Museums: Not only are they a great way to spend the day, but they are humanity's way of educating society and preserving the past so that we might understand where we come from and the world we inhabit better. After all, you have to know the past in order to understand the present. Museums aren't reserved for the arts and sciences, however; One collection of toys and games has become quite famous in America: The National Toy Hall of Fame. It originally began its life in Discovery Village in Salem, Oregon, but it grew and grew, eventually needing a new home in the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.
The hall of fame aims to shine a light on the best and brightest of toys, ones that have stood the test of time and revolutionized play. It even has specific criteria for induction into its hallowed halls: the toy must be widely recognized and beloved, it must have longevity in the cultural sphere, encourages learning and creativity, and be innovative in its existence/design. Quite a lot for a toy to live up to, but there are actually several board games within the collection, and you'll most likely recognize all of them. Let's check out these champions of games and learn a little bit more about their histories.
Out of the 78 toys that currently sit in the hall of fame, is it any surprise that Jenga is one of them? The name comes from the Swahili word kujenga, which means "to build," and it was first debuted in 1983 at the London Toy Fair by designer Leslie Scott, who was raised in Tanganyika and spoke both English and Swahili. Jenga consists of 54 hardwood rectangular blocks that have a smooth finish, necessary for the game's purpose of intricate block placement.
Players stack all of the blocks in rows of three, each level facing the opposite way from the last to create a crisscross tower of blocks. Each turn consists of a player taking one block out of the tower from any level except the top, sliding it out carefully to prevent the tower from falling over. They then place the block on top of the tower in order to make it as tall as possible. The tower will become more and more precarious as it loses blocks, so a careful hand and sturdy table are vital to making it last as long as possible. Of course, the game ends when the tower topples over, and whoever makes the tower fall over is the big loser.
Perhaps one of the best icebreaker games, Scrabble is beloved because it's easy to learn and hard to master, as is the English language itself. You've probably found yourself arguing about valid words in Scrabble with an opponent, and trying to fit high-value consonants into the triple word score box. If you've never played Scrabble, the rules are mercifully simple: To start, players each pull one tile from the bag, with the closest to A going first. The goal is to create words with your seven tiles that bring you the most points.
Decide on the dictionary that you'll both use during the game to prevent any debating/ending of relationships. Different squares on the board will give you double or triple the letter score or word score, making scrabble more about strategizing your plays rather than just having the coolest word (though that sure helps!) Scrabble was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004, 66 years after its original publication in 1938.
Candy Land was originally published in 1949 by Eleanor Abbott as she was recovering from Polio, a disease that ran rampant before a vaccine was invented. As Abbott was in a hospital, she got children in the same wards as her to play-test the game for her, before bringing it to Milton Bradley to release to the public. Candy Land works well because of its suitability for all ages, especially younger children. There's very little reading and counting needed, and no strategy required to enjoy the game, meaning those as young as three can play.
The goal is to simply reach the Candy Castle at the end of the board's path, which you traverse by drawing cards and advancing to the first space of the colour on that card. If you get two squares of colour (e.g. two purple squares) you get to advance to the second matching colour space in front of your Gingerbread game piece. Drawing a picture of a certain candy means you must move forwards OR backwards to wherever that pink space is with the matching candy, such as the lollipop or candy cane. The game offers two different shortcut areas, which are the Rainbow Trail and the Gumdrop pass, and overall features an overload of candy goodness sure to get everyone craving some sugar by the end, if you're not already chowing down!
The Game of Life
A classic game played by many a child and adult, The Game of Life ironically only showcases a very specific way of living life, and it certainly makes the American Dream a lot easier to accomplish than in real life. Thankfully, it's quite entertaining to make up for any flaws in its design with great gameplay and tons of cards, tiles, and pieces for players to collect.
The game starts by choosing a player to be the Banker, the one in charge of all money coming to and from the bank. Then, you can choose to attend college or skip it and go straight to your career instead (it just depends if you want to risk debt for a higher rewarding career.) After, you'll get a Salary card that dictates how much you make every time you land on or pass a Pay Day space. Other spaces you can land on are Orange spaces that you must obey, Blue spaces which obeying is optional, Life spaces that get you a Life Tile, and Red spaces that you must stop on even if you had more movement.
When you reach the Get Married space, you'll stop on such a space and choose either a pink or blue spouse and put them in your car with you. Getting married isn't optional, but children are completely random Orange spaces, meaning you could end up with no children or way too many. Buying a house is required too, though these house mortgages are unrealistically affordable. All players go through the trials and tribulations of life and get to retire, either in the cushy countryside or Millionaire Estates, depending on their wealth. It's a charming and idealistic way of viewing life, which is why it's remained so popular since its creation in 1860 by Milton Bradley.
Saving the most complicated for last, Risk is well-known for its strategy and tactics, making it an interesting choice for the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2021. It beat out The Settlers of Catan, Battleship, and even Mahjong to be inducted alongside other classics. Invented by French film director Albert Lamorisse in 1957 as La Conquête du Monde (or The Conquest of the World), Risk will take you the longest to play out of this list, unless you’re obscenely good at balancing Jenga blocks. It notoriously takes several hours to even multiple days to finish depending on gameplay. The goal is to occupy each of the 42 territories of planet earth, which are split into six continents.
Two to six players will control armies, capture territories, form alliances, and break alliances with each other throughout the game. Depending on the number of territories and continents occupied, a player will receive armies they can use to attack adjacent territories, the outcome of which is decided by dice rolls. Those who run out of territories are eliminated from the game, while the battle for world domination continues without them. Risk gamifies the concepts of war and colonization, similar to the way Monopoly makes capitalism into a game, but it can educate on world geography and strategic thinking. Such timeless pursuits of “winning it all” have made many board games worldwide classics, and that no doubt includes Risk itself.
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