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Lockdown Drove My Family to Tabletop Gaming

pandemic the cure feature

Let's be honest, the world is in a dire situation and my aim with this article is to try and relive just a touch of this frustration with a happy story of my own to come out of this global pandemic. I have always been interested in board games, well, games of any sort really. I have fond memories from when I was a lad huddling around a table and playing board games with my family.

Skip forward twenty plus years and now, with a family of my own, we would play small, simple board games now and again. We would play Shut the Lid on holiday, Uno on the odd occasion and if we were really feeling spicy, The Mysteries of Old Peking, which I still had from my now cloudy childhood. It was entertaining but little did I know how much we would, as a family, get into the tabletop gaming hobby.

Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy is a new addition to our collection, a sprawling sandbox in space.

The Start of Something Special

It all started not long before the first lockdown when a friend of mine, let’s call him Stuart, brought in a couple of games to play over dinner at work. As I said, I love games of all varieties and will never turn down an opportunity to pit my wits against anyone who wishes to take me on in a board game based battle. We played Carcassonne, Boss Monster, Star Realms and a few other small bits. My eyes were truly opened to how far board games had come and I realized there was a lot more to the hobby than I first thought.

However, it was when Stuart offered to loan me his copy of Pandemic: The Cure that things changed. This was deep in lockdown now and everyone was trapped in the same house, so the distraction of trying to save the world from a pandemic seemed fun and very apt, given the current situation. We played it, played it and played it to death, laughing, shouting and really getting into it in a big way. Some ancient spark had been lit between us and something about our home life had been forever changed.

We Fell Down the Tabletop Rabbit Hole

I started to look online and fell down the rabbit hole of board and tabletop gaming. I had even given up listening to music on my daily pushbike ride into work in favour of board game based podcasts, I was truly taken back by what this hobby could offer us during these troubled times. My friend Stuart said, “I prefer board games to video games if I have someone to play with.” At the time, I thought was utterly mad but now I fully understand what he meant.

So on I went to make my official first purchase from a board game shop, I walked in and while it was not a dedicated tabletop shop, it had a good selection of these ‘designer’ board games. Not just the normal Scrabble, Monopoly and some weird overly cheap plastic game you see in most shops. I was overwhelmed by the choices, by the rack upon rack of brightly coloured opportunities. I did not know where to start, so I started with what I knew and made my first two board game purchases of what was to be a family shared obsession. The classics, Carcassonne and Pandemic.

Meeples Everywhere

Over the next week or so we basically played these two games so much, over and over and we loved it. As with all these things, the watching of youtube channels and other media sources led us to look into other games. We wanted new experiences, new genres and to increase our options when choosing what to play.  We then bought a couple of games a week, we were saving so much money by not being able to go out during lockdown, why not spend some of it on something to bring the family together and have some fun?

Variety is the Spice of Life

We went through deck builders, worker placement games, party games, deduction games and even bluffing games. We strode the whole plethora of the tabletop gaming spectrum. Every night was no longer a case of what we were going to do to drive off the boredom but what we would play together, as a family. As we were buying and playing games, we slowly increased the complexity and we were loving it. Games started to get bigger and more involved, we even had to buy a new table to play games on.

Our family has had many many months of fun, laughter and cardboard-based entertainment.

As the months passed and we played night after night of games, our collection grew and lockdown seemed nowhere near as bad as before. We looked forward to our nights together and those evenings were filled with laughter, joy and friendly competition. Our collection, since March 2020 stands at over 60 games, according to the tracking app I use we have played over 400 times and it has been a great experience. We even got into Kickstarter, 3D printing board game extras and other offshoots of the hobby.

Less Screen Time, More Tabletop Time

Another great positive to come out of this is both my boys who are quite young, eleven and eight, would now rather sit with the family and play board games instead of sitting in front of a screen playing PlayStation. Don’t get me wrong, I love video games but it is nice for us all to sit down, have fun and interact as a family. Let's be honest, less screen time is always a good thing, for anyone, not just children.

The Dark Souls card game, for example. A good recreation of some of the video game systems it is based on.

We play everything we can now from Azul to Codenames, from Space Base to Catan and we have lots of the newer big games from 2020 like Nidavellir, Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy and Dune Imperium and we love them all. We have had to buy a new storage solution to store them all and nothing pleases me more than getting a few new games and having to re-organize it all. Lockdown does funny things to people.

Try Something New to Help With Lockdown

What I want people to take from this piece is that while the world is going through turmoil and while we are trapped indoors, some solace can be taken from perhaps taking up a new hobby. While it may not be tabletop gaming it could be anything. Board games brought my family closer together, made lockdown more bearable and we will be continuing these gaming nights long after lockdown. We will continue to play together long after lockdown and I hope anyone who reads this can find happiness in something during these dark times. Stay safe people.