Matthew Munson: Never bored at Board At Home

Matthew and Bryan are board game fans

It was my turn to come down with the plague this past week. By the time last week’s column was out, I had been brought down with a virus of unmatched proportions that struck at every single major organ and brain cell … Oh, who am I kidding? It was the same virus Bryan had, and while it hit me hard, I certainly wasn’t in any terminal danger.

Being a single parent while also being ill isn’t easy, but I don’t begrudge Bryan anything; he got everywhere he needed to go during the week with my parents’ adept help. That helped hugely, as it reassured me that he wasn’t being short-changed by this virus, and I also got extra time to rest.

I’m virus-free now but left with a cough deep enough to make the floorboards creak. That disturbs sleep patterns, as you might imagine, and I was a bit of a walking zombie on a couple of mornings this week, which Bryan just artfully ignored as long as he got his breakfast on time.

In the short period between Bryan getting better and me falling ill, we spent a lot of time playing board games. We go through phases of this, moving between such classics as Risk, Monopoly, Banagrams, and a few others. We’ve played every day for a few weeks now, albeit limited on the days when one or the other of us weren’t feeling too well.

I like to take Bryan down to Board at Home in Ramsgate when we can. It’s not as often as I like, as other things in life often get in the way, but every few months, we book a table in this lovely little shop and browse their board game library. It’s such a nice way to spend an afternoon, away from the distractions of screens and busy life.

When we were there last weekend, a Dungeons & Dragons game was in full swing for a couple of hours. I earwigged, of course, and didn’t understand the rules – but it engendered a lot of laughter, passion, and storytelling, so I found myself liking the group of people without knowing any of them. Despite being a science fiction and fantasy fan, D&D never really appealed to me, but the craft of the game’s storyteller to write a story that weaves in everyone’s characters and responds to their individual decisions is a really intricate one. I’m still not sure a D&D game-playing session is something I’d be any good at, though.

One game Bryan and I always play when we visit Board at Home is something called Onitama, a Japanese two-player strategy game. There are sixteen movement cards, five of which are in play at any point, and these cards dictate how your pieces move. It’s harder than you think, and Bryan and I must have played it for over an hour last weekend; something about it just kept us coming back for more. We then played Marvel Monopoly, so our game play was very varied.

I’m thankful for a place like Board at Home existing, to remind us that there’s a world of fun in “old-fashioned” games. Board games are still being created even now, and we should play them more.

I introduced Bryan to draughts some time ago, and he’s already a blooming good player. He enjoys playing me, his nan, and his granddad, and I’ve always been surprised at the lack of a “Checkers Club” in the same way that there’s always “Chess Clubs” – I couldn’t find any reference to “Checkers Clubs” locally, anyway.

Being a curious sort of person, I decided to create a little Facebook group – Thanet Draughts / Checkers Group – to see if there might be any interest if setting up an actual Checkers Club at a local cafe, maybe on a Sunday afternoon. There might not be, of course, and I’d totally respect that, but I’d like to at least give it a go. Join up if you’re interested.

Oh, and just quickly; I’ve bumped into a couple of people who read my column recently, and I just wanted to say how much I appreciated your kindness to me and about Bryan. Yes, I am indeed very proud of him; he’s a rather brilliant human being.