Board games: A recreation recommendation

Looking for an easy-to-access form of entertainment that encourages social interaction and cooperation? Then look no further than the nearly infinite variety of board and card games available today, collectively known as tabletop games. These games, ranging from simple to complex, depending on your tastes, are like the fun you had playing Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders when you were a kid, but with themes and levels of challenge more suited to people our age.

Graphic by Anna Petersen

I personally find they hold the same virtues and appeal that draw me to many kinds of video games, except there is no worry about the side-effects of looking at screens all day, and they are more socially interactive. Many of these are actually built around the players having to cooperate and team up against the game itself — for example, to beat a time limit — instead of always competing against each other. They can also increase your logic and critical-thinking skills — a point made clear to me when I took the J-term a year ago called “The Math of Games,” where we used table-top games to look for mathematical patterns in probability and had a lot of fun doing it.

“Sounds good,” you might be thinking, “but where can I get my hands on these games?” That’s a good question. Often, they aren’t exactly the cheapest, and we are college students on budgets, after all. You could always order something online or check out some of the local stores like Dubuque’s Books A Million (BAM) located at the Kennedy Mall, but there is a free and easy way you can get your hands on these games.

The local Carnegie Stout Public Library, which is actually a short walk, or an even shorter drive, from campus has recently made these games available to check out like a regular library book or movie. The selection is quite varied as well. For example, there is “Mysterium,” a game where one player is a ghost who must communicate to the other players through “vision cards” in a team effort to solve the mystery of the ghost’s death. There is also one of my personal favorites, and one that we played in Math of Games, “Settlers of Catan.” This is a resource-managing game where you compete with your friends to see who can build the most settlements on an island as you harvest and trade for the materials you need to do your building. Another game of a similar variety is called “Stoneage,” and it places you in the roll of a prehistoric tribesman as you discover the foundations of civilization, like fire, and build your village. For the more scientifically-minded of you out there is also “Antimatter Matters,” a game inspired by quantum mechanics.

Last on this list of possibilities to check out are the role-playing game books. These books give you basic rules and a back-story for a game’s world, lets you create your own character with friends, and have adventures as you write your own stories through the game’s progression. These games can be great for building imagination and come in some unique styles. One I find particularly interesting is called “Dracula’s America: Shadows of the West,” a game set in an alternate history where Dracula took over America after the Civil War and the assignation of President Lincoln, and  it allows for crazy stories of cowboys fighting vampires, demons, and other supernatural creatures.

The bottom line is, whatever your tastes in game themes or difficulty are, there is probably a table-top game out there that fits you perfectly. I heartily recommend you check them out if you haven’t already, and get ready to be sucked into the wonderfully crazy, creative, and intelligent world of tabletop gaming.

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