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ON THE SHELVES: Board games at the library (and on vacation)

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Last winter as I started to pack for a much-deserved beach vacation, I found myself searching for the usual necessities — sandals, beach hat, bathing suit, and sunscreen.

As I was searching, I remembered the haul from my last library visit and decided to add a few new “necessities” to my suitcase — board games. This year, right alongside my sandals and beach blanket I packed Skip-bo, Bananagrams, and Exploding Kittens (full disclosure: no actual kittens were harmed). These games are provided courtesy of the public library. If I had a bigger suitcase, I would have packed other games available in the library’s collection. Perhaps I would have also chosen: Pandemic, Apples to Apples, Ticket to Ride, or Jenga. Being on vacation is awesome, but let’s be honest, it can come with way more downtime than one is used to.

So, it’s nice to have some games on-hand to fill those downtimes.

The board game collection available at some branches across the province consist of a variety of tabletop games to borrow up to three weeks. The TimeMasters Board Game Collection is part of the vast collection of items. Last September, TimeMasters, Inc. in St. John’s donated more than 300 tabletop games to the A.C. Hunter Library, where the bulk of the collection is housed.

Some games were also distributed throughout the province to: Mount Pearl, Carbonear, Clarenville, Gambo, New Wes Valley, Gander, Grand Falls, Ramea, Port aux Basques, Stephenville, and Corner Book. For some of these branches, the Timemasters games added to the collection they already had on-hand which gives patrons more choice and opportunity for play.

Back to my vacation.

I’m not the type to pack my day full of excursions; my days are all about rest and relaxation. I literally make two decisions at the start of each day: Beach or pool? Which book should I start today?

I can go through a book in a day or two when I’ve literally got nothing else to do. And, of course, my Libby app is fully loaded with downloaded books and my Flipster app has magazines waiting to be read.  Again, all thanks to the public library and my library card.

However, after a few hours (even days) of reading, I need to engage with another human, i.e. my husband. Luckily, he likes a good game of Skip-bo just as much as I do.  

So there we were chilling at the beach bar talking smack at each other when one of us gets on a roll. Ultimately, the goal of Skip-bo is to clear your stockpile of cards before your opponent by placing cards in numerical order in four separate piles. After I won that game (of course) it was time to “explode kittens.”

Exploding Kittens is another card game but is quite unlike any other card game I grew up playing. The goal is actually to avoid the exploding kittens. It’s a strategic game with amusing graphics such as: cats engaged in yoga, cats eating cat sandwiches, and cats attacking laser pointers.  All of these cards require you to put your last drawn card back into the deck which stop the kitten from exploding.  The other various cards allow you to: attack other players (awaken the bear-o-dactyl), peek at the deck (rub the belly of a pig-a-corn), shuffle (bat farts descend from the sky), and…well, you get the idea.  It’s top-notch silliness and the kids will love it!

We played Skip-bo and Exploding Kittens on repeat and never got around to playing Bananagrams, a game which shares some similarity to Scrabble. 

The goal of the game is to use letter tiles to complete a word grid. How many letter tiles you receive depends on how many people are playing. When there are less tiles in the shared pile than there are number of players, the first person to complete their word grid screams, “Bananas!”  Then, the other players inspect the word grid to make sure there are no proper nouns or misspellings. If all is good, you are crowned Top Banana.

The tabletop games definitely filled those down times on vacation and created some nice (and amusing) memories. But games are so much more. They provide an opportunity for people to engage with one another and step away from their screens. Games build a sense of community. For kids, it supports their literacy and numeracy skills, invites them to explore another realm, challenges their imagination, and engages them in teamwork. For older adults, it keeps their minds active, sharpens their cognitive skills, and encourages social interaction. It’s nice to know all these lifelong skills are supported by the library.

So, whether you’re headed down south, camping in the trailer, up to ‘da cabin, or planning the next family game night, check your local library to see if they have board games. To find the branch nearest you visit www.nlpl.ca.

Also, be sure to check out the new board games info guide at guides.nlpl.ca which lists all the games from A to Z, including a summary of each.  Included in the Info Guide are some fun book and board game pairings (think wine and cheese).

For example, if you like playing Pandemic then you might enjoy reading “The Stand,” by Stephen King. The info guide also includes website and social media links to gaming resources so you can learn more about how to play some of the games offered in the library’s collection.

The links are a great place to start if you want to further explore the world of gaming.

Visit nlpl.ca and follow @NLPubLibraries on Twitter for the latest updates and news.

Natasha Wells is the Western Regional Librarian with the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries.



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