My current obsession with board games started in the early 2010s when my now-wife tricked me into joining her and her friends for a few games of Dominion. However, my history with the medium starts well before then.
My earliest memories of playing board games was as a young child playing Snakes and Ladders with my parents. Though it was as simple as they come, it was enough to keep me entertained.
Then at some point between kindergarten and grade 1, I got the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Pizza Power board game from Toys R Us. Solely wanted it because it had the Ninja Turtles on the box. It was a roll and move game where you would fight bad guys with this weird dice see-saw thing. It probably doesn’t hold up now, but once again, I was young and it had my favourite characters in it.
Not long after that, my interest in board games took me to Monopoly. I liked the idea of owning property and making money, but as with most people, we didn’t play it by the book. As such, I never actually finished a full game of it. Having played a ton of it years later on the computer and on my iPhone, I don’t think it’s a great game, but it is one that I think the enthusiast gaming crowd picks on a bit too much. When playing with the correct rules, the game is certainly not the worst thing ever.
My childhood peak with board games occurred when my friend Gandhi got into them. He would buy a bunch of games from garage sales and we would play them in his backyard while enjoying the slushies and snacks we just bought from the convenience store. We played a lot of Risk, Fireball Island and this one great golf board game that I’ll never remember the name of, though I wish I did. Good or bad, it was always a treat to try out his latest garage sale pick-ups.
Noticing that my friends and I were taking an interest in board games, my dad introduced us to the Game of Generals. Invented in the Philippines in the early 80s, it shares a lot of similarities to Stratego, where you’re fighting a rival army without knowing where each of your enemy’s units is located. We didn’t have a copy of the game at first, so my dad made the whole thing by hand with paper. Haven’t played this one in ages, but I’m thankful that my dad introduced us to it.
Of the games that I enjoyed as a kid, the game that stuck with me throughout my life was Scrabble. More than just the enjoyment of being able to flex my vocabulary muscles, I really enjoyed the strategy that came with pacing tiles on the board, optimizing my scoring opportunities while limiting where my opponents could go on their turns. These days, I play Qwirkle for that fix, but I’m always up for some Scrabble competition.
Once Gandhi and I got into middle school, our interest in board games fell by the wayside. We grew out of the kiddie fare that dominated the board gaming scene at the time, plus we were fully immersed in the world of Nintendo 64 by then. Though my perception of the medium took a turn for the worse, it was around this time when a little game called Settlers of Catan was ushering in the modern world of board games I enjoy now.
I’ll cherish my childhood board gaming memories forever, but I’m hopeful for the kids of today and beyond when it comes to what board games they’ll play during their formative years. There’s so much better stuff now for players of all ages that I wish I could have been a kid growing up with this medium during its modern age. What board gaming memories do you have from your youth?