Board games are a big part of young children’s lives in the United States. Over the years, unless you live under a rock (and no judgment if you do), you’ve likely spent countless hours playing the best board games ever made, games like Clue, Monopoly, Sorry, and Trivial Pursuit, one of the most popular board games of all time that dominated the global board game market where players attempt to win by showcasing their trivia skills. And let’s not forget about the granddaddy of them all, chess. Those favorites are more thrilling, in some ways, than a haunted mansion. They’re ubiquitous in living rooms across the nation and beyond. Beyond those classics, Role Playing Games (RPG’s) like the great game Dungeons & Dragons, one of the most classic stategy games ever created, and, more recently, video game RPG’s like Pokemon, Final Fantasy and World Of Warcraft have also come to play a huge part in pop culture in North America when it comes to “play time.” Playing games is not only a fun pastime, but it’s also a way for kids to develop their fine motor skills. Yes, games are good for you.
Leisurely pursuits are also important from a life perspective. But don’t take it from us @ theTUNDRA, take it from one of the sharpest minds the United States has ever produced, Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”
Notorious smart guy Abraham Lincoln felt the same way:
“My father taught me to work, but not to love it. I never did like to work…I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh – anything but work.”
Hey, if it was good enough for Emerson and Lincoln, it’s good enough for us. Imagine if they were alive in the days of mobile games and Candy Land, or what they would think of all the new board games, some of which come in digital form?
Although you’re an Everyday Enthusiast, you’re probably also a Game Enthusiast, or an RPG Enthusiast, or both. Please don’t fight us on this, thou doth protest too much. Just accept reality, like Quentin Tarantino, who loves board games. For him, the weirder, the better.
So, the question isn’t whether you’re into them, the question is, which game piece from the most iconic games best fits your personality? Let’s get into it!
THE CANDLESTICK – CLUE
Lots of reviewers feel that Clue, a truly fun game, is part of the classic game Holy Grail, along with Chess, Checkers, Risk, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and Sorry! As you likely already know, the original version is a murder mystery game for three to six players that originated in England in 1943 that’s owned and published by Hasbro, the momma bear of toy and game companies. The object of this classic game that’s perfect for a large group is to figure out who murdered the game’s victim, where the crime took place and which weapon was used, so it’s a great way to figure out just how dark your family and friends are. There are six weapon game pieces, each of which has seeped into the collective American public consciousness: the candlestick, the dagger, the lead pipe, the revolver, the rope, and let’s not forget about Dame Judy wrench (not really, it’s just a wrench). Clue is perfect for adults and kids.
The candlestick has always been our favorite @ theTUNDRA. This is partly because it takes a special kind of person to take someone out using a blunt object like a candlestick. But further, candlesticks, unlike daggers or guns, are elegant. After all, candlesticks evoke nice, warm, peaceful feelings, don’t they?
So, if on one hand, you’re a warm charmer, but on the other hand, you’re capable of psychotic mayhem, congratulations, you’re the candlestick from Clue. How does it feel?
We will say that the rope was a close second here. Did you know that, back in the old days, the rope piece was actual mini-rope, not the plastic rope of today?
We’re just throwing this out here, but if you ever feel like getting off the beaten path, away from the Holy Grail games, you can always check out these ones. And if you’re throwing a party, consider this collection of games.
LITTLE GREEN HOUSE – MONOPOLY
In this great strategy game, the classic for capitalists, players try to avoid bankruptcy and get rich by rolling dice to move around the game board, buying and trading properties and making them more valuable with houses and hotels. Originally published by Parker Brothers, it’s now published by, wait for it, Hasbro, which absorbed Parker Brothers in 1991. Here’s a little-known fact that only Enthusiasts would know: It’s partially credited to a feminist named Lizzy Magie, who came up with the concept in Washington, D.C. in 1903. But most of the credit goes to Charles Darrow, who developed and honed the game several years later, in 1933.
It was tough for us @ theTUNDRA to pick one piece to highlight, given the game’s huge influence on pop culture. Should it be the infamous doggie player piece? A “Get Out Of Jail Free” card? Eventually, we settled on the no frills, under the radar classic – a little green house, so small, it really does help with kids’ fine motor skills. Not as sexy or noisy as the top hat player piece, or the much-coveted red hotel, what we love about the little green house is what it symbolizes. Success. Stability. The future. So, if you’re stable, have a decent paying job, and have a mortgage, and love strategizing almost as much required in chess, then this iconic game piece is you.
Fun facts: the longest ever game lasted 70 straight days; it’s published in 47 languages and sold in 114 countries; more than 1,000,000,000 people have played the game worldwide; and the founder @ theTUNDRA didn’t speak to her cousin Jay for a year after he tried to cheat her out of collecting her $200 when she passed “Go.”
A PAWN – SORRY!
Sorry isn’t just the word uttered most by our Canadian Aunt Bessie, it’s also a classic American game adored by board game Enthusiasts across the globe. Based on the old, Indian cross and circle game Pachisi, the players move their four pieces around the board in an effort to get their pieces “home” first. It does have a bit of a passive-aggressive element to it. The central theme is that players try to stop their opponents’ progress, hence the title.
It’s a simple game, but this isn’t a negative. Rather, it’s part of its charm and one of the reasons it’s ascended to the pantheon of the all-time greats.
When we think of this game, a few images come to mind. The cards…the game board…but really, it’s the player pieces – the pawns. So colorful, so distinct. They come in blue, green, yellow and red and look kinda like little Hershey’s kisses but with a button tip at the top. They’re so unique, so…Sorry!
If you’re a lone wolf who marches to the beat of your own drummer, a real original, you just might be a pawn from this game. If so, we @ theTUNDRA aren’t sorry about saluting you.
By the way, this game, along with Trouble, Life and Mansions Of Madness, is on our list of best family games and strategic card games.
THE LETTER Q – SCRABBLE
Scrabble brings up fond memories of playing with our aunts, uncles and cousins for hours around the dining room table after a hearty meal, and that’s why we may consider it the best game in our list. Certainly, the best family board game. But hey, we’re not the ultimate reviewer, that’s you. This game also brings up not-so-fond memories of Scrabble-induced screaming matches that go on for a long timewhen the game ends, which are always so much fun. We’re a passionate bunch.
Scrabble is a word game that’s played by two to four players, who score points by placing letter tiles onto a game board that form words. The name Scrabble is a trademark of Mattel in most of the world, except for Canada and the U.S. where it’s owned by – shocker - Hasbro. A whopping 150 million Scrabble sets have been sold worldwide. About 1/3 of American homes and half of British homes have a Scrabble set. We were going to make an American literacy joke here, but instead let’s move on to our next factoid – there are about 4,000 Scrabble clubs around the world.
All of this to say, if there’s a more popular game involving the construction of words, we don’t know about it. We’re pretty sure that for every Scrabble game that’s ever been played, there have been at least three arguments about whether a word was acceptable or not. We’re going to go on the record and state that “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” may be acceptable, but good luck actually spelling it out with your tiles.
If you’re someone who loves getting into arguments, if fighting with your family makes you feel good, and if you have a high self-worth (Q is worth 10 points), you’re in this iconic game piece category.
A “CHEESE TRIANGLE” PLAYER PIECE
Canada gets another shout out for this category because it was invented by a pair of Canucks in Montreal, Quebec, a historical event in Canadian history. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. Victory in this modern classic trivia game that’s a staple of game night does not come easy. It requires a mastery of trivia that would make Cliff Clavin proud (look it up, millennials). This game exploded on to the scene in the early 1980’s. Over 100 million games have been sold in 26 countries and 17 languages. Easily the most popular trivia game of all time, advanced players know that the geography category is blue, entertainment is pink, arts and literature is brown, history is yellow, science and nature is green and sports and leisure is orange.
The player pieces are unique. They look like little cheese triangles, but, in our humble opinion, each and every piece is way more valuable than any cheese known to man. It takes blood, sweat and tears to accumulate the knowledge necessary to dominate at this game.
There have been over 100 special editions of this game. Small world story, @ theTUNDRA offices, the “Trivial Pursuit Back To The 80s Edition”, a really fun version of the game, is nearly worn out from use. What can we say? We love 80’s pop culture and we love this game.
If you have a photographic memory, an encyclopedic level of knowledge in six categories, and a real thirst for learning, then welcome home - this is you.
A CAR – THE GAME OF LIFE
The Game Of Life is considered one of the best board games and dates all the way back to 1860, originally created by Milton Bradley. It was America’s first popular parlor game. It recreates a person’s travels through life from college to retirement, featuring jobs, marriage, children and crushing, debilitating depression. Just kidding about that last one (or are we?).
Inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, The Game Of Life sees players travel along the track on the board in a small, plastic car. You spin a little wheel on the board, which dictates how many spaces you move. Newer versions feature players getting rewarded for good behavior, like recycling trash and helping the homeless. Like other popular board games, there are all kinds of special editions. There’s everything from a Hello Kitty edition, to a Star Wars edition, to a Simpsons edition to a Family Guy edition (we luuuuv that one).
For us, the car piece from The Game Of Life isn’t flashy or sexy, but it gets the job done in a utilitarian kinda way. If that description applies to you, then you, my friend, are a car from The Game Of Life. Also, live a little.
A BATTLESHIP – BATTLESHIP
Battleship features battles between two players. A guessing game that requires more strategy than you’d think, it was first a pad and pencil game before becoming a plastic game with pegs, released by Milton Bradley in 1967. The object of this game is simple – players attempt to sink your opponent’s battleship before they sink yours. Little known Battleship fact: Losing more than 10 consecutive games to someone torpedoes any chance of having a good relationship with them in the future.
Incidentally, this game inspired the 2012 science fiction action movie of the same name, directed by Peter Berg and starring Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker and Liam Neeson. Let’s just say that it would have been better if, rather than playing on movie screens, this stinker was buried at sea, although it did have fans – it made $303 million worldwide.
If you have a boat-sized personality, don’t get sea-sick and love hanging out mano-a-mano as opposed to in a group, then mission accomplished, you’re a battleship.
A Card – Cards Against Humanity
Cards Against Humanity hasn’t been around long enough to attain classic status. Nor should it technically even be in this article as it doesn’t have a board. A party card game that hasn’t even been around for a decade, we’re still giving it a shout because its own website refers to it as “a party game for horrible people.” Gotta love the honesty.
Invented in 2011, this game is even more politically incorrect than Bill Maher. It involves creating insane and sometimes dirty phrases. Financed by a Kickstarter campaign, the rules don’t even state how a player wins the game. Rather, the object is simply to have fun. It’s always fun to be the first player to go in this game, because invariably, someone in your group will be shocked.
So if you’re a new kid on the block who doesn’t give a crap what people think of you and you love to wear a lampshade on your head, you may as well be looking into a mirror right now.
The granddaddy of Role Playing Games is Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, a fantasy tabletop game first published in 1974 that blew up right out of the gates - it still may be the most well-known Role Playing Game with over $1,000,000,000 in sales. A rulebook, a character sheet, fine motor skills and a number of polyhedral dice are all you need for your dragon adventure to begin.
But in the modern era, RPG Video Games like Pokemon, South Park: The Stick Of Truth, Mass Effect 2, World Of Warcraft, Settlers of Catan and the Final Fantasy series have, well, changed the game. Pokemon is the highest selling of the bunch, with over 300 million units sold worldwide. The only video game that has sold more units is Nintendo’s Mario franchise.
Pokemon is one of the most fun digital games ever and also one of the most popular games ever, according to lots of reviewers. Charizard flies around the sky looking for powerful opponents. The fire that this character breathes is so hot, it can melt anything, even Angelina Jolie’s heart. But it never turns its fire breath on an opponent weaker than itself. In other words, this is one mensch of a dragon.
If you’re a strong person who can breathe fire (or you have bad breath), but you have a strong sense of fairness, then you and this iconic Role Playing Game character have much in common.
Not Bored With Board Games
If you want to delve into this topic even further, the best way to do that is by diving into sites like these: www.theboardgamefamily.com, www.reddit.com/r/boardgames, www.boardgaming.com, www.meeplemountain.com, and www.boardgamegeek.com. You can also do something old fashioned and just re-learn how to play chess. Or throw yourself into tabletop games.
As for RPG’s, the Penny Arcade Expo is the largest gaming convention in the United States with over 70,000 people at its various events last year. Gen Con focuses on RPG’s and board games and got approximately 60,000 unique attendees over four days last year. We attended the most recent edition and met some awesome RPG fans – check it out. And, of course, there are countless websites dedicated to RPG’s, such as: www.rpgsite.com, www.rpgfan.com, and www.rpggeek.com.
So, indulge your passion and have at it, even if you haven’t thought of doing something like playing a game since last year. You’ll have so much fun. Everyone @ theTUNDRA hopes that you take some time to play a game or an RPG with your loved ones. Not tomorrow, not next week, today.