Board Games remind me of – in no particular order – rain on a caravan roof; my aunty positioning clocks or mirrors so she could see my cards and play to me; lying stretched out on the flowery living room carpet patiently awaiting my turn whilst plotting to save all my Atlanteans and eat my sister’s. (The apostrophe was vital there – I rarely plotted to eat my sisters).
I miss playing the roll a dice, make a complete clown game. This was one of the few games my Mum would agree to play so it got some wear over the years. Me and Mum played it while eating light cakes and waiting for Pebble Mill at one to start; we played it with my nieces and then with my own children. It’s still in its box somewhere in the cupboard under the stairs at Mum and Dad’s, although one of the clowns lost a leg over time and so it has become a game for 3, not 4.
My Mum has dementia and is in a home now. Most visits she doesn’t recognize me. So, these games have taken on added significance as they are tied up with memories of good times. Times when my Mum took a break from her housewifely duties, which seemed so vital then, and spent some time with me, with my sister’s children, with my children. Games are the cornerstone of many warm memories.
At a recent event, someone unpacked Stay Alive with slow reverence. As she pulled it from its box she described her Grandma’s living room (with an uncanny and gaudy resemblance to my Mother’s!). I could see it, and more importantly, she was transported back there; able to relive a snatch of glorious, unfettered childhood.
To spend some minutes or hours reveling in nostalgia, living in a space where there is no social media, no rush, no pressure, and no mound of washing where pants are still entwined in trousers no matter how many times we yell – is a precious way to spend time.
I conducted a very unscientific survey of nostalgic games which have the power to transport us back to our nerdy youth. (I asked my family!) Even back in the good old days, there were pressures to be escaped by immersing yourself in a board game. When I was desperately trying to Escape from Atlantis or spot all the available words in Boggle, I wasn’t worrying about what people thought of me or wondering how I could make all of my tops as cool as that one blouse with shoulder pads. And when my Mum settled down with me for a game of Pontoon she wasn’t worrying about the mound of washing either.
The main thing you probably wanted to forget about in the 60s was the assassination of JFK or the fact that your hair would never be as slick as Twiggy’s.
In our house, they were playing Mouse Trap and Kerplunk. I had not yet arrived to crawl over the board and chew small but vital parts of Mousetrap.
While my Mum tried to forget the fact that she was pregnant with a fourth child and mainly avoided playing Mine a Million and Escape from Colditz with my brother, she was still happy to join in with Ludo or any gambling based card game like Newmarket. (Just to be clear – while we played with pennies, no money actually exchanged hands!)
I had arrived by this point and was coercing various older siblings and their visitors into playing Mastermind, Perfection and Connect 4. My siblings were engaged in more esoteric games like Masterpiece and being thwarted in their attempts to both Escape from Colditz and forget they had an embarrassing and demanding kid sister. I still love Perfection now – as this video demonstrates. I did let the kids have a go… once I’d shown them exactly what to do!
By this time I had moved on to playing Trivial Pursuits with friends under the guise of ‘doing revision’. Nothing better prepares you for a general studies exam than a row over pie/ cheese! In reality, nothing helps you forget how stressed you were about impending exams than a good game of something. Luckily my Sister had now had children of her own so I could generously agree to play Guess Who and Buckeroo. I was clearly above such things and far too cool to play such babyish games but two willing accomplices, in the form of my nieces, meant I had the perfect excuse to dwell in my fast disappearing childhood for a little longer. I’m still grateful for that.
Of course, assigning games to years is all a bit of a jumble. I recently found out that Kan-U-Go – a firm childhood favourite that I always believed was from the 60s was made in the 40s. It is difficult to assign eras to board games because they transcend them. My favourite games became my nieces’ favourites and now they recommend games to me. If you ask my children what games they were raised on, they might say Guess Who or Ticket to Ride; Kan-U-Go or 221B Baker Street; Escape from Atlantis (still a firm favourite 30 years on) or Dixit. I think this is mainly because nothing reminds you of your own childhood quite like being around children and we seem programmed to want to share our best experiences with them as well as building new memories. So that’s why we found ourselves in a board game cafe for the day after our tent blew over in the gales and hail of a British June playing 221B Baker Street. Maybe when my little ones are fully grown they’ll tell you the tale of the sound of the rain on the tent and how we played 221B cooperatively because none of us felt like losing that damp day in June.
Nostalgia is a personal thing. I have shared some of mine in this rambling blog. I’d love to hear your gaming inspired memories. Comment below or contact me on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/cardsordie/