Monday, May 19, 2014

Get a Clue — Board Games in the Video Age

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: We’ve recently decided that Friday is pizza and board game night (no electronics of any sort allowed). The Kiddo is just the right age for one of my favorites, Clue. (Does anyone remember it? It was created in 1949 and has just kept on going…) Anyway, I went to our local game store to buy it— and was delighted to hear the owner say sales of board games are up. 

Huzzah! Are we turning back to actual games, played by actual people, with actual snacks? 

(The last part is of utmost importance here…)

As a mystery writer, I love Clue — a grand British manor house, lots of questionable characters (I’m always suspicious of Professor Plum), and
a murder to be solved. 

Last night, it started to rain as we played and the Kiddo declared, “This is perfect! ‘It was a dark and stormy

And so I ask my fellow
Reds — do you remember Clue? 

What were your favorite
board games as a child? 

And do you ever play board
games now?

RHYS BOWEN: My family has always loved board games. TABOO has been a favorite for a long while (you have to 

describe something without using a list of words. The grandkids are really good at it). 
But we used to love Clue when the kids were growing up. Scrabble, Boggle... anything with words these days.
I also belong to a board games group at my local AAUW chapter. Very therapeutic with lots of laughter. Our favorite is Cranium (see, we're brainy ladies) and also a card game called Quiddler.


Kidding me? We loved Clue and we played it ALL the time, with much delight, and I attribute my entire career to it.
Well, not really, but I am still enchanted, seriously, thinking about how it made us all think, and how it was different every time, and every time I hear the word "conservatory" I wonder if there's a secret passage.
I used to look back at the used score sheets, and remember how the stories turned out.
I scarfed up Miss Scarlett, wouldn't  play, I fear, if I wasn't her.  Funnily, now, I would pick to be Colonel Mustard, because he's the iconic one, right? Mrs. White, boring. Who was blue and black? Trying to remember...

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Dear Hank, er, Miss Scarlett — Blue is Mrs. Peacock and then there's Mr. Green. No black. (Or anyone Black, as Noel and Miss Edna would say.) So funny you loved Miss Scarlett (who doesn't?) and are now a Jungle Red! Did you all do funny voices? We do. Our Miss Scarlett sounds like Marilyn Monroe.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I love, love, love CLUE, although it's a bit of  hard sell sometimes with my family - I tend to win a lot (okay, almost always) and they say I have an unfair advantage. I always play Mrs. White, my son is Mr. Green (apparently Rev. Green in the recent updated game) the Smithie is Prof. Plum and Youngest is Miss Scarlett. The movie is an absolute hoot as well, if you haven't seen it.

We also love Monopoly. I don't think we've ever actually finished a game, but we always dissolve into shrieks of laughter and in-jokes during play.

Ross and the kids challenge each other to chess (which I am hopeless at.) Ross's favorite game is RISK, which is a bit too much like history class homework for me. The one game we two can agree on is Scrabble. He trounces me.

My favorite board game as a kid? THE GAME OF LIFE. Who didn't love getting assigned a career, collecting a spouse and children, and driving the tiny plastic car up hill and down on your way to retire in either Millionaire Acres or a refrigerator box?

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  Oh, I love board games! So does my daughter, but hubby HATES them, so daughter and I only play occasionally. Not sure about son-in-law--will have to find out. I loved Clue, and Monopoly, and Risk, and Scrabble. But my all-time favorite was Trivial Pursuit. Does that count as a real board game? I'm always tempted by the new updated versions, but don't know anyone except my daughter who will play with me.

Hank, of COURSE you were Miss Scarlet! 

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Debs, we have the Disney Trivial Pursuit game! Love it!

Lovely readers, do you remember Clue? 

What were your favorite board games as a child? 

And do you ever play board games now?


  1. Oh, I dearly loved to play Clue . . . I always wanted to be Miss Peacock.
    Life was our go-to game when we were young. We enjoyed Monopoly and Parcheesi, too.
    I still get to play because the Princess likes to play Twister and Scrabble [and she’s pretty good at both] . . . .

  2. I love Clue! And you can save Mr. Green for me. I also liked Monopoly and Sorry as a kid. Mousetrap was good. So many wonderful hours spent playing games.

    My mom's favorite game these days is Rummikub, so we play it a lot when I go home. Then there's Sequence. As far as card games go, there's Uno....

    I really wish I had some friends around here who liked to play games. I don't play them nearly enough.

    On a related note, Hallmark is starting an ornament series this year called Family Game Night. Each will feature a classic board game. The first one comes out in October, and it's Sorry. Can't wait. Don't tell my family, but I'm thinking I'll be buying multiples and giving it to them, too.

  3. I think the most popular game we played growing up was Monopoly. When my mother was a teenager she worked for Parker Brothers in Salem, so I was introduced to it early.

    But Clue, of course. I think it was the first board game I ever played. Helen, my babysitter—now one of my Facebook friends—brought it with her and taught me how to play. Sometimes she brought her sisters along.

    Playing games with my friends was possibly the best part of childhood.

  4. Monopoly, Clue, Risk. I won't tell that Trivial Pursuit story again. I refused to play Shoots and Ladders or Sorry (sorry Mark) as they seemed too silly and easy. Except on a massive deadline, I will sit down and play Monopoly anytime, anywhere.

  5. I never could play Clue. It was
    Monopoly and Twister when I was a kid, Trivial Pursuit and Drunk Twister when I was in college, and with kids, Candyland and a really fabulous game called Kids on Stage, a charades game for future actors.

    We played more card games when I was young. My brother, niece, and I played several hands of Bouree (Battle) and Go Fish this past weekend, using giant cards. Fun!

  6. Love board games. My older sisters used to accuse me of cheating at Clue because I'd peek at what they were writing down on their score sheets if I could. Hey, I was supposed to be solving the mystery, wasn't I? And we always played Life on New Year's Eve. My sons also love board games and we must play Scrabble at least once when we are all together.

    At my 27-year old's master's degree party on Saturday , two groups of twenty-somethings were playing board games late into the night. Really. And he and his girlfriend win at Trivial Pursuit at the pub every Thursday. There is hope!

  7. Good morning, everybody! So glad to see the love of board games is alive and well!

    Mark, thanks for mentioning the ornaments — the Clue one will be a must for us!

  8. Does anyone remember Battleship? I think that's next...

  9. When we were kids, rainy days at the cottage were for Parcheesi and Chinese checkers (all those marbles!) Saturday afternoons in junior high and high school were often devoted to Monopoly.

    But after we all grew up, the entire family did battle in marathon Scrabble bouts. My dad was an absolute champ, and it was nearly impossible to beat him. (When you come from a family of readers and writers, everyone goes nuts over words!)

    Is Clue the game with Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick? And somebody named Plum?

  10. BTW, I learned to play Mah Jongg in China. It is NOT your mother's version of the game.

  11. We still play Clue on occasion with the girls (now 14 and 16)and have a pizza and game night similar to Susan's every Friday. The four of us frequently play poker now and it's great fun. Anything to get away from the electronics!

    My hub and Ross must be twins separated at birth, Julia. Chess and Risk--too much concentration required for too long!

  12. I think it is very cool that board game sales are doing well.

    and oh, how I love Clue! I was never a big Monopoly fan.

    Donald and I play Scrabble a lot, and take our board with us when we go on vacation.

    Trivial Pursuit. I love Trivial Pursuit. We also have the Silver Screen and Baby Boomer editions (not nearly as much fun as the original).

  13. Ellen, yes — Clue is the game where you can say things like "Col. Mustard in the library with a candlestick."

  14. The Kiddo now wants to play Dungeons and Dragons — it looks REALLY complicated. Anyone here play that one?

  15. LOVE Battleships! Truly. ANd I love that you can just whip up the playing board on pieces of paper. My Uncle Fred had a printing company, and he would make pads of Battleship for us. We loved it.

    Chess. I used to play, with my stepfather, but ALWAYS lost, and that became less fun.

    Kaye, will you guys come over for Trivial Pursuit? MAybe we can have a big Jungle Red game..Debs, you're in, right? Hmmm...I just had an idea.

  16. We have regular game nights amongst our friends. We love our board games.

    And yes, Clue is a perennial favorite. Who wouldn't love it.

    The current obsession (for some of the group, but not necessarily myself) is Carcassonne. A bit on the complex side, it involves using tiles to build a city and then placing farmers, thiefs and mayors to score points.

    But one of my favorites (and one the JRW and fans are sure to love) is called Word on the Street. It is simple. Contains a board with a street on it, with a median in the middle (3 line highway on each side of grass). On the grass are all the letters of the alphabet, minus the vowels. Each team (or person) takes a side of the street and by spelling out words (moving the letter tiles one lane for each occurrence) you try to capture as many of the letters on your side of the street's gutter by the end of the game. You get to pick the word you spell, but it must fit the category card you draw. Since there are no vowels, you don't get to move any tiles for those. It becomes a tug of war and each team tries to bring the letters to their side.

  17. Clue! Such a great game. One son-in-law is a great game player (a SAVAGE Scrabbler) and he has patiently taught the little boys several games. Clue is a favorite.
    The boys love their "screen time" but their parents are strict about it, and I love watching them play card games and board games.
    The little girls are 3 & 5 -- I will be happy to see the end of "Candy Land" which inevitably produces tears (when a player is sent way back).

  18. When I was growing up we had them all: Clue, Monopoly, Parchese, Chinese Checkers, Risk. We played battleship in the car on hand-scratched boards. I played chess (and have the pleasure of saying I was beaten at age 23 by a kid of 8 or 9 who became a world grandmaster...I remember when...)

    But once I reached age 10 or so, I was into the Avalon Hill war games BIG TIME. Gettysburg, Chancelorsville, Battle of the Bulge and so many others. I was what we now call a beta tester for some of their games while in high school.

    Holy moley it has been years since I thought of those games. Thanks for the memories.

    ~ Jim

  19. We are huge board game fans. Clue is a past favorite but the current obsession is Scattergories. Everyone gets a card that contains a list of categories (nickname, sandwich, world leader, something you replace, etc). The die is an alphabet die, so you roll to get the letter you must use to complete the list on the card. You can imagine the groans that occur if someone rolls the dreaded "Q" or "K". You only get credit for the ones that you can claim uniquely so weirder is better. We have growing family lore around some of the responses.."I can hide Jambalaya if I want. The category is Things You Hide. Maybe I don't want to share the Jambalaya".

  20. Love board games, but never got the Clue bug. Monopoly, Scrabble, Boggle, Parcheesi (a favorite with the boys--great strategists--ALWAYS beat the pants off me), hey, does dominoes count? Checkers--my dad the master, Chinese checkers, Chutes & Ladders (not so many tears when Aunt Flora plays, huge howls of laughter when she gets sent back!), a new game called Catan--sounds sort of like Carcasonne). And, yes, Susan, the snacks are always important, too! Forgot the Scrabble nights in college--the 'younger' crowd would descend on our apartment for a night of scrabble, pizza, cake! Great memories from childhood to the present!

  21. Loved Clue. Used to have Trivial Pursuit throw-downs with my dad (if he, my sister, and I ever end up on a cruise ship quiz night we'll be thrown overboard). Nobody will play Trivial Pursuit with my except my dad. Never very good at chess and HATED Risk (I mean seriously, how can one little tiny army defeat an armada?). I picked up a new favorite, Dominion (it's a card-based game, so not technically boards). I don't win much, but I have fun.

    My son (12) likes Sorry (hey, he likes smacking the other players around) and he's getting into chess. The Girl (14) LOVES Clue - and the movie is on of her top five all-time favorites. And she usually wins (little stinker).

  22. Battleship was always the game we played in the car on long trips - my mom would give us pads of graph paper and pencils and we'd set to making naval warfare. I couldn't believe it when I first saw the physical board game version! Now, of course, it has digital noises and a "command console" and a lot more unnecessary stuff.

    Laura, I think you're right about chess and Risk requiring too much concentration. When I play a board game, I want to talk and laugh and joke around. Ross wants to think very hard about strategy and win. Scrabble is really our only middle ground.

  23. I have loved Clue for so long, and I still have the game from when I was around 12 or so. I was always intrigued with Professor Plum, probably because of the color purple as much as anything, but it could be my love of alliteration started at an early age. My children were partial to the game, too, and now I play it with my thirteen-year-old granddaughter.

    Monopoly is another popular one I started playing as a kid. Reine, how cool that your mother worked for Parker Brothers! And, Monopoly is one of those games that is often left unfinished. Some in my family, who shall remain nameless, have a problem with delighting in leveling fines and being a land lord. I'm usually on the receiving end of those pesky rents.

    My brother and I played many games of Chinese Checkers when my parents would go visit my aunt and uncle. The adults would go off to talk, and here's a shock, didn't feel obligated to entertain my brother and me. (Times have somewhat changed in that area.) My aunt had an old Chinese Checker board, so we entertained ourselves.

    Other games I enjoyed in my busiest game years as a kid were Mousetrap and Life. I'm not sure why I didn't get into Scrabble much as I got older, as I love words so much. My husband and I played it in our earlier years of marriage, but he grew up in a cut-throat atmosphere of playing games, and I wasn't as competitive as he was.

    Speaking of competitive. Aggravation is my husband's family's game, and thus, it has become our family game, too. When we play with his mother, which we often do when the kids are in, it is as competitive as a game can get. My mother-in-law is the Aggravation champion of all times, and if you happen to be her partner, woe be to you if you don't take it seriously. She has an old Aggravation board, and because my kids have grown up playing on that board, some years ago I ordered them each a vintage board just like it for their own on E-Bay. At the time I paid around $20 for one. My sister-in-law informed me recently that she was going to purchase one, and the price started at around $125. Wow, I bought at the right time.

    Oh, I forgot one that my kids liked to play. Pretty, Pretty Princess. The cousins would play it when they got together, and my nephew Christopher was hilarious in the beads and tiara when he would win. I would love to find the game for my youngest granddaughter, but they don't make the same version now. Oh, I need to check E-Bay. I play Candy Land with the four-year-old granddaughter, and she's actually quite good about getting sent back. Better than me. LOL!

  24. My first board game was Candy Land. I was happy just looking at it since I had a terrible sweet tooth. Then Clue became the biggie. My best friend in elementary school and I were both mystery book fiends, so we were also Clue fiends. In college, once I was married, Scrabble with another broke married couple was an ideal way to spend an evening. Especially since my husband would fall asleep between turns and we would rearrange the board. I didn't say we were nice! Much later my siblings would play Trivial Pursuit on the rare occasions we were all in the same town. My aunt remarked on one of these sessions to my mother: I had no idea they were so smart. Did we normally act like dumb asses around her? I didn't think so. . . Now the only time I play is when the granddaughter is visiting. We may play Jenga or dominoes. The latter seems exotic to her but is perfectly normal here in Texas.

  25. Clue! Played it with my granddaughter last summer. Never liked Monopoly because it brought out the unrestrained capitalist in some relatives and even when it wasn't me, I always felt bad for the poor sucker who landed on roadway with two hotels. I love Scrabble but like Deb, I can't seem to find people who like to play. I've been told I should play online, but I'm too shy...

  26. I adore Clue! I had so much fun introducing it to my nephews a few years ago ... I loved Monopoly too.

    OK, so, for modern games I'm going to go naughty on you all. It's a card game, which I think still counts, called CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY. It's so unPC and so hilarious. It's an adults only version of Apples to Apples, if you know that one. Has anyone heard of it?

  27. Warning: there are some errors in the answers provided in Trivial Pursuit. (E.g., I dare anyone who watched JFK's funeral to forget what the Navy Hymn is-- and it is NOT "Anchors Aweigh" as they maintain!)

  28. Yes, I enjoyed Battleship, too. It's been a long time since I played.

    I meant to ask if anyone here had played Clue Master detective. It's the same idea as Clue, but with more weapons, suspects, and rooms. There are a couple of other rules variations as well. It's fun, but takes a bit longer. It was only around for a couple of years, as I recall, but I've got a copy of the game.

    And Susan, I hope that Hallmark makes a Clue ornament in the next few years. They release their series ornaments one per year, and I haven't heard what future ornaments in the series will be.

  29. I played Master Detective. I also remember there being a VCR/video version. You played a short video clip and then moved/made guesses/etc.

  30. I love Trivial Pursuit, but most of my friends won't play with me anymore. I love Clue as well, there was a second version out in the US a few years ago that took place at the country house, A friend bought me Cluedo one year from the UK and I have Clue Harry Potter edition.

  31. I forgot Scrabble? I still have my mother's with the beautiful wooden parts and the Lazy Susan board.

  32. Lisa, our group also plays Cards Against Humanity on a regular basis. Once with the wrong mix of people (not to self: never play this game when a mother and daughter are at your house together). LOL.

  33. Occasionally I open the box that holds my parents' Scrabble game, just to see my long-gone father's handwriting on the old score sheets.

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  35. I love Clue, but my favorite was a little-known board game called "Masterpiece" where you had to determine if you were buying a true Master artwork or a forgery.

    Susan, I play D&D, and it's challenging but fun. If you want the scoop, email me and we can talk.

    Wil Wheaton has made board games popular with the younger set. He's got a series called "Tabletop" that encouraged folks to get together and play board games, and it's wildly popular, I'm told.

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  37. Love board games. Tried to get our friends into a regularly occurring game night, but the kids were too young to tag along and sitters are expensive. Battleship (the old one with no sound effects), Clue, Scrabble, the one with the little red and blue pieces, where you're taking over the battlefield(?), Cranium, Boggle. My BIL introduced us to a card game (Fluxx) where the rules keep changing, which is super fun. We're trying to get the hang of Mahjong. I'm suddenly craving game night!

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  39. Oh, Leslie, that's lovely.

    I have a game called FActs in Five, which I love--I had it in the 70's , and I have looked at it, fondly, seeing the names and handwriting of old friends we played with. Some are dead and some are living, as the Beatles said.

    Thank you for making me think of it.

  40. Do you all play Balderdash? We love that.

    And it's not a board game, exactly, but we are very big on Celebrity. Anyone know it?

  41. I absolutely adored Clue as a kid. It was a gateway to murder mystery dinner party games, which I then began to write myself...

    Thank you for the walk down memory lane this afternoon! It's a much-needed break for my day today :)

  42. Board games at the cottage, always.

    And Clue. Wonderful game. I still own the game we bought while on a camping trip to the States ca. 1959. So that "orginal game" picture is pretty familiar.

    Bananagrams, Scotland Yard, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Food Trivia (yeah, not too many people have heard of that one).

    Oh, and Candyland with the 4-year-old grandson. Surely one of the nastiest games on the planet, since the poor kid can be sent back to square 9 just as he's about to make a run for home, and Grandma can't help winning. Grrrr.

  43. I loved Clue...can remember playing it for hours with my cousins. When I was little we played "Uncle Wiggly" a lot (anyone remember that one?) and so i bought it to play with my grandchildren.
    as an adult, huge huge argument with my husband over playing RISK--35 years ago. We are still married, but he refuses to play RISK with me. Now, I love 'Twenty-questions', Finish Lines, Chronology, anything with trivia.

  44. I loved Clue! I always wanted to be Miss Scarlet, too. When our daughter was young, we revived it. From my childhood, I also loved Sorry, Yahtzee, Parchesi and Monopoly. At an even younger age, it was Candyland. Although I love words, I never liked Scrabble because of the strategizing, which I wasn't good at.

    When our daughter came along, there were more games available: Boggle and Bananagrams have been favorites, along with the games of my childhood. Now she has discovered the Flux card games, and we're looking forward to trying Settlers of Cataan as well as Set.

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