Some games aren’t games at all. I don’t really know how it happened, but many of my Christian friends have adopted Settlers of Catan as their unofficial after-church board game.
Though Sarah and I didn’t play our first game with anyone from church, we were instantly hooked. It’s a game where you’re trying to be the first to get to 10 Victory Points by building settlements and cities, racking up whatever bonuses you can along the way.
But Settlers — as the game is affectionately called — has a far more sinister side. I’ve always said that if there were any game that could ruin friendships and tear families apart, Settlers would be it!
Unlike your typical North American board game where everyone’s racing to a final square on the board, Settlers is far more interactive! With your moves based on the roll of dice and your opportunities for growth based on where your opponents allow you to play, many a fight has broken out over a Settlers game! You can block your opponents. You can steal from your opponents. You can change someone’s game from a near-win to a crushing defeat in a matter of moves.
Which is precisely why after playing a couple of games of the Cities & Knights expansion in Boston, we needed to take a break from playing the game since we were all getting so grumpy at the moves being played and taking things a little too personally!
Sometimes you’re hot, sometimes you’re not. This is the lesson that games teach us.
You win some, you lose some. We can’t be good at everything, but we definitely try! A little while ago, Sarah and I joined some friends to throw down on some board game action, and while I won at a game focused on patterns and strategy with tile placement, when it came to having to convince others or figure out who said what, my performance ranged anywhere from a little less stellar to abysmal. Board games are like an allegory for our skill sets and our standing in life — they’re scarily reflective of who we are and who we can be. We won’t be good at all of them; some of them will really strike a nerve and frustrate us to no end; while with others, they’ll come to us naturally and we’ll find ourselves wondering why others don’t find it as easy as we do.
Some of the games out there are based on systems that’re breakable if one thinks hard enough. In games where you need to get the most points to win, you do whatever you can to score the most points each turn and prevent anyone else from doing the same. If you need to crack a code, you use each turn to eliminate as many possibilities as you can to tip the game in your favour. Much of life is similar to games of chance, which are harder to predict but still have a clearly defined objective — but we can still learn from the games of structure and strategy.
Games prepare us for the world, though the allegories that they give us are often hard to interpret.
- Monopoly? Wealth often means cheating those close to you out of their hard-earned money by giving them crappy deals; and even if there’re only two of you left, you still win.
- Scrabble? Even with questionable words, as long as you can count, you can go a long way in life.
- Clue? If you’re going to do something bad, don’t leave evidence behind.
Next time you find yourself fighting for another win under your belt, try and learn something from it. You never know when knowing the odds of getting out of jail might save your butt sometime in the future!
–Casey E. Palmer