Joyce L. Faiola

Cabin fever need not set in when the cold keeps everyone indoors. There’s plenty of fun to be had in addition to the Wii or watching television. With the right games and activities, even couch potatoes have been known to get up and join in the fun.

Unfortunately, party games have disappeared from the social and family scene although the good news is that board and card games have been rediscovered as a perfect solution for families and friends to spend time together in ways other than staring at the television. Being connected means fun and for me there is nothing better than a roaring fire, bowls of buttery popcorn or maple snow and a highly competitive game of charades.

Charades have been around since the early1700s and comes to us from France; the name means to chat or to chatter. There it began as a party game where someone would speak in a riddle or lines of short clever prose and listeners would have to guess the disguised meaning. The French aristocracy and those who lived within the royal palaces vied for attention by displaying their linguistic skills and reputations were won or lost by one’s ability at “charades.”

For us, charades is a game of acting out or pantomime. Two teams are formed and whenever a team has their turn they choose one of their own to act out a subject with everyone taking a turn. Popular subjects include movies, famous people, well-known quotes, books or songs. A timer is set up and the person doing the pantomime must get his own team members to guess what is being acted so they can score a point. The team that reaches 10 points wins.

A little know game to play on the dining room table after the dishes have been cleared is my all time favorite for foolishness, Spoons. You need a deck of cards and at least 4 people, the more the merrier and crazier it becomes. Put the deck near one person who will start. Put as many tablespoons in the middle of the table as there are players MINUS one spoon. The object of the game is for someone to get 4 of one suite and then sneak a spoon from those in the center of the table and wait and see who takes a spoon. The person who doesn’t grab one in time then gets a point. (The person with the most points is the loser and has to wash the dishes or get up and sing in front of everyone.)

I have delicious memories of one winter school vacation and with all my nieces; there were about 12 around the table. Nat King Cole was crooning and everyone was bragging as to their spoon-ability. We found enough chairs and Amanda; the eldest niece had to sit on the piano bench. The game was fast and furious and suddenly I pretended to reach for a spoon and that made everyone reach for one. Amanda went to reach forward to grab the last spoon and the bench tipped over and she hit her head on the wall. She pulled herself back up and yelled, “I got a spoon!” as she held it up joyously. (That round didn’t count because I had faked everyone out and never did reach for a spoon I only pretended that I did.) No couch potatoes that day!

Monopoly can get just as competitive especially if only adults are playing. The game’s original design came in the early 1900s from game-board designer Elizabeth Magie who designed various board games from 1906 to 1930. Even though years of lawsuits and patent infringement had been filed and Magie was proven as the game’s originator, Parker Brothers, owned by Hasbro, does have their trademark secure and has never credited Magie and still refers to the game’s originator as Charles Darrow. Monopoly is a great thinking game for those older than 12 and strategy, patience, luck and a competitive spirit are required to win.

Scrabble is played in 121 countries and in 29 different languages with 1 million games sold each year. The game was invented in 1938 by architect Alfred Mosher Butts and was called Criss-Crosswords. The game languished in oblivion until Jack Strauss; Macy’s chairman played the game on vacation on the early ’50’s. He then ordered some for his store. (They were being made by hand but soon found a manufacturer.) The game became Scrabble and was trademarked in 1948. Milton Bradley bought the rights in 1989.

The card game Uno is a recent hit and for a seemingly simple game it can be downright addictive. Use a deck for up to 5 players, 2 decks for more, up to 10 players. Pushing the speed of the game adds to it thrills and the rollercoaster of luck that smiles or frowns on everyone throughout the game. The object is to get rid of all your cards first (be sure to say UNO at the right time) and then everyone else has the points on their remaining cards added up and the person who got rid of their cards first is awarded those points. The first person to collect 500 points wins.

Pick-up sticks dates from the early 17th century and the game is found in every country. Jonchets in France, Shanghai in Italy, Bieki in Poland. This is an inclusive game that can be played by the littlest child to the eldest and the skill and patience it requires is an added bonus to the fun had while playing. The person who gets the most sticks successfully wins each game and the game can go on for a long as desired.

One of the favorite books in my collection on little remembered, but still lots of fun party games is “Party Games,” published in 1948 by Mason and Mitchell. I still use it at every party.