Matt's Board Game Back Room

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CLASSICS CLOSET - There is more merit in older/classic games than you might expect

-matt s.
United States
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Sometimes the older or classic games are just what you need. The rules can be read and learned in 5 minutes. The game play can be relatively quick. And they can just be fun for that time you are playing. You may not want/need to go back and play them 10 times in a couple of days, or every day for a month, but you definitely can get some quality enjoyment out of them while they are on the table.

This weekend I had taught a couple of new games to my parents when they were in town visiting for the usual birthday for my son and father's day, plus the added bonus of 'graduation' from elementary to middle school for my son and from middle school to high school for my daughter.

I taught some more recent games including Morels, Love Letter and Qwirkle Cubes (my preferred version of Qwirkle). We also played Carc with a couple of expansions (Catapultand Princess & the Dragon - my son's choices, a couple of his favorites).

But, I could tell that all the new games were burning my Mom out a bit as she wanted something simpler.

I looked through the cupboards and found Sharp Shooters - a more 'classic' sort of game from 1994 (hmmm, thought it was older) along the lines of Yahtzee or Can't Stop. I originally thifted it for $2, mainly for the plethora of dice it has (and maybe the dice tray)

To play, you roll 5 dice to try to match patterns on a shared board for the current round. If you are the person that completes the last die of a row you get that amount of money/points (or lose points in some cases if it is a negative row). You roll 5 dice and MUST place at least 1 die if possible; your turn is over if you can't play any. If you match exactly one you must place it. If you match more you can place any/all of them. You could possibly even fill out a full row in one go or one turn if you rolled the dice for it. After placing you can stop or keep going to try to place more dice.

The trick is determining when to push your luck, when to stop to make it harder for others to complete lines, and what to place to avoid leaving too many lines open for completion for the other player(s).

I thought it might be a bit dull, but we actually had a great time playing with groans when the dice failed you or cheers when the dice rolled your way.

This reminded me that games like this are sometimes all you need for a bit of fun and entertainment. A great way to get together and interact without requiring a ton of effort or heavy thinking.

It also started me thinking about how many people write off games like Yahtzee. But, as I recall, the last time we played it we had a great time. Same with Pictionary last year - my kids had never played and we had a blast. It reminded me of when I was a kid myself playing it with my family and friends in the evenings or during lazy summer days.

(And remember: King of Tokyo is really just an update of Yahtzee but with a few more features and different sorts of 'patterns' you are trying to match depending on your 'goals' - a classic made better, but the same sort of tension just applied in a different way)

This weekend we also played Pictureka- it is a kids game where you are searching for specific pictures of items across a series of 9 boards (sometimes you bid to see who can find more, sometimes there is a specific picture to find, sometimes you must find a certain amount of a type of item). I thifted a copy of it a couple of years ago and had a great time playing with the kids and even took it to a scout overnight event and they enjoyed it as well.

My son and I got my Mom and Dad to play. My dad tends to hate speed games (which is what this is) but he genuinely enjoyed it for the 20-30 minutes we played. We had a lot of interaction, a lot of laughs, and it didn't require any electronics of any sort. Just good old fashioned fun.

Recently, a couple of us local thrifters have been trying to play some of the older games we've been finding (see this list for some of the plans and results: Eugene Thrifty Games To Try). Surprisingly, many of the older games we've brought to the table have been great fun (or at least entertaining and somewhat interesting).

My favorite was Situation 4 from 1968. It is a game that involves quickly solving a puzzle in a speed game with another person (you could also play in teams). One twist is that each team has a different version of the same puzzle but each starts on an opposite edge. You must place connecting pieces and try to complete features and place flags on them to gain the points for that feature. The additional twist is it is somewhat of a war game in that you can infiltrate the other person's side of the board with tanks and paratroopers giving you the ability to interfere with what they are doing on their side, or protect your own side from invasion.

It is a really clever and interesting game and we had a blast playing it.

Anyhow, the thing I got out of this weekend was remembering how good the older games can be - just as entertaining as many of the more modern creations, and often not so difficult to learn to boot. It is easy to write off a game because it is old or a classic, but that doesn't mean it can't be good.

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