I recently visited my grands as Daddy was out of the country and Mom needed some extra help, so…Grandma to the rescue.  The oldest two, 9 and 11 could hardly wait to finish their schoolwork so we could play Monopoly.  Oh please, of all the games I played both as a kid and as an adult, Monopoly is the worst, the bane of my game playing experience.  Nevertheless, I joined them in the second longest Monopoly game of my life.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t lose enough money to go bankrupt.  Every time I was close, someone landed on my property and paid me just enough to keep me in the game.  I insisted we follow the rules to the letter of the law, because it tends to shorten the game, but it still went on for hours.  On day three, the game continued play with me participating by proxy since Mommy had other things for me to do.  The eldest finally announced that I went broke.  I told them the game was now over, but they decided to continue until one of them won.  Late that evening, when everyone was in bed, I put the game away.  We are done!

Monopoly!  When I was a kid, my brother and I played often.  He always won.  I always wanted to quit early.  He was merciless.  I don’t mind losing, but having my nose rubbed in the loss was aggravating.  Siblings… some things never change. 

While visiting friends in Germany 20 years ago I played my first fun game of Monopoly.  The game went on for hours and I lost, but at least I had fun.  

For Christmas, my husband, Eric, and I received Farmopoly as a gift.  One of these days we’ll have to bust it open.  I recently saw a local version called “Fergusolopy” at Walmart for $19.95…I think that might be fun to play.  What am I saying?  The entire game drives me crazy!  

The grands who live in town are younger and have a version of Monopoly Jr. that gives me pause but is easier for young children to play.  Mom sets the timer, so the game doesn’t go on forever.  Hurray!  It uses something similar to a credit card machine.  In lieu of money, each player has their own credit card.  Purchasing property is one to three points and rents are similar.  The entire game is played with a credit card.  Learning to use a credit card at age 4 seems wrong, but it does make it possible for very young children to have fun and learn turn taking and table games.  After half an hour the timer goes off, the winner is the person with the most points, usually a 5 year old, and the game is over.  That form of Monopoly is even fun for me.   For the record, we also play Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders.  The youngest player is 3 years old and has an attention span only slightly shorter than my own.

When I was little, I played Candy Land.  Mr. Google tells us the game, which is  in the Game Hall of Fame, was first distributed in 1949, and it is still popular today.  That makes it a true classic.  We also played a game called Uncle Wiggly.  Grandpa entertained me with Chinese checkers because I preferred it over regular checkers.  I think he let me win.  As we grew older, other popular games with friends and family were Sorry, Life, Password, and Yahtzee.  Tiddly Winks and Pick-up Sticks were fun until parts got lost.  Mouse Trap and Operation were novelties when we visited friends. 

I especially enjoyed games once I was old enough to play with adults.  Yahtzee and Life were, and continue to be, among my favorites.  As I recall my kids’ favorite games, I think of Trouble and Sorry (which are essentially the same basic game with only slightly different rules), Monopoly, Life, Yahtzee, Battleship, Clue, and Family Feud.  The younger kids loved Memory.   As teens, the most popular group game was Risk and of course, everyone played Monopoly.  

Did you ever play Trivial Pursuit?  We still have that game and from time to time we play on teams.  If I didn’t have a teammate, I wouldn’t have a prayer.  However, when our youngest daughter and I play against Dad, he wins every time.   It does make a difference which version is used.  Eric and I are hopeless with the more recent versions since we don’t watch TV, but he can outshine most anyone on the original version.  Is there a challenge there?

Today we play games like Settlers of Catan, Forbidden Desert, Ticket to Ride, and Dominoes.  When we are with family the favorites continue to be Clue and Catan and predictably, Monopoly.  I also enjoy Scrabble, but have trouble finding victims to play with me. 

These days when families are learning how to reconnect with each other because the rest of life is on hold, games are a great way to spend meaningful time together.  I hope this backward glance at games has brought back fond memories for you.  I also hope it helps spur you forward to ways to engage family and friends as we relearn how to stay home and entertain ourselves.  As parents and grandparents, we have the opportunity to encourage our families to put away their cellphones, walk away from the computer and turn off the television, at least for an hour or two.   Why not introduce the concept of wonderful family time by breaking out the old (and new) board games?  Let’s make the most of social distancing by connecting with our families.  Let’s have fun!


Sue Wilken is a lifelong resident of Fergus Falls. Her column appears on Thursday.

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