I’m happy to welcome a guest writer to the blog today. In late November of last year, when I shared this blog post to the CC Official Facebook page, I connected with another fan of Eurogames, Renée Harris. A kindred spirit, Renée and I discussed favorite board games with each other and quickly found that in addition to our choice of homeschool curriculum, we shared a passion for this hobby, too! I asked Renée to write on this topic because of her extensive knowledge and experience and because she clearly has a passion for sharing the benefits of board gaming with others. Look for specific game reviews from her in the coming months as well as a Eurogame giveaway. Please leave a comment letting us know which of these games—or others—sounds appealing to you and help us choose the game for the giveaway! — Melanie
“I’m bored to death!”
These are words most people dread, but truthfully, I can’t imagine a better way to go. Board to death, that is… what a dream! You see, my family has embraced modern day board games as a hobby, and we love spending hour after hour together scheming and strategizing our way through our new pastime.
But when I mention board games are a favorite activity for us, everyone inevitably pictures Monopoly or Clue and hastily declares their dislike for games, promptly retreating before they are sucked into finding out who killed Miss Scarlet in the drawing room! However, the past two decades have witnessed a complete evolution of the games of our childhood. No longer can Monopoly, Life, Clue, or Sorry capture the attention of my family. My family has discovered modern European Strategy Board games, and gaming for us will never be the same!
But what is a European Strategy Board Game? One might see the word strategy and think only of Risk or Axis and Allies. But the Eurogame encompasses so much more than war and area control. Euro-style games, as defined by Wikipedia, is “any of a class of tabletop games that generally have simple rules, short to medium playing times, indirect player interaction, and abstract physical components. Such games emphasize strategy, downplay luck and conflict, lean towards economic rather than military themes, and keep all players in the game until it ends. Eurogames are contrasted with American-style board games, which generally involve more luck, conflict, and drama.”
Luck, conflict, and drama…. yes, this describes the games of my childhood. How many of you can remember high-stakes Monopoly games that lasted for days on end? My favorite aspect of a Eurogame is the built in triggers that end games. For example, going into gameplay, I’m aware that the game will end after a predetermined number of rounds, once a pile of resources is depleted, or once we build the final item in a pile of tokens. Gone are the days of The Games That Never End! Now I can sit down to fun, and see exactly when this fun will come to an end.
These games are often referred to as “Designer Games” because each is created by a game designer whose name will be on the cover. Diehard gamers will often gravitate to certain designers, looking for games with themes or mechanics similar to ones they have enjoyed in the past. The themes of these games are extremely diverse! When I play a Eurogame, I become a Renaissance painter, a medieval monk, a daring Viking, or an intrepid farmer, just to name a few roles I might assume.
We, like most Americans, had our first taste of the Eurogame by being introduced to Settlers of Catan more than a decade ago. I was immediately mesmerized by the variable board pieces, the interplay between players, and the strategy that involved gaining resources so I could build cities and roads. Before my first game even ended, I knew I had found something my competitive and analytical mind could sink its teeth into. What fun times I have had at the game table with family and friends! This is such a wonderful way to connect, and the added bonus is that it doesn’t involve a screen of any kind. Just a board, some wooden pieces, a fun, competitive spirit, and a desire to be with the people you love.
As my children grew, they watched their mom playing games. It didn’t take long before they were asking to be taught how to play them. Some games were too intense or heavy for them, but many were absolutely perfect for their young, developing minds. I feel like, as a mother, that I scored a two-for-one special—I signed on for fun, and gained so much more! My young children learned so many lessons at the game table. They learned patience, the importance of waiting to take their turn, fair play, how to deal with winning and losing, and how to follow the rules of the game. These are all lessons we want our youngsters to be equipped with, and being able to learn these through a fun outlet was just icing on the cake!
We are also a homeschooling family, and math is one of those subjects you “just have to do” whether its your favorite subject or not. Those early elementary years require a lot of drilling of math facts. Some days called for flashcards, but some days—well, some days called for games! Many a day we closed the book to pull out a game instead. I especially loved games that involved dice where my young student had to add and divide to determine the number of resources they would obtain that turn. My kids saw only fun as we played. I saw hidden math drill, and that pretty much describes nirvana for a homeschool momma! The “buy one, get-one-free” was continuing to bless us!
My children are teenagers now, and have years and years of gaming under their belts. They can now play the heaviest Eurogame with any diehard gamer we might cross. As video games entered our world, we had to learn to juggle screen time vs. board time. But I had seen enough of the benefits to be sure I fought for the game table. Over the years, I have watched my children grow in the area of logic, strategy, and pattern recognition. In Logic class they learn “If S then P,” while at the gaming table they can see those outcomes played out. They must develop a strategy several rounds in advance and make the appropriate decisions to see that they gain everything necessary to accomplish their goals and hopefully win the game. But even if the victory point track doesn’t show that they won, they still took home the gold. They took home lessons learned in planning ahead, logical thought, and multiple-veined strategies that will serve them well in life.
But how does a new gamer even begin to bring these fun, growth-filled times into their home? There are quite literally thousands of Eurogames on the market today. This is big business, and one could easily become overwhelmed. You will find these games range from light/gateway games to heavy strategy, and everything in-between. So, a new gamer will want to begin with common gateway games to begin dipping their toe into this new pond called Eurogaming.
As mentioned, our first exposure to Euros was Settlers of Catan. This is such a commonplace game, you will have no difficulty in locating it just about anywhere. I’ve seen young children play this well and have the time of their lives playing against middle-aged individuals who are also having a blast! So many of these games have mass appeal. Catan is a great gateway/first game. But then what? Below is a listing of games straight off our game shelf. All of these games have been huge hits with myself, my friends, and my children. We typically enjoy medium weight games the most, so our collection definitely reflects this preference.
- Settlers of Catan
- Ticket to Ride
- Stone Age
- New York 1901
- River Dragons
Medium Weight Games
- Puerto Rico
- 7 Wonders
- Forbidden Island
- Castles of Mad King Ludwig
- Voyages of Marco Polo
- Last Will
- Five Tribes
- Dead Men Tell No Tales
- Carson City
- Isle of Skye
- Raiders of the North Sea
- Queen’s Architect
- Grand Austrian Hotel
- Glass Road
- Glen More
When I say that gaming has been a massive blessing in my home, I do not say this lightly. I’m so grateful for the skills and lessons my children have learned while gaming. I am also grateful for the countless hours we have spent together at the game table. The gifts and blessings of this hobby are more numerous than I can count. This hobby does have one, and only one downside—it is not a cheap undertaking. Each of these games will cost anywhere from $30 – $80, so it takes time to build a collection. But when you contrast benefits to financial costs, there is no comparison. Fun and family time have always prevailed! I hope your family takes this new hobby out for a spin, and I hope and pray your household is soon “board to death” as well!
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