"Sorry" Doesn't Cut It Anymore

I dug out a few “vintage”, safely tucked-away, board games from my childhood – “Sorry”, “Parcheesi”, and “Trouble”. They looked practically brand-new just-off-the-shelf, even though they’d had several decades of use. My children gathered around looking curious, a bit suspicious. My explanation of the rules and strategies didn’t garner enthusiasm. It wasn’t long before my astute and bright children observed that when I explained one, I’d explained them all.

“So”, they repeated back to me, “you throw the dice, or ‘pop’ the dice container, then move your ‘men’ the total count, and try to be the first one to land all your players home.”

“Yep”, I agreed, sagging, “that’s about it”. I brightened up, having thought of one more key point, “But! But, you can send a person BACK and they have to start ALL over again!”

They still weren’t impressed.

Sure, I played other really great games in my childhood like backgammon, chess, cribbage and checkers, but those are classics, part of multi-generational childhood and memories. I wanted them to experience “my” vintage games – the games played at sleepovers, camping trips, or entertaining the cousins after a holiday dinner. Those “special” times required the likes of “Sorry“, because, well, come to think about it, I suppose that’s the most anyone’s brain could handle after a simple-carbohydrate calorie-laden meal.

What I’ve come to find out is that I love board games, but just not my old bored games. Through the process of trying to find games that would do what my “vintage” games did – create fond, fun memories for my own children – I discovered we love Euro board games. Euro games will not be found in sales flyers from Target, Wal-mart or Toys R Us. For one thing, Euro Games are sold at a price point beyond typical Mattel games. Euro games also require that you find your Very Own Special Games Dealer who:

  • takes the time to understand what you like,
  • is game-savvy, actually having played the game you’ve just read about on www.boardgamegeek.com,
  • and, most importantly, is well-connected with distributors, having games on-hand which can be shipped ASAP.

In other words, my love for Euro games has lined the pockets of some really smart guy who has his own game store, and sees me coming a mile away. But unlike other similar experiences in life, I am thankful to my 21st Century gamestore Unlike all those Milton-Bradley games of yesterday, which proclaimed “Fun for Everyone from 8 to 100“, Euro board games truly ARE fun for everyone, and I’ve yet to be disappointed in anything Dan, the owner of Myriad Games has recommended. My husband and I have also found that it’s smarter to phone Dan, requesting he simply ship games to us, rather than driving 60 miles for an in-store experience. That way, we save both time and money, resisting the urge to buy them before they “fly off the shelf”. Besides, board games can only be played one-at-a-time, and there’s always tomorrow to call and place another order, even if it means having to wait while they’re back-ordered.

The Euro game concept takes a bit of getting used to. First, they’re designed to be completed in less than 1 hour. The theory is that modern board gamers have a substantially reduced attention span from that of preceding generations. Anyone who reads my blog can probably guess I might blame that on processed, industrialized diets made up of the wrong type of Essential Fatty Acids, processed sugar, flour and grain-fed meat. I suppose, in this case, one might also blame video and computer games, as well as “deferred gratification” having gone the way of dinosaurs. Confession “I’m really good at deferred gratification unless it involves buying the latest Euro game.

I like committing an entire Sunday afternoon to games, games and more games, and fortunately, Euro games have something to please even me who has the endurance, stamina and patience and desire for a game that lasts through a few bowls of popcorn, in as many hours. Many Euro games offer “expansion packs“ – additional cards or playing pieces that increase the complexity and length of the game. In other words, most Euro games should be viewed as needing two components – the original foundational game, as well as one or more expansions.

Next, Euro games are more challenging than the more formulaic American games. Euro games involve strategy, negotiating, buying, selling – life is miniaturized in game board form. Winning isn’t a result of chance or a roll of a die, but instead, solid strategy.

Our current favorite Euro games, include Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Terra Nova, Settlers of Catan and Blokus. all of which have earned the coveted “Spiel Des Jahres” (Game of the Year) award.

All of these are categorized as “strategy games”, with the Ticket to Ride expansion kit being one of the few that doesn’t change the complexity of the game, but instead, provides you with larger-format cards that are easier to read. The game creators made a big boo-boo printing teeny-tiny cards, so you must pay $15US for larger, easier-to-read cards if you don’t want spend your time squinting, holding your cards at different angles hoping to catch more light to improve readability. To reduce the sting of the price, a flyer with 3 new rules is included. Normally, I’d feel irritation at having to pay for what is obviously a bad design. In this case, I love the game so much, I don’t care. This is pure fun – collecting route “tickets”, building routes, strategizing how to incorporate several routes into one – what board games should always have been.

Carcassonne has more expansions than Jelly Belly has flavors. Well, almost. When you look on this page you may experience confusion and dilemma, wondering where to begin. There are multiple variations of Carcassonne available, with some bearing the word “expansion“. The trick is to purchase the correct foundational game. That would NOT be the game called Carcassonne: The City which was NOT created for expansions, something that I found out after having paid $50 . This is a charming, delightful game. If someone is satisfied with 45-minutes of play, with the only way of knowing your game is at an end is by running out of playing pieces, then you might be okay with spending $50 on this game.

To me, this game was an appetizer – a tiny bite that left me wanting MORE. This goes back to why you need a good dealer. I bought this before we knew Dan at Myriad Games, who introduced me to the game I should have purchased: Carcassonnee Big Box which INCLUDES many of the expansions sold individually. You have to know to ask for this BY ITS NAME, however.

Basically, with either Carcassonne game, YOU are the master builder of cities, villages, and markets. You create the landscape by laying down tiles. Points are earned during play for various moves (building and completing roads and markets, for example), while other aspects of the game are tallied at the end. For either game, it’s essential that one of the players is gifted at reading and remembering all the rules, something for which I continually give thanks for my husband.

I’ve found reviews at www.boardgamegeek.com to be extremely helpful. And just because there isn’t a good Euro game store within 100 miles is no reason not to buy at least one game, having it mailed to your door. There are any number of good dealers online including Funagain Games, and Myriad Games.

Personally, I’d stay away from eBay or Amazon until I was more informed and comfortable with the differences and features of Euro games. We have had game pieces missing from brand new shrink-wrapped boxes. Euro games are produced in smaller volumes; mistakes do happen when there’s more human hands-on involvement. But that’s another reason to buy from a high-volume knowledgeable game dealer who has the cache to phone game creators, requesting replacement parts be shipped free-of-charge directly to your door.


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