Memory is a man’s real possession. In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else is he poor. – Alexander Smith
Although my love of board games in modern times exists almost exclusively in the “games you won’t find at Target” genre, it wasn’t born there, and I suspect that is true of other game enthusiasts as well. Who among us hasn’t clutched two fistfuls of pastel colored paper, failing to stifle a sinister chortle while the color drains from your sister’s face as she realizes she’s stopping at a hotel on Boardwalk? Just me? Really? I don’t believe you, but I digress. Let’s talk a little about the games we loved as kids.
Mille Bornes was one of my all-time favorites as a kid. Would we have games like Formula De or Cthulhu 500 if not for Mille Bornes blazing the path? Well, yeah, we probably would, but that’s besides the point. Mille Bornes (“1000 Miles”) is still a lot of fun. The older versions, same as the newer versions, provide French as well as English language on the cards. I’m not going to try to suggest that Mille Bornes is a teaching tool. Personally, I have more fun intentionally mispronouncing the French words or making sounds out of them (Creeeeeeve!). There’s some basic math in tallying scores at the end which is good for kids (who typically enjoy this game a great deal). What drew me in? Honestly, the simple artwork on the cards. The puncture-proof tires is depicted by a car sitting on a bed of spikes. How better to exemplify the badassness of your ride? The Driving Ace card has a gloved hand on the wheel. Driving gloves are classy and proper. Not unlike sticking your pinky out when you drink. It’s not a perfect game; there are plenty of times where real-life sense comes crashing through the game’s delicate illusion. Like the incomprehensibly large number of times that I’ve sat, downed by a Flat Tire, with Reparations sitting uselessly in hand. (Seriously?!? This f*$#ing auto repair place can’t change a g*%^$#*n tire?!?) But, that is mitigated by the perverse joy experienced casually discarding a Gasoline card without using it in front of someone who has been sitting for five or more turns under the Out of Gas card. What a Panne D’Essence. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)
Monopoly is, even in the context of “games I enjoyed when I was a kid” too played out to talk about here. Almost every Monopoly game in the history of man has gone on waaaaay too long and has degenerated to a big wad of cash being exchanged between two players both desperately praying to be busted by The Man (TM) to prevent them from indulging in their ridiculous Luxury Hotel addiction. It tries to be tense at the end, and to the younger crowd, might even succeed; but to most, it’s pretty boring. And it lasts forever. I suspect week long games of Monopoly might be a contributing factor to some of the disdain board games experience on a larger scale. There’s a newer version with a big electronic tower in the middle that keeps track of players, simplifying an already simple game. I’ll admit I am a teensy bit curious to see it, but not nearly enough to actually do anything about it. The reason I bring up Monopoly is that it will inevitably be brought up as a comparison to the game I actually want to talk about, SOLARQUEST (read that again loudly and add an echo to it). Sure, it’s pretty much MONOPOLY IN SPACE (see reading instructions above) but with a few key differences. Minus the fact that it’s IN SPACE, that is. On the educational front, you get to learn the names of the various natural satellites of planets in our galaxy. I can say with a strong degree of certainty that without this game, I would have assumed 1985 U1 was a solo project of Bono. Rather than color groups, you are collecting these satellites (and on occasion, the planets themselves). The more of them you have, the more unlucky players who need to land there are charged. Further, the larger planets have a gravitational pull that requires a good roll to escape from, else you take another trip around orbit. It’s like sweating bullets because you’re facing Boardwalk, sighing in relief at not hitting it, then finding yourself teleported to Pennsylvania Ave. (that is in the greens, right?). If you hate Monopoly, odds are, you aren’t going to think much of Solarquest, but I had such strong memories of it as a kid that I bought a used copy on Ebay as an adult. Similarly, it has a number of the same problems as Monopoly, but it also has LASERS, which I will leave to this which totally covered it in a better (read: more funny) way than I would have.
Some games grow up with you. Uno gave way to Hot Death Uno. Slapjack gave way to Egyptian Ratscrew (which has nothing to do with Egypt, rats, or screws, in either verb or noun form) Mall Madness gave way to the current economic climate in this country. I’m introducing kids to games that are waaay more advanced than I had when I was a kid, and it’s interesting to think about what they will take away from them and where board games will be when they are adults. What were some of your favorite games growing up? Do you still play any of them? Sound off!