• UNPLUGGED, Vol. I: Unplug, Sit Down & Play a Board Game

    Laura Hatton, MS, LLP

    It’s hard not to feel at least a little disconnected from others at times in our high-tech, digitally enmeshed culture. The iPhone and iPad, in their very names, stress the importance of “I” before “WE” and impact how we see the world. We are constantly looking down when we communicate, our faces lit up by the blue glow coming from whichever device is currently in our hands. Instant access to a wealth of knowledge is available at our fingertips 24/7. We communicate using 140 characters or less and expect that our instant messages are responded to instantly. We organize our thoughts using hash tags and support each other with “likes.” Our children base their self-worth on how many thumbs up their status updates receive and spend hours attempting the perfect selfie for their social media profiles. If you stop to think, how many times this week have you talked to someone who was not fully paying attention to you because their focus was on their personal electronic device?

    Although technology has the power to connect people all over the world in an instant, it also can lead to feelings of being alone or fractured from our fellow human beings. While I love technology and feel that it serves an important purpose in our lives, it should not be something to which we are enthralled. We need to make the time to look up.

    One of the best ways to reconnect with those most important to us – our family, friends and loved ones – is by disconnecting, literally, from our electronics and engaging in meaningful, face-to-face (not face to screen), real-time interactions. During my initial child and family therapy sessions, I often encourage families to establish a regular family activity or game night as a way to reconnect with each other and work toward building a positive family dynamic. While there are a lot of great ways to spend quality time with others, the purpose of this blog post is to discuss one specific activity: Board Game Night.

    BOARD GAMES AREN’T JUST FOR KIDS

    When people think of board games, they tend to think of games like Monopoly, Risk or Yahtzee, and have never heard of a “worker placement” or “deck-building” game. If you have never been to a board game store – an actual, specialty game store – you may not be aware of just how many board games exist and how varied they are in mechanics and theme. If you are interested in something, chances are there’s a board game about it. Websites like Board Game Geek (BGG) are filled with lists of thousands (yes thousands) of different games just waiting to be played, as well as helpful user reviews, recommendations (e.g., “If you like X, you’ll like Y”) and how-to-play video tutorials.

    Board games are not just for kids or families – they are also a great way for adults to spend quality time with friends. You can play in the comfort of your own home or venture out to your local game store or to one of the many board game cafés that are popping up all over the country. BGG is a great place to go if you want to see what’s out there before venturing out to your local game store or café.

    OK, LET’S PLAY!

    We will be posting about a different board game every other month or so. This month’s post will discuss a good beginner game: Ticket to Ride by Days of Wonder.

    Ticket to RideDays of Wonder describes Ticket to Ride as “a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America.”

    You earn points by completing routes – the longer the route, the more points you earn – and by fulfilling destination tickets between distant cities. At the end of the game, the person with the most points is the winner.

    On your turn, you choose one of three actions: drawing train car cards, claiming a route between two cities on the board, or drawing new destination tickets to earn more points if you complete them before the end of the game.

    Amazon.com and BoardGameRatings.com each give the game 5 stars: “Ticket to Ride is a fantastic family game because it is easy to learn, plays fairly quickly and appeals to players of all ages – both kids and adults will have fun trying to become the next railroad baron.” Game play is quick and the artwork and game components are engaging. What I like about the game is that it requires you to plan ahead and develop a flexible strategy. If someone claims a route that you need, you must shift your strategy to find new ways to complete your routes and connect your destinations. It also helps kids and teens practice frustration tolerance and use coping skills when they don’t win – all skills that we need to develop in order to succeed in a world that can be unfair and challenging.

    Overall, Ticket to Ride is a great family game that offers a visually appealing, fun, interactive experience with high replay value. There are several expansions which provide additional maps and add twists to game play that keep the game exciting and fresh.

    WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

    AVERAGE RATING: ***** (based on 1,589 Amazon.com user ratings)
    NUMBER OR PLAYERS:
    2-5
    AGES:
    8+
    GAME LENGTH:
    30-60 minutes
    COST
    : MSRP $49.99, but price varies based on seller [$36 in store or online at Target or Amazon]
    LANGUAGE DEMANDS:
    minimal, no extensive in-game text
    DIFFICULTY:
    Easy

    Check back in the future for more board game updates – and happy gaming!

    FOR MORE INFORMATION:

    Official Ticket to Ride Website

    Ticket to Ride Tutorial Video

    Ticket to Ride on BoardGameGeek