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Childhood Memories: Games Night With My Family

The games that helped turn me into the man I am today.



It’s family day. As a 40-year-old, this is still a weird holiday for me. Family Day didn’t exist until 2007 so I had already way from my parent’s place, moved to Toronto (by accident) and was bartending. I’ve got a 6 year old now and just like his old man, he’s showing an early interest in board games. I’m very, very excited.

Having a child really does have a massive effect on how you perceive even the most mundane things. It’s hard to explain but it is almost at the DNA level, how profound my mindset shift has become. I think one of the things that really comes into focus is the passage of time. Not how fast it is or anything like that but of just how constant it is. Every day I wake up, my son is that much further away from being my baby and that much closer to being an adult. At the same time, my Dad’s 70th birthday is just around the corner…time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking…into the futuuuuure.

I was thinking about the board games I want to play once Lee is a bit older and it got me thinking about the games I played as a kid with my family. They’re old now but a lot of them still slap. I’m just going to take a quick stroll down memory lane and you’re more than welcome to join.


The epic battles that would be waged with my brother or sister when we were younger are things of legend. Stratego is a somewhat old, war game released in 1942. Memorization is huge while luck and strategy all blend together to create some very real tension.

This is a two-player game, keep in mind, but it is really fun. Both players have army pieces that are of varying rank or skill power. On top of that, each player has six bombs which are then scattered in among their units. The goal: to protect your flag and capture your opponents before they get yours. Players take turns moving their units one at a time. If you move your unit into an opponent’s, both pieces are revealed and the more powerful piece wins. The subtly of the game, and the fun, is in the various abilities of your units and memorization.

For instance, some units can disarm bombs while others act sort of like assassins that are only effective against high-level opponent pieces. Not only that, even if you lose combat, you still get a glimpse into seeing how your opponent is set up. Keeping track of the pieces you’ve seen is such a big part of this game which is something I really like.

Deciding when to strike with your powerful pieces isn’t always easy: until you’ve tracked down a couple of bombs it’s risky to go blazing into enemy lines. Also, you only have a handful of bomb disarmers which need to be protected. Stratego is a game of attrition and the salt it can produce is very salty indeed. Still, this is one of the first games I think of when I think about family and if you’ve never tried it before, I heavily recommend it.


Cribbage is basically religion with my family. There are at least 4 cribbage boards in the house; one in every major room. Same with playing cards. This ensures games can be started quickly and no one has to wait to play, assuming they have an opponent.

For the initiates, Cribbage is an old-timey game using just a simple deck of playing cards and the Cribbage board. In fact, you don’t even really need the board (you can track points on a pad of paper). the board does add a nice element to the game though. Points are scored in three phases per round and blend elements of poker and blackjack. The “Crib” is an extra set of cards that alternates each round between players.

There’s a lot of interaction which is what makes this game fun. You can score points by basically chaining cards off what your opponent played last. My Mom is the best to play against because she’s got this very secretive competitive streak in her that I don’t think many people know about. When she’s losing, she’s got this tick where she absently starts scratching her arms.

If you’re looking to pick up a new card game, I highly recommend Cribbage. And yes, I’m accepting new challengers.


I can still vividly remember the laughter around my family’s dinner table whenever we played Balderdash. It’s one of those games that bridges knowledge with general silliness. Basically, players take turns reading out real words that, for the most part, no one’s ever heard of. Then everyone else writes down what they think the definition is and take turns guessing which definition is correct. Points are awarded for guessing the right answer and for having other players guess your answer.

I know it sounds cut and dry but I swear, this game is tear-jerk funny. Listening to the different definitions is absolutely hilarious. Even better, there’s some real learning going on as every round ends with the real definition being announced. It’s a great way to get exposure to words that you won’t see very often in everyday life.

Welp, that’s a chunk of my family night, board game memories. Hope you got something out of it. Maybe you’ll check out these games!!

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