Hey, Ma! Games I used to play with my mother. Greatest games ever.
Paul DeStefano
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My mother died 8 years ago.

She met my son as an infant, but never got to spend Holidays with him, which was pretty much what her life revolved around.

Ma was a simple woman. Her mother spoke only Polish and lived with us while I was little. I used to be able to speak Polish a bit and understand quite well, but that's all gone now.

My mom was the lunch lady at the local elementary school. Her glasses were unbearably thick. She was stout and jolly, if a bit emotional.

She understood games. Now, again, Ma was a simple woman. When I say that, I mean she understood the need for games. More complex gaming was just not for her.

She helped in the school library once and was released from the job (a volunteer position) for placing all the books wrong by decimal (3.101 must be higher than 3.9, right, since 101 is bigger than 9).

So here she was, an old country raised woman brought up on the worst of streets of Brooklyn, an she loved nothing more than family.

Her way to bring family togetehr was food and games. For food it was either Ravioli Sunday (doughy Italian pouches of cheese) or Pierogie Sunday (doughy Polish pouches of cheese).

And games.

These were games about heart and family. Ratings don't matter. Reviews don't matter.

A kitchen table. The smell of fresh sauce. A Sunday after church.

If you don't understand why these are the greatest games ever, you are no gamer.

These are the greatest games of all time. There is no disagreement here, or you get such a smack.

With love, Ma.
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1. Board Game: Rack-O [Average Rating:5.67 Overall Rank:7234]
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Man, I can still smell our musty version.

A simple game of realigning your cards in order. It was played regularly at the 1960 style kitchen table of orange and olive boomerang patterns.

But you could play it if you could count. And in our house, if you could count, you played rack-o.
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2. Board Game: Mille Bornes [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:6239]
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My oldest brother was a car fanatic. This simple game is what got him to the table. Often played with or without Ma at the table, our copy was worn and beaten.

Were the cards marked by bends and creases?

Sure.

Did it matter?

Not one whit.

Card protectors are an abomination. If family and love have some sort of tangible material essence, this game was soaked in it.

The thought of using card protectors, of uptightly sealing one's greasy chicken cutlet fingers from the shared mess of the cards is just sacrilege and highly disrespectful of the tactile egregore of games.

We knew who had that one flat tire card in their hand. And it made the gaming all the more delicious, like Ma's meatballs.
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3. Board Game: Skittle-Bowl [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:9205]
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Loud as all hell, dangerous for the dog, and a great time.

We put it on a small folding table (it had a butterfly imbedded in each corner) that was too slick. If you gave the ball too strong a hurl, the whole damn thing woudl shift.

Being the youngest, I was allowed to rethrow my first throw if it actually missed all of the pins (a not uncommon experience).

Ma was pretty good at this game. We liked it a lot, since it supported any number of players, and our full nuclear family was 5. Not counting the dog.
 
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4. Board Game: Yahtzee [Average Rating:5.29 Overall Rank:15228]
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Man, did we play Yahtzee.

Its a good game.

We played regular, challenge, word, poker... bring em on, we played em all.

It was simple, had enough luck that the crazy gamble might win, and enough strategy that usually the better players played better.

Dad was a professional magician. You had to keep a careful eye on Dad. Sometimes dice would simply not come out of the cup, or somehow 9 dice would come out.
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5. Board Game: Skittles [Average Rating:5.65 Overall Rank:12083]
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Utter luck. We loved it. The stupid whirring top that sometimes even jumped the walls, the shouting, the gambling (loser had to make ice cream).

Pure gaming joy without strategy or thought. Whoever pulled that damn string harder won. Ma could pull pretty freakin hard.
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6. Board Game: Scrabble [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:1504]
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Man, Ma was not a good speller. Not in Polish or English.

But she loved this game.

By the time I was about 13 or so, it was clear that my vocabulary and talents with words had outstripped other family members, except Dad. Teams were played. Dad and someone vs me and someone. Or 2v1.

We had lost a blank at one point. The rule was, if the blank got played, you took it off the board, replaced it with a penny (one that was specifically kept in the box for that purpose) and the blank went back in the bag.

Yeah, sure, it kind of screwwed with knowing you had the only blank and so on, but who cares?
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7. Board Game: Scattergories [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:2107]
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Ma loved this game.

Until...

The Game.

The category: Stones.

The letter: J.

My answer: Mick Jagger, knowing everyone would choose Jade.

Well, apparently, this was unfair, because Ma couldn't name the Stones and this was an unfair advantage. Everyone voted my answer OK, but in my house, Ma's vote was equal to one more than the total of everyone else in the house. It was a Momocracy. We tried pointing out that the purpose of the game was drawing on obscure knowledge. Not good enough. Reroll.

R.

Keith Richards.

That's it, game over. Complete with tears, shouting and stomping. Scattergories never came out of the box again.
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8. Board Game: Snit's Revenge [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:4481]
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Ma wanted to try one of the new-fangled games I played with my friends.

She played. She had no clue what she was doing or why. We completed the game and she never asked for it again.
 
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9. Board Game: Introduction to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:6511]
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Ma bought me D&D for Christmas one year. That radically changed my life.

Not the one here on BGG, way way before that. It was way before that "Basic/Expert" type stuff.

My brother that I shared a room with thought the whole idea was stupid.

He didn't like the whole fantasy thing. That was before we played this.

Now, he spends months waiting for the next Baldur's Gate variant on PC.

Ma never played - I tried, but she just didn't get it. Too many rules. We're talking the way basic edition, too.
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