The Magic Of Board Games

I like game nights.

Game nights are a wonderful thing. In fact, it’s more than that. Game nights are monumental events of family and friends gathered socially for an abundantly joyful occasion blessed with good humour and warm hearts. How rare is that for a family gathering?

Game nights are moments lost in time where the people closest to you gather in the same space to embrace the beautifully innocent and simple act of play. And they talk to one another like people did in the golden haze of the olden days before they became lost in a screen drenched daze. Nicely played.

I feel like board games have been in my life for as far back as I can remember.

I have vivid and very fond memories of rolling dice and moving pieces on a board, that stretch back far into the mists of my youth. Sure, they get a little blurrier with every year that goes by, but they are there. They move slowly through the fog, drifting in and out of focus, but always bringing a smile to my lips as I occasionally dip under the breaking waves of nostalgia.

These were the days where the seeds for play were planted. Evenings escaping from the packed holiday schedule of walking around a rain-swept British seaside resort with a sulk on to the comfort of the wind buffeted little caravan we were calling home for the next fortnight. And inside this little metal gas-fire warmed box, dice would rattle along the tiny pull-out table, as children, parents and grandparents played side-by-side unburdened by former daydreams of sun-kissed Mediterranean seas.

The family gathered together enjoying some simple board game competition is one of my fondest memories. And now here I am, thirty-plus years later, writing about a love for the carried tradition of playing games with family and friends that burns brighter than ever before. Thank God.

My enjoyment of board games stretches back deep into my childhood.

This much is true. However, it was only as recently as 2016, that I made the decision to expand my gaming horizons considerably.

It was at this time I purchased a small selection of games that sat outside the mainstream. By mainstream I mean those games everybody mentions whenever I bring up my love for cardboard and dice; Monopoly, Cluedo, and “Have you played Pictionary?” The usual suspects. I have played them all, and by and large, enjoyed them all in varying degrees. But this board game purchase was different. That first delivery included Dead of Winter, Mysterium, Dixit, and King of Tokyo. Little did I know, it was about to change my life for the better in ways I had never envisioned.

These few games were to be the foundations of a new obsession. I loved each and every one of them, and before I knew it, my collection had multiplied quicker than a Mogwai in a rainstorm.

Yet, as the months rolled by, and glorious nights of gaming came and went, I realised a simple truth about board games. The games themselves, no matter how blindingly great or otherwise they may be, are actually relatively insignificant in what lies at the core of a magical nights’ play.

The Joy of Board Game Nights

The beauty found in playing games is not what is happening on the table so much as it is what takes place around it. All the delightfully tactile pieces of card and wood, plastic and metal, the tumble of dice, the moving of pawns, is purely the vessel that carries us to gaming heaven. It is fuelled by the people. Fuelled by their laughter, their surprise, their conversation, their shock and skulduggery. It is fuelled by their love for one another, by their bigger relationships, their wit, and their time. It’s powerful, intoxicating, and it’s to be savoured.

The right people at your own table, and you know who they are, can elevate any game.

I am a firm believer that whether you play games at the table, or on the screen, or both, we leave blessed with stories. Stories that transcend the actual physical game, and instead become about the little moments shared between friends and family that brought laughter and happiness to the room. These are the things we tend to remember and recount in good company. Forget the mechanics of moving pieces and flipping cards, but savour the effect such actions had on the people. And it’s around the table on another special game night that these tales are written. What could be better than that?

Start them young.

With the rising influence of technology and the ever-present and persistent nag of social media, these nights away from the screens have become increasingly important. It’s good for the mind and soul to step back from the incessant Twitter and Facebook updates and embrace the company of the people in the same room as you.

Game nights offer this, and in a day and age where the games themselves are enjoying something of a renaissance the time has never been better to embark on some new adventures in cardboard.

You see, I bought my first few games expecting to play once in a while. However, board games for myself have taken on an entirely new dimension than when I first became lost in this most wonderful of hobbies.

The games are of course, mostly, superb. I still love the actual process of playing the majority of them. I love the traitor elements, the cooperation, but more than this by far, I truly love that I will sit at a table with my wife and children, and for a few hours we will talk and we will laugh together, away from the world we know, in new worlds we create.

There will be light-hearted conflict and heroic actions of bravery, there will be tears of laughter, and fist pumps of joy, victors and vanquished, heroes and villains, fun and games, oh, and stories will be written that we will remember and laugh about again one day. If magic is real, then it is at its most powerful during a night of games.

This is the nature of board games, this is the power of game nights, and most importantly, this is the power of the people you share the time with.

I like game nights.

Wait, no…I love them.

Neil Bason
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Neil Bason

Lag-blaming, coin-collecting, medic-calling, leaderboard-propping, rage-quitting, dice-rolling, card-playing, table-flipping, joystick-waggling game nerd. Pleased to meet you.

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