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Board Games

  • Bored this Christmas? Hop on board!

    Sometimes, and it might sound terrible to say but just sometimes Christmas can be boring...  Not at first when there is a magic in the sound of carols, the smell of pine, clementines and mulled wine but after the day itself there can be a bit of  a lull.  Not in a bad way... but in a drawn out Sunday afternoon sort of way... Well I can tell you what I'll be doing when these moments occur...  I'll be taking out the board games and rounding everyone up for a challenge or two.  Classic board games are so often overlooked and taken for granted but this year I want to make a point of celebrating them!  It was a few weeks ago when a dear friend Alexander was over for dinner that I was reintroduced to Scrabble.  Alexander runs a wonderful comedy gig night called Llaugh and is always great fun.  He has a racing inquisitive mind so of course he was the one to spot a pile of board games which had been gathering dust for God knows how long behind the armchair in the kitchen.  "What are all these fabulous games doing here? What, you've got SCRABBLE!" he was ecstatic.  "We have to play!" Myself and my other friend looked at each other... Really?  I knew she was thinking the same thing... A board game? Over dinner? Could I even remember how to play?  Scrabble conjured up memories of rainy afternoons in Connemara on childhood summer holidays.  "Or we could just chat?" I suggested...   but the board was unfolded onto the dining table before dinner was even served and play we did.  The only regret I take from this evening is that I had neglected  this wonderful game for far too long.  It has since become a frequent feature of evenings in our household and cannot recommend it highly enough!


    Of course the one thing you need beside you when you play scrabble is a good dictionary which the Scrabble umpire can refer to whenever a player chances their arm.


    A game which is ALL about chancing your arm is Balderdash.  The first definition of balderdash, according to Dictionary.com is "senseless, stupid, or exaggerated talk or writing; nonsense".  Well I love balderdash in real life and I love it in a game.  In this game, players have to bluff definitions of obscure words and if they can convince their opponents of a lie, they gain points.  It is all about the art of convincing.

    This is the classic Balderdash, based on word definitions, which is available second-hand from Amazon.  I love this vintage purple box!


    Absolute Balderdash was released in 1993 and is based on not only word definitions but also laws, films, people and initials.  It's a real laugh too!


    Of course, you can't beat Monopoly for a bit of classic capitalist competition around the dinner table.


    The ancient game of Chess is the king of board games I believe but unfortunately is generally only played by two (of course you could always have a chess tournament...).   It is something I always associate with my father who is always challenging people to a game.  He has an old black and white folding wooden chessboard with a green protective felt covering.  This mix of felt and wood has a very distinctive smell which brings me back to our house in England a LONG time ago.  My father tried to teach me the game when I was four.  Quite successfully I think but with retrospect I know he was probably allowing me to win.  I  must admit, I don't really remember the rules or what moves the pieces are allowed make but like anything you learn when you are young it all comes back pretty quickly.  Anyway despite not having played chess for many many many years, I have always admired Chess boards and their pieces to look at.  It's such an elegant game!

    I recently came across a beautiful chess set by Wedgewood.  This is a very special limited edition piece (one of 25) and is a reproduction based on an original design by John Flaxman Junior produced for the House of Wedgewood in 1783-84.  The playing pieces are hand-painted and gilded black and white jasper while the board itself is made from squares of ebony and sycamore,  sitting upon a box made of black stained walnut.  A magnificent collector's item for the chess enthusiast.


    And then, although they are not strictly board games, easy to transport and always fun, there are card games... Blackjack, Poker, 21, Bridge...  My problem is that I always forget the rules but luckily other people seem to remember them!

    I particularly like this deck and holder from Links of London:

    And last but not least... not a board game or a card game, there is charades!  Is it a song? Is it a film? Is it a book?  How many words? How many syllables?  OK first syllable... This is a fixed fireplace tradition amongst our extended family members on Christmas Day and no matter how full you are after dinner... how much you want to go to sleep after too much pudding and brandy butter, this is something that you cannot escape; the hearth is a stage and a this is a game in which everyone must play a part.

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