Board games have a certain retro appeal, but an inexpensive evening of entertainment with friends is making game nights a modern pursuit.
If you remember the thrill of laying a Z on a triple letter score, rolling a second Yahtzee, or even making it to the Lost Candy Castle without being waylaid by Lord Licorice, then there's a room full of like-minded competitors waiting to welcome you into their "sounds like hurled."
We're in the midst of a board game revival. Whole evenings are being devoted to people sitting facing each other instead of staring ahead at a TV monitor, movie screen or video game.
"Games are something you can always do with someone, no matter what age they are," said Nadine Sehnert, an organizer of the Twin Cities Boardgames Group, one of several meet-up groups devoted to everything from the familiar Pictionary and Monopoly to more niche pursuits such as Anagramania or Race the Wind. "You don't have to have anything in common except enjoying playing the game."
For Sehnert and her husband, Mike Tangedal, the question is, "Which game?" They own more than 3,000, from old standards to new ones never opened. They haunt estate sales, where they found a World War II-era game called Eloping. (The bride's mother carries a rolling pin.)
They also know the finer points of games from around the world, how Euro games are less about luck and more about resource management, while most American games are based on chance.
Mostly, though, games are geared toward sociability.
"People who like to communicate probably like to play games," Sehnert said. Her chief goal with the meetup nights "is to create an intergenerational event that allows people of all backgrounds and skill levels to come together -- face-to-face -- to play games and meet other people."
They mostly meet in homes and church basements. One of their recent game nights was at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis' Longfellow neighborhood, where 41 players brought food to share in a free potluck supper. Across town in the Linden Hills neighborhood, almost 120 members of the MSP Meetup Mingle Potluck & Game Night group gathered with more of a singles vibe. A $5 fee covered wine and beer, served with an admonition of moderation.
There are similar game meetups around the state, convening in community centers, taverns, homes and elsewhere. To check the action in your area, go to the website www.meetup.com.
The Twin Cities area is known as an especially fertile ground for game players, and yes, partly because we spend a lot of time indoors trying to keep warm, but also because we have a high rate of education. Schaper Manufacturing Co. began here with the Cootie game and went on to invent Don't Break the Ice and Stadium Checkers, among many others. Trivial Pursuit, a Canadian invention, caught fire here, as did Pictionary.
Games still are being invented here, mostly by individuals and smaller manufacturers. Hasbro is the industry giant, having long ago swallowed Milton Bradley and Parker Bros.
At one of Sehnert's recent meetups, Elizabeth Haskins was controlling the Sorry board as only a 4 1/2-year-old can against three adults. She'd come with her father, Troy Haskins of St. Paul, who's been attending board game meetups for about two years.
"I like to meet new people and this is inexpensive," he said. "And there aren't many things that you can do with a 4-year-old where each of you can have fun." He used to play games, "but there's been a 30-year gap." This Sorry game, for example, was not the game of his youth; this was Sorry Sliders, where the game pieces are on tiny rollers, the better to slide and bump other players.
For Jean Blakeley-Cook of Minneapolis, board game nights provide a ready crew of players. "It's hard to get eight to 10 people together for certain games at your house," she said. "The family potluck is a great idea and a way to meet like-minded people who aren't weird!"
For those who might not be ready for playing games with strangers, however like-minded they may be, Sehnert offers some advice for initiating your own evenings of board games with friends and family members.
"Start with a quick game, something that doesn't take 20 minutes of instruction and four hours to play," she said. Apples to Apples, billed as "the game of hilarious comparisons," is a good choice, she said. Once people have relaxed with each other, you can move onto slightly more challenging games.
Just remember: Win or lose, it's that you've played a game.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185