Playing games

I love games! Word games, board games, card games, role-playing games, guessing games: I love them all. And I have noticed lately that not only are games fun, but they can also be a vehicle for self-discovery. Surprising self-discovery.

We’ve been playing Settlers of Catan quite a lot lately. In case you’re not familiar, it’s kind of like Monopoly except instead of Atlantic City you’re on an island; and instead of real estate you’re trading natural resources; and instead of building houses and hotels you’re building roads, settlements, cities. We recently got the “Cities & Knights” version which among other things adds barbarian invasions into the mix. It’s kind of interesting. You know the barbarians are coming, and you can beat them back if you have enough knights activated.

The first time we played this, I surprised myself by my own reaction to the coming invasion. “We need to be prepared! We need a strategy! We need to start planning NOW,” said I, smacking the back of one hand into the palm of the other. And I immediately began stocking up, saving, planning, getting ready to meet the barbarian horde. The player with the most knights gets an extra point for being the “Defender of Catan” and boy did I crow when I got that card.

This advance planning thing? This is not me. I don’t have a retirement account. I haven’t written a will. I make all my most important decisions in thirty seconds or less. I don’t even know what’s for dinner tomorrow. Where did this come from???

Another thing happened when we played Settlers. Like I said, I whooped and crowed when I got my Defender of Catan title. My husband commented that he himself didn’t have any knights, none at all, because he is a pacifist. He was joking — making an excuse for his lack of foresight (because he’s no better at planning than I am) — but for some reason it really pissed me off.

“Yeah, people like you can afford to be pacifists because people like me are defending your land,” I spat. “My armies are keeping you safe. Without me you wouldn’t have the luxury to call yourself a pacifist.” I said pacifist like it was a swear word and suddenly I felt all this sympathy for the military-industrial complex. Ok, this is really not me. I subscribe to The Nation, ya know? Where did this come from???

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  1. We played Settlers of Catan with some friends once and I learned that I should just stick to Candyland and Chutes & Ladders … I was so confused and lost the game horribly. I guess I need more practice at strategic games like that :) LOL

  2. Candyland! Ugh! That game is truly evil. Because it’s almost impossible to rig it if you want to give your little kiddos the pleasure of winning. You think everything is going along just fine, they’re way ahead of you on the board, and then wham! You pick Queen Frostine and not only are they upset because YOU get the pretty princess but in one fell swoop you’ve practically won the game. Those of you without kids probably have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure, and believe me you don’t want to know.

  3. Mo, this is currently our favorite game. There is a version of the game that settles the United States instead of an island; it looks really cool, but I’m not sure if it’s different enough to justify the $$. What other games do you guys play?

  4. Ha, why am I not surprised that you’re a fan of it too? I’d be curious to see what the U.S. version looks like. You’re right, the thing is not cheap. The Cities & Knights “extension pack” was around forty bucks and of course you have to have the original game too. But we’re getting a lot of bang for our buck.

    Other games we play: Apples to Apples, Wise & Otherwise, and Quelf are our latest board games. We also play a lot of Charades-type games; pencil & paper games like fictionary and exquisite corpses; silly guessing games; and of course D&D.

    Of the board games, I particularly like Wise & Otherwise. It’s like fictionary but with proverbs — they give you the first half of the sentence and the country of origin, and you fill in the rest. Even our 7yo likes it.

    What about you? Any recommendations?


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