Board

One inch on the frozen ground and nothing to do. Welcome to Cincinnati in February. To the north you have lakes for ice-fishing and ice skating. To the west there are mountains for snow-skiing and snowboarding. To the east you have year-round snow for snowmobiling. Here you have one-inch of slush, flat ground and no lakes. And so all we have is board games.

Brooke asks me what we should do. She’s really asking what we can do as a family after working a nearly 70 hour week. I shrug. We’ve already been bowling, wall climbing and cleaned the house for the third time this week. All that’s left is board games. And this is what we do in Cincinnati. It’s always like this in February – it just normally takes us until the third week to get here. It will take another month to forget how little fun we had.

To understand how we play games, you have to understand us. Brooke is highly competitive. Even at Chutes and Ladders I remember her taking far too much pride in beating the kids up the ladder. Gracie’s got a lot of her mother in her as well, although we never quite know what game she’s playing. She has her own rules and is insistent at following them. I think this comes as a defense mechanism for Brooke’s competitiveness. After all, Mom can’t win if she doesn’t know the rules. I’m the impatient one. It better be simple, fast and clear. 45 minutes is my maximum tolerance, whether it is with a movie or board game.

Each year somehow we think it will be different. Each year we are wrong. This year is no different. First we start with Battleship – only this is the Electronic Battleship (apparently pins and plastic ships based on a Go-Fish model was far too easy). As Brooke and Gracie prepared their battle strategies I couldn’t help but notice how the instructional manual was organized into chapters and was bigger than most of the oncology books I’ve read in the past year. After reading the manual for myself I truly began to believe that it may, in fact, be easier to operate a real nuclear sub than it would be to play this plastic board game.

Next we turned to Monopoly. Simpler game – with more brazen capital zeal than you still see on Wall Street. Obviously a perfect fit for Brooke’s competitive, blood-thirsty, kick-you-where-it-hurts tycoon loving nature. But with Gracie’s creative rulings, “Go Directly to Jail” was merely a suggestion and not a commandment – especially when it meant she couldn’t collect her $200. And so we moved on.

Next it was Disney Sorry. Mom was the villains, Gracie the woodland creatures and I the pink princesses. Still, that too did not end well as Mom proceeded to unleash Sorry card hell on all opponents universally, whether it was Bambi or Cinderella. And so Gracie and I closed the board, leaving Mom to finish her touchdown dance alone.

Ultimately we ended with poker. Not exactly family night, but it did work. Gracie satisfied her creative rulings with wildcards (not sure if that’s a true element of poker, but it worked). Mom appeased her competitive cravings by raising the pot from pennies to nickels and I could understand at least one game beyond checkers. True, it’s not a game for every family, but it is our game for February. And in Cincinnati, anything to keep you from going crazy is a good thing – whether it is poker or evenings with the family.

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