opportunities for life: encourage good sportsmanship, lose graciously, win gratefully, no tricks or psychological competition. If you, like us, are having a small family Christmas, why not run a games World Series, with a different hame every day and a small prize for the overall winner. Or just have good old fun with a hot drinka nd a dish of sweets nearby.
Daily Read: 8 Benefits of Playing Board Games. Really, I should just have linked to this comprehensive post on the social, mental and nostalgic benefits of playing together as a family.
Daily Book: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis. The book upon which the Netflix mini series was based. Walter Tevis wrote about games (sport?) in The Colour of Money and The Hustler as well.
If you want a novel as tensely plotted as the most complicated chess game, then The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is a damn good read. It’s a weird one, but realy absorbing. No wonder it’s won so many prizes.
Self-Care Act of the Day: Identify your favourite way to play. Do you like board games? Then play them more often. Are you a fiddler? Find stuff to fiddle with. Drawing, painting, colouring in, collecting paper dolls, rereading favourite children’s books from your past, walking in the puddles…. whatever awakens your inner child, do it. Play with yourself, and enjoy the remarkable freedom of letting yourself have an hour or two hours off from all responsibilities. And do it again next week. Treat yourself to a full pack of colouring pens and a colouring book (this one is purely for Adults, but oh so therapeutic) and colour neatly, if you must… and outside the lines if you really mustn’t!
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted or bought by me with my everyday wages.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
A Self Care Christmas: A short ebook on keeping Christmas simple and making sure it doesn’t overwhelm.
Celebrating a Contagious Christmas: Available in ebook and paperback, it’s about making this year a festival of Hope.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little rhings in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, however we get to celebrate it this year, and a Happy, Healthy and Simple New Year.