If you’re social distancing properly, you may regularly, perhaps daily, skirt the edges of this problem: How to avoid going insane with boredom.

This conundrum has arisen in our house, currently occupied by the wife, No. 5 son (age 19) and me. It’s the middleman in that trio who is the most likely to stalk around the house asking repeatedly and loudly, “Are we DOING SOMETHING today?!”

I usually reply with an idea for a very useful chore he could do. Thus ends the stalking and the loud repeating.

However, occasionally, when I’m afraid the wife will overhear the chore idea, and then start telling me that I should do it, I suggest we play games.

So, have you been gaming? Been dragging out board and tabletop games, perhaps unused for long years, trying to bring cheer and diversion to the family while looking for lost game pieces, arguing about long-forgotten rules and trying to subject each other to the agony of defeat?

Fill me in on your gaming strategies during this long Pandemic Season! I’d especially like to hear from you if you have some secret, perhaps even “extralegal,” methods for winning some of the games that I keep losing. And losing. And losing.

(Early in the season, I kept losing at this game called Othello. I lost badly, and often, and then worse-ly, and oftener, until a couple of the game pieces mysteriously went missing, and shucks, we just couldn’t play anymore.)

We have a core quartet (a core-tet!) of games we’ve been playing.

First there’s Blokus. It’s a game I always lose. I don’t like it because there’s too much thinking and strategy, and not enough luck.

Then there’s Rummikub (pronounced “Rummy-cube”), a game I always lose. I don’t like it because there’s too much luck and not enough thinking and strategy. (Plus, I’ve lost it so many times that No. 5 has started referring to me as “Dummikub.”)

Next is Azul, a game that involves “decorating” a wall (actually a piece of cardboard on the table) with a variety of colorful tiles (actually chunks of plastic in five different colors). The “wall” is a five-tile by five-tile grid, and while tiling it, you can’t repeat any of the five colors in any row or column. I don’t like it because there’s too much luck and thinking and strategy involved. I’ve lost it so many times No. 5 has begun asking me, “Wanna play Azul? Or in your case, ‘Luza’? Hahahahahahahahahaha!!” (See what he’s doing there, spelling Azul backwards? Oh har-de-har-har.)

The favorite game around here is called Catan. It’s a game of settlement. It takes place on an island named Catan, which is chock-a-block with five different resources that you try to accumulate and then use to build roads, towns, and cities. These are all worth various “victory points,” and the first one to 10 victory points gets to put the whole mess of game pieces and parts away as a penalty for winning.

Catan’s primary maddening feature is dice. Or, if it’s a more proper way to say it, two die. They’re very capricious, and never deliver the numbers I need. Thanks to them, my runty settlements leave me feeling like I’m going two die with humiliation.

No. 1 son introduced us to the game a couple years ago, darn him. He, and his wife, and No. 3 son, No. 4 son and my wife, are crazy about this game, and they’ve sucked me into that vortex too. We’re all Catan-iacs now.

This Pandemic Season, No. 1 showed us all how to play Catan online. We can play against each other, or strangers floating out in the ether, or against AI (Artificial Intelligence) opponents. I tend to play the AIs the most, mainly the two pretty ones, Jean and Lin. Losing to them still sucks, but at least their pulchritude provides a pleasant distraction while they’re crushing me.

Here’s what Catan-iacs we’ve become: No. 3 son paid a weekend visit recently, and we played tabletop Catan six times (each game takes around an hour). Victory totals were: No. 3 son, three wins; the wife, three wins; me, six wins. Yes, you read that right. I’m totally a big-time winner, even if it the record book doesn’t show it. After all, it takes a consummate level of skill and artistry to disguise intentionally losing six times so that my child and my spouse feel better about themselves!


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