After the keynote (notes here) about the past and future of Canvas on Tuesday, there was a reception, and then . . . Game Night! Thanks SO MUCH to Carrie Saarinen for organizing this event; you can read more about it here:
I ended up losing track of time at the reception and so I showed up late, but Carrie had things so well organized that even latecomers could find a table and get a game started; I was lucky to arrive with Linda J. Lee, who is a serious gameplayer, and she was able to get us started on a game of Carcassonne South Seas: thank you, Linda! Carcassonne is one of Linda's favorite games, and she knew the rules for the South Seas version too, so she got us started while helping us learn the rules at the same time. I honestly never understood very clearly how the fishing worked, but I definitely understood how to build islands with bananas, and then how to trade my bananas in for ships (the ship cards were the best; they were decorated with their own little flags based on the worth of each ship). I think I even completed one market too, but I don't remember for sure: my all-purpose strategy was just to get more bananas. I lost, but I got lots of bananas! Here is a picture of the "big" version of the game which makes it easier to see the pieces:
It was a really fun way to wind down after a long day, and it was also so much fun to overhear the conversations going on at the other game tables where very different sorts of things were happening based on the imaginary worlds in which people were having their game adventures. We mostly play card games at my house, or dominoes, so it was such a nice chance to get to learn a new board game and to share all the board game energy with people.
I have to chime in with something I always share with the students in my Indian Epics class: India has made great contributions to board games. There are two in particular that stand out which I'll mention here; after all, you never know when random knowledge about the history of board games. :-)
PARCHEESI. The word "parcheesi" is a mispronunciation by the British of the Hindi word "pachisi," which means 25, the largest number you can throw with the cowrie shells used in the game. (The same word also shows up in the name of a Sanskrit classic, the Vetala Panchavimshati, called Baital Pachisi in Hindi, the 25 tales of the vetala/baital, or vampire.) This was one of my favorite games when I was little, but I had no idea what the name meant! I only learned it much later when I started studying Indian epics in college.
You can see the goddess Parvati and the god Shiva playing the game here:
Here is the Parcheesi board for the game I played as a child, not suspecting it was a game of the gods, ha ha.
SNAKES AND LADDERS. The game of Snakes and Ladders (Chutes and Ladders) also comes from India! Here's a picture of the game from India (this board is from around the year 1800) along with the modern American version; more pictures here:
Okay, I'll stop there, but I could go on... the history of games is a great part of cultural history; in addition to playing more games in school, I also vote for letting children learn about the mechanics of game play (they could invent their own versions of Carcasonne, for example, just as someone adapted the medieval French version to a South Seas fantasy) and also about the history of games. People have always played games, and always will I am sure.
Did other people go to Game Night??? What did you play?