Board Games: What To Do on a Winter Evening

Reporter in Residence
Monroe Mouse

Burr! There is a chill in the air, frost on the ground, and leaves swirling. Napping in the garden will no longer will be a daily occurrence. It's time to look for a relaxing activity to occupy blustery winter nights in the Mansion.

I think I know just the location to start my search. Success! Board games have always provided entertainment for families as long as I can remember. If I keep a low profile, I don’t think the volunteers working here in the third floor toy room will even notice me.

There is an amazing selection of games from which to choose. Even more amazing is the fact many of the same games are still on store shelves today. Perhaps they are a little more colorful and even electronic, nevertheless, they are similar to those of the late 1800’s. Tiddlywinks still delights young and old and was one of the first parlor games to become a fad.

Historically speaking, many of these games reflected the times. Early automobiles inspired Touring. Cards labeled “puncture” and “out of gas” slowed down players on their race to complete a 590 mile trip. Of course Monopoly distracted individuals during play from the hardships of the Great Depression.

Enough of this reminiscing, my city cousins will be arriving and a game must be chosen. My choice is The Checkered Game of Life. Today, children would recognize it as The Game of Life available in a variety of formats. Of course the game’s designer’s name is synonymous with board games. Milton Bradley entered board game manufacturing in 1860 under unusual circumstances.

Bradley was a lithographer who was known for his portrait of Abraham Lincoln. That all changed in 1860, when Lincoln grew his beard. With his income significantly diminished, Bradley printed several copies of a board game he designed. The success of the game, The Checkered Game of Life, launched his career in the game business. The game reflected America’s fascination with wealth in Post-Civil War industrialization.

Bradley was influenced by the German philosopher Fröbel’s theories on early education with a focus on the child’s vantage point including play, and arts and crafts. He published pamphlets on the kindergarten movement which did not net profits. Educational games including Word Builder and Sentence Builder, watercolor sets and crayons were examples of his dedication to the new child-centered philosophy of early childhood education.

Well, I need to remember why I came to the third floor. Before I know it my cousins will be here. I had better set up the game board and start popping some corn for our treat.