It’s nice when you suddenly discover you have a hobby. I didn’t try on purpose to get one - in fact I’ve always been sort of hobby-devoid, believing them the preserve of children or people who had lost their TV remote - but it just sprung up suddenly of its own accord one day, like bathroom mould. My new hobby is board games.
Not Monopoly, which I fell out of love with the day I discovered the rest of the world doesn’t play the Bravo family way; gently waiting three hours till you land on your favourite colour, then wandering off to make a cup of tea and never returning. The real Monopoly is an ugly game, exposing everybody’s secret avarice and pedantry. Plus, geographically misrepresentative - I’ve lived in London seven years and never once walked down Vine Street.
No, the games that have been bringing a flush to my cheeks on these long autumn evenings are distinctly less glam and a lot more, shall we say, nerd-adjacent. There’s Bananagrams, which is like Scrabble for people with anger management issues, Ticket to Ride, which thrillingly involves the building of railways across Europe, and then there’s the one I love most of all: Settlers of Catan.
The premise is thus: you’re on an island, composed of five key materials - wood, brick, sheep, wheat and ore. You must collect the materials to build roads, settlements and cities, conquering new territories and stealing resources off your opponents. Like all good geeky pastimes, it comes with its own special vernacular. “We built this city, we built this city on wheat and oooore,” we sing to the tune of Starship, merrily trading our cards in for tiny wooden cathedrals.
One of the things I didn’t expect to be doing with substantial chunks of my mid-twenties is spending it hunched over a kitchen table pleading for people to swap me a sheep. If you’d told early-twenties me, with her daft shoes and her ‘music taste’ and her going out sometimes more than TWICE in a WEEK that in a few short years she’d derive most satisfaction from building a tiny wooden road into someone else’s wheat field, she’d throw a kebab at your head.
But the thing is, it’s brilliant. Not only are board games largely cheap (I say ‘largely’ because my boyfriend just spent £50 on Game of Thrones: the Board Game, which comes with its own instructional dvd and a, one presumes, a vitamin D lamp), sociable and a good excuse to spend most of your weekend sitting down with a mug of tea on hand, but all that strategic thinking has got to be good for the brain cells.
Now I just need to make it cool, perhaps by turning it into ‘strip’ Settlers of Catan, or using phrases like, “Hey dude, you boarding this weekend?” to give the whole thing an extreme sports edge. If bored people are boring people then board people are… well, something else entirely.