Let The Games Begin
Arts & Culture

Let The Games Begin

What makes a good cottage game? That question was posed to Anthony McCanny and Kurt Refling, both gaming specialists who work at Monopolatte board-game café. This is where the city’s gaming enthusiasts congregate, choosing from hundreds of available games and settling down to play while enjoying a coffee and a snack. Their answer to that question: it depends. Are you entertaining a group of wine-bibbing adults, or are you attempting to maintain sanity among the kids on a rainy day? Are you looking to pass the time on the dock? Maybe you’ve had too much leisure and need a game to give your brain a real workout? McCanny and Refling rifled through Monopolatte’s extensive library to create a curated selection for a wide range of cottagers and situations.

The Two-Player Classic

This game is old, with origins in the 1800s, and is perhaps linked to fraud. Originally called Reversi, Othello was invented by one of two Englishmen (each claimed the other was lying), a board game in which two players place black or white discs on a grid in an attempt to create straight lines and “capture” the opposing player’s discs. Not unlike the even more ancient Far Eastern game Go, Othello is very simple to play, but the strategy can be complex. “Othello has a sophistication not unlike chess,” says Refling. “It’s the kind of game you’d expect to see in a cigar lounge.” In fact, sophistication was the marketing strategy behind the game’s name. With its association to Shakespeare, Othello gave the game an air of refinement, adds Refling.

The Noisy Game

This game can also be referred to as “how to ruin the peacefulness of a cottage,” says Refling with a laugh, producing a faded box the size of a pencil case that looks as if it had sat in a sunny window for decades. In fact, it had — since at least the ’60s, though the game itself has been around since 1904. Pit is a stock-trading game where players simultaneously trade cards (unseen) in the hope of making a match of nine commodity cards: corn, oats, wheat, etc. McCanny notes that there’s lots of yelling and card waving — “It’s very boisterous” — and although the box says that it’s for ages eight to adult, “as long as a child can recognize matches, they could probably be younger.” Oh, and Pit even comes with an actual metal bell that’s rung when a match is made. Ah, if only stock trading were this much fun (and as harmless).

The Brainy Game

“This is one that tends to find its way to the back of the cottage closet,” admits Refling. Since its debut in 1984, there have been many variations on this Canadian game, which has its roots in an older, paler classic known as Fictionary or The Dictionary Game. Balderdash uses a combination of bluffing and trivia as players try to figure out which definition is correct. As players stumble through the oft-bizarro definitions, hilarity ensues. Some of the most recent variations on Balderdash include Query, in which players guess what Google would prompt you with in a search for a particular word or definition, and F**ktionary, where players generate “unwholesome” definitions to describe more than 300 “obscene, crude, and lascivious” words taken from the urban dictionary. Er, not for children.

The Investigatory Game

Let’s face it, Sherlock Holmes is a pompous ass whose hubris needs a serious reality check. Help bring the most famous detective down a notch by beating him at his own game. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a co-operative game in which players work together to solve one of many mysteries in less time than it took the great
detective. Players interview suspects, look through newspapers and other documents for clues, and chase the evidence around 19th-century London. No dice, no luck. It’s more of a Choose Your Own Adventure book than a board game. Fun for the whole family; dress in Victorian fashion for added fun.

The Child’s Game

Indeed, the makers of The Enchanted Tower could’ve taken a more feminist route with their game by having a prince locked up in a tower by an evil sorceress. Instead, their game reinforces the damsel-in-distress
stereotype with yet
another princess locked in a tower by a wizard. Free her you must, but where’s the key? In this game, one player hides the key in one of many concealed pits “dug” into the 3-D board. Anticipation builds as players move around, hoping their magnetic piece locates the metal key below. Once a player discovers the hiding place, he gets to free the princess. But wait! There are six keyholes to try, and you have only one shot at making the princess literally jump for joy from her prison. No batteries required. This is a simple but fun game for kids as young as five.

The Brainy Game

The object is a sphere. It’s red, it’s living, it can be eaten, and it’s related to doctors. Can you figure out what it is? If you guessed an apple, then Concept might be the game for you. Like charades, like Pictionary, like 20 Questions, Concept is a guessing game where one player tries to communicate a word, phrase, or idea by placing colourful tokens next to shapes, colours, and sizes  — the concepts — illustrated on the board. The advantage to this game is that it’s quieter than, say, charades and everyone is involved. Plus, it has sub-concepts, which allow players to suggest related and/or more familiar ideas in the hope of communicating something else; i.e., for “cow,” you might describe “milk” through “fluid,” “white,” “drinkable,” etc. How do you describe “frustrating as hell”?

Photography: Photoluxstudio.com – Christian Lalonde