Board games are boring.

Yes, it’s not the greatest way to start off an article selling the importance of tabletop games hammered out between dads, mums, and their kids.

Like it or leave it — win, or lose — I have no real love for the genre.

The very last thing as a dad I’ve wanted to do, is play Monopoly, spin the wheel in Game of Life, or face the labyrinth of some vague instruction manual, trying to interpret its grindy, overthought in-game rules and procedure.

Then rinse and repeat this, over and over, and over, and over again.

This disdain for board games has been my dad-life kryptonite.

Despite this, my kids and wife are huge fans, so avoiding being conscripted into the fan club was unavoidable.

Reaping Benefits

On balance, the tabletop gaming genre is one of the best indoor dad-job activities I’ve had the privilege of exploring with my kids.

The genre is timeless.

Investing now means ensuring quality family time long after the home is declared an “empty nest.”

First, communal care is fostered by loving participation in board games. This can create priceless memories.

Second, Semper Fi! Denying the reticence to sit and participate in — what is the silent equivalent of nails being dragged across a chalkboard — is a good recipe for reminding kids about the importance of self-denial, resilience, perseverance, overcoming, and adapting.

Third, the experience teaches kids by example that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do, simply because they need to be done. Like doing their chores.

Parenting Balance

There is also the opportunity for dads to nurture kids in how to lose well, and win graciously.

If the context is age-appropriate, don’t let them win easily. Outdo your kids at their own game.

Contrary to a 2012 LEGO Games Creationary study, where 71% of 2,000 parents ‘let their kids win whenever they play games’, ramp up the challenge.

The study also revealed two extremes to avoid.

  • Letting kids win: ‘One in five parents believing it was more important for their child to have fun — which they do if they win every time — than learn that you can’t come top in everything.’
  • Not letting them win at all: ‘Not all parents are as sympathetic, with one in five admitting to being so competitive, they will never let their kids win.’

Neural and Social Skills

Writing for Scholastic, Megan Zander noted: “Board games can actually benefit kids’ brains and language development.”

Quoting psychologist Beatrice Tauber Prior, Zander further explained,

 “Strategy games are useful in helping the frontal lobes of the brain develop… Those frontal lobes are responsible for executive function skills, which include planning, organizing, and making good decisions.”

An additional bonus: tabletop games “are a simple way to get quality, screen-free time with the kids.”

“Learning to wait your turn and follow the rules are important lessons that serve kids far beyond the living room floor,” Zander added.

Instead of running from the time-honoured privilege that is family games night, find board games that don’t bore the pants off even the most ardent gamer.

I find the best type of board game is the one that keeps players moving.

Some of the best to meet this benchmark are Axis & Allies, RISK, Battleship, Uno, Ticket to Ride, Terraforming Mars, Settlers of Catan, and the best of all tabletop games: Chess.

This all said, I’m off to step into the role of Mr X, covertly conquer the board, and play to win the king of them all, Scotland Yard, with the kids.

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Photo by Vlada Karpovich.

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

2 Comments

  1. Chris January 12, 2023 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    The article was strange enough as it was, but the super weird list of recommendations in the end really makes me question why it was written. Putting Terraforming Mars (one of the most complex 3h games out there no kid under 14 would grasp) in a list with battleship (a trivial game for little kids) tells me which one of the two the author had ever played.

    • Rod January 13, 2023 at 7:03 am - Reply

      Hi Chris, I’ve played both. Own both, and own all the games listed, then some. The list is as broad as I could make it, with T.M being one of those games which fits the “keeps players moving” criteria I set out in the piece. Overall, the point of my article is that board games have their strengths and their weaknesses, but shouldn’t be ruled out by dads as too tedious to bother with for reasons stipulated also in the piece.

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