“Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.”
— George Will
I fondly remember playing Avalon Hill board games as a teenager. Along with my friends Dan, Rob and Randy, I spent many hours on weekend afternoons in a basement setting up, strategizing, figuring out the rules, making things up, laughing and generally goofing around.
These were complicated games involving detailed rules, cards, tokens, hundreds of counters, and grand themes such as winning World War II, dominating magic realms, or playing entire major league baseball seasons. When there was a disagreement, there was no computer to tell us the right answer, we had to consult the rule book several times and debate amongst ourselves how to proceed. There weren’t flashy graphics, just colorful tokens and game boards. We couldn’t just play anytime we wanted by connecting to someone across the world, we had to get everyone together before it would work.
Looking back, I think the most interesting thing was that even though we were playing a game with defined rules, the game we created was our own. Our ad libbed rules were making up things like forbidding two people on the same team from talking which resulted in a lot of note passing. The notes could be intercepted by the opposing team and created some awfully funny moments when a fake note was read out loud – “My dog has no nose. How does he smell? Terrible!” always brought down the house even after a hundred times. These games were our own special creation.
Today, those memories came flooding back. My son Zachary and I played Axis and Allies all afternoon. There were no screens, just the two of us, six hours and about a thousand colorful tokens. I played the Axis powers in World War II, he took the Allies. It didn’t matter who won. We read the rules when there was confusion. We talked about strategy. We laughed when chance took a strange turn and we improvised. We took a game and from it, made our own.
Like Zachary said, “You can get an app for every single board game on the iPad, but you can’t play by your own rules.”
Well said. It was an afternoon and a game well spent.
Played Axis and Allies all afternoon with my son, just like I played board games with my friends as a child.