It’s amazing sometimes to see just how important these games are to some people.
I’ve seen more than my fair share of bad behavior over the years, from underhanded tricks to gain an advantage and egregious displays of poor sportsmanship to out-and-out acts of aggression and violence.
Of course, I’m not talking about my time covering athletics in Section I.
I’m talking about board games.
This time of year has always been a big time for board games in my life. With friends and family finding their way back home for the holidays, it seems that there are few better ways to kill time with loved ones than breaking out the Monopoly board. In my experience though, it’s also the quickest way to ensure everyone gets a bit prickly around the holidays.
Perhaps it’s just the people with whom I associate. To a man, nearly every single one of my childhood friends absolutely hates to lose. At anything. We spent an inordinate amount of our childhood parked in front of various game boards. Be it Monopoly, the criminally underrated HeroQuest, or Risk—which used to take up an entire weekend—I think our parents were just happy we weren’t rotting our brains playing Super Nintendo. Heck, we even earned a gaming badge in our Cub Scout days.
What our parents didn’t realize was these games were simply a powder keg, ready to explode at any minute.
I vividly recall several of these gaming sessions ending in fistfights over who played his infantry tokens the wrong way in South Europe or who moved his men-at-arms character too many spaces on his last turn. One time, while playing Monopoly with my friend Tommy and his younger brother Brian, Brian returned from a trip to the restroom to discover that his brother had stolen his deed to Park Place and refused to return it. The result? Brian walloped Tommy over the back with a metal folding chair.
For whatever reason, board games just bring out the worst in people. In college, one of our big Sunday pastimes was cracking open a case of Natural Light, breaking out the Trivial Pursuit board for a little intra-fraternity competition. I usually emerged victorious, but I was not a gracious champion. I delighted in slowly placing each pie piece in my wheel, making sure to needle my roommate—who always fancied himself the smartest guy in the room—every step of the way.
Even now, at nearly 30 years of age, I’m still seeing these games cause rifts. Last year, around Christmastime, my housemates and I purchased the “Game of Thrones” board game.
It seemed like great idea at the time.
We were all into the HBO series of the same name, fans of strategy games and it seemed like a good way to combine those two interests.
At first, it was everything we had hoped for; intrigue, backstabbing and a new way to inhabit the world we got a window to on Sunday nights. It even made sense in terms of divvying up the household duties. Whoever won the “Iron Throne” was dubbed “King of the Apartment” until the next game was played and was free from terrible tasks such as taking out the recycling or scrubbing the toilet.
Everything was well and good for about two weeks, until my roommate Matt—who had seen each of his bids for the Iron Throne fall short thanks to a few unlucky rolls of the dice and some secret alliances between me and our other roommate—just flat out quit in the middle of a game.
“You guys are jerks,” he said. “I’m done with this.”
For a year now, that box has been collecting dust in our closet, along with a dozen other games that, at one time or another, caused one of us to snap.
So, if you’ve got the family over this year, and Uncle Jerry has been hitting the eggnog all afternoon, maybe you should think twice before introducing Chutes and Ladders into the equation. The holidays can be stressful enough as it is.
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