“Great games lubricate the body and the mind,” Benjamin Franklin once remarked.
Games serve many purposes. Participants experience the drama of competition, sharpen their strategic skills, hone their minds with mental gymnastics … And best of all, they are fun! Most of us can recall the weekly “Game Night” that may have been accompanied by some grumbling and dragging feet. Without fail, family and friends became invested in the game in ten minutes or less.
To inspire your next game night, here’s a list of the top five iconic board games you should have ready to hand.
A game whose primary objective is “world domination” has to top the list. Like many classic board games, Risk has an interesting background. Invented by an Albert Lamorisse, a French film director, the original game was released in 1957 under the name La Conquete du Monde (“World Conquest”).
The game board is a geopolitical map of the world, divided into forty-two territories across six continents. Two to six players take turns maneuvering their armies in an attempt to capture territories from other players. The results of those attempts are determined by the roll of the dice.
Speaking of dice, next up is Yahtzee!, a classic dice game that’s great for the whole family (manufacturer recommends ages 6 and up).
There are thirteen categories that players aim to complete in the game. They get up to three tries per turn to do so. Examples of the categories include four of a kind, straight, three of a kind, full house, etc. When each player has a score or a zero for each of the thirteen categories, the game has ended. Points are tallied and the player with the highest score is the winner!
This board game is part of a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley, The Game of Life requires two to six players, but there are variations that accommodate up to eight or ten.
The game takes participants through the joys and travails that practically everyone experiences during our lives: school, jobs, marriage, kids, and retirement are all covered. It’s considered the first popular “parlor game” in America, and its popularity remains secure.
This game even inspired a book by Lou Harry: The Game of Life: How to Succeed in Real Life No Matter Where You Land. With so many landmarks under its belt, Life is a true classic in every household should own.
Invented during the Great Depression by Alfred Mosher Butts, this game has won over devotees around the world. Its modest and brilliant creator puts a lot of thought into the game’s design.
In his research he concluded that games fall into one of three categories: move games (e.g., checkers or chess), number games like bingo or dice, and word games such as anagrams. His goal was to create a word game that also had the element of chance.
That same element of chance launched the game in its place as a household name in the 1950s when the president of Macy’s discovered the game on vacation. After years of research, development and refinement, persistence also paid off as Scrabble took the country by storm.
And last, the quintessential board game in the US: Monopoly. Another Depression-era invention, this game is woven into history and pop culture, and has been adopted around the globe. Its many iterations include a Monopoly set worth $2 million that was created by a San Francisco jeweler, Sidney Mobell.
Players vie for complete control of the board through real estate acquisitions, with the element of chances and occasional windfalls. Strategy, negotiation, and determination are present in every game of Monopoly. Next time someone complains about how long the game is taking, remember that the longest game of Monopoly ever played took seventy days to determine the winner.