A few months ago, during a family shopping trip, I wandered into a well-known UK bookshop chain in search of some time and space away from the family.
What I found, upstairs tucked away at the very back of the shop, was a display stand filled with what looked like board games.
Except, of course, it couldn’t be. These boxes were brightly coloured, yes, of the usual shape and size that could quite feasibly contain a game centred around obscure trivia, property ownership or world domination and yet….
I could see no copy of Snakes and Ladders, Ludo was entirely absent and the closest relative to a chess set seemed to be something involving pictures of ants printed on plastic hexagons.
A shop assistant soon noted my confusion and enthusiastically relayed that, yes, these were board games. That such things have evolved far beyond the short-lived joy of feeding plastic hippos plastic marbles.
Yes, adults could play them without needing the presence of a child to justify their enjoyment. You have kids! Fantastic! Many of the games can be played by kids as young as 8! Your youngest is 5? Why that’s the age I was taught how to play Dungeons and Dragons and I have not turned back since. Any game can be taught to anyone of any age with the appropriate level of support!
As if on cue the family arrived, adding their enthusiasm to mix and ensuring there was no chance that I would leave the shop that day without a copy of the brightest, most colourful box on the display.
Once home, we, for the kids were falling over each other to open Daddy’s new toy, tore off the cellophane wrapper, opened the box, began to punch out the cardboard tokens and shuffle the cards. Thirty short minutes later I realised something that had been suppressed for at least 20 years: I love playing board games. I suppose that unknowingly I always had and that the mistaken belief that board games were only for children had closed my eyes to this. Of course, now that my eyes were opened I fell completely in love with them all over again and it wasn’t long before I was feverishly searching the internet for more.
And that’s when I realised something else: there are hundreds, if not thousands, of these games out there. There are games for every age, taste and occasion. Dice games, card games, wargames, miniatures games and a multitude of others covering every topic from the exploration of deep space to subsistence farming. Ten minute distractions to eight hour marathons requiring total concentration; one player to twenty.
Navigating my way through the maze of resources available to find the right games for me and my family to enjoy was going to be quite the journey. And I had absolutely no idea where to start!
This, then, is my way of leaving a trail of crumbs to show the way, highlighting the steps I take on this journey into a new hobby. The gems I uncover and the mistakes that I make. If you join me along the way I hope you find this a helpful guide, please do let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions on where to go next, I’d love to hear them.