For me, it’s all about staying warm. Reading books, watching movies and of course, breaking out the board games.
I think I can trace my passion for winter board games to a particular ice storm that caused businesses, schools and our power to shut down for two weeks straight. My parents were suspicious of generators – the neighbors had one that smelled like gas and thumped away like the drum section of a marching band – so my family spent two weeks roughing that ice storm like something out of Little House on the Prairie.
We cooked meals and roasted marshmallows on the wood stove and played board games by candlelight while my dad strummed songs on the guitar. I was in second grade at the time, so it all felt like a big slumber party. It’s a very idyllic, cozy memory.
My mother would tell a different story. Something about being trapped in the house with two kids who complained about being bored every two seconds and something about how the Irish Setter slept too close to the stove and almost caught its tail on fire.
Regardless, the experience with the ice storm sealed the deal on my passion for winter board games. Slushy gray streets or cars covered in salt are bearable when you know game night is on the horizon. Whenever I start praying for summer, I just remind myself to hang tight. That winter is meant for fire, cozy drinks and hilarious interactions as grown people commit to battling for the win.
I think the need to win at a winter board game is something beyond us. Something primal, that has to do with wintertime survival. We are programmed to hunt and gather when its cold, which means Monopoly® is not just a fun game where you hope to snap up Boardwalk and Park Place and avoid those pesky utilities. No, no. It can become a real life version of Lord of the Flies. (I have actually seen a grown man’s head spin in a 360 degree circle when he could not wheedle and cajole his way into the last property needed to dominate the red and yellow side of the board).
The evolution of board games is also something to note. If you think the only thing humans have accomplished in the past twenty years is inventing the internet and Angry Birds®, know this: We have done more. Board games have experienced vast improvement. Clue® now offers molded figurines instead of plastic pawns to accuse of murder. The Game of Life® is now civically minded, with incentives for recycling and living up to other social responsibilities. Monopoly® has even upgraded to include an electronic debit card, which shaves hours off the game and casts suspicion on all players, rather than one, unfortunate banker.
Speaking of electronics—movies, iPhones, electricity—these are all good things. Great things. But when January rolls around, I’m ready to roll the dice with a good game of world domination, a.k.a. Risk® because that’s what winter is all about.