A quality pastime

 Spending time playing board games with family and friends is still a common practice at MA

Senior Andrew Wolpert sits quietly at a table, contemplating. He glances left, strokes his chin and dismisses irritated jeers from the man on his right, who pressures him to hurry his thoughts. After considering his options, Wolpert motions his hand forward and advances a small, wooden ship until it reaches land.

He unloads the ship’s lone crew member onto the land and prepares him to fight a band of pirates that dwell in the surrounding area.

“Thank you,” exclaimed senior Grant Steinkopf, relieved. Steinkopf had two crew members already waiting on the land, so he and Wolpert advance their combined crew to the center of the land and overturn a token, showing that they have defeated the pirates.

The two are playing a board game—“Settlers of Catan: Explorers and Pirates.” The objective is to accumulate points, which are obtained by completing various activities, such as fishing, receiving spices and defeating pirates.

“Explorers and Pirates” is an expansion pack of the infinitely popular base game “Settlers of Catan.” Millions of copies of Catan have been sold worldwide and, according to the Wall Street Journal, the game “has become so popular in Silicon Valley that it’s now being used as an icebreaker at some business meetings.”

And on a below-freezing night in late November, four students are huddled around half of a ping pong table, intensely engaged in the fictional world of Catan, planning their next moves.

At Minnehaha, the popularity of board games surges with the arrival of winter. Students at-large spend significantly less amount of time outdoors and are thus forced to occupy themselves with indoor activities.

Board games offer a way to not only stimulate the mind during the long winter nights, but also to create interactions that may not otherwise take place.

After defeating the pirates, Steinkopf and Wolpert each roll one die. Both players roll a three and add the number of crew members that participated in the overtaking of the pirates. Steinkopf, wins the roll and add, 5-4, and is proclaimed “hero” of the battle.

This meticulous gaining of victory points continues for hours and in the end, it is senior Adam Rikkers who wins.

Although the game prevailed for nearly three hours and over 20 turns, he obtained his 17th victory point only one turn before Steinkopf would have.

Rikkers stands up with a smile, stretches and pumps his fist. The other three slump back in their seats solemnly.
“Even though I didn’t win, it’s still a great time,” Wolpert said. “We play every weekend, or whenever we can. I look forward to it every time. Playing with the group is what makes it fun.”

Board games drive valuable interaction. Whether it be with a group of friends, family or work colleagues, games such as “Settlers of Catan” encourage face to face social connection. Accompanying the expansion of technology has been the virtualization of popular board games such as “Monopoly,” “Scrabble,” “Life” and “Settlers of Catan” giving players the option to play alone against the computer or against other players online.

Junior Steven Johnson plays “Settlers of Catan” on both the Catan’s app and physical board game.

“I first started on a board game but I wanted to play by myself,” he said. “So I got the app.” By using the app platform, Johnson and other users are able to change aspects of the game such as computer difficulty, but miss out on the community feel of playing with others.

“I like the board game aspect of playing with people because you know them and it’s more fun,” he said. “You’re just not making the same memories [using the app]. The board game is fun because it’s with your friends.”

At Minnehaha, Strategy Board Game Club meets weekly. Senior Co-President Nathan Rowley co-founded the club last year; members play various board games, including “Gobblers,” “Ketz,” “Quoridor,” “Strategy,” and Chess.

“I think it’s a great time to just not do something school related,” Rowley said.

Now, as finals conclude and winter break commences, the punishing cold of Minnesota’s winter can be effectively avoided by sitting around a table with others while competing to defeat pirates, or purchasing property or expanding vocabulary. Or, of course, just to have a good time.


About Kenny Kiratli

Kenny Kiratli ('17) attends Northwestern University.

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