Chess – a classic that never dies

photo credit: JustABoy

photo credit: JustABoy

Chess has been invented thousands of years ago but it has never gone out of style. That’s because it’s a very well-built game that require skill, patience and technique to play successfully. In addition to this, it can be played by anyone, regardless of age, sex or location. Chess has always been considered the “thinking man’s” game. A single chess game can go on for hours. It improves attention, analytical and strategical thinking. In ancient times it was a game that was played only by kings. Nowadays, there are no restrictions and virtually anyone can pick up a chessboard and play. Great men of the past such as Napoleon, Einstein, Nikola Tesla and others have been known to be proficient at chess.

Chess requires a chessboard and the pieces for each side – black and white. If you prefer video games, you can of course forego these requirements. However nothing beats a classic game of chess with your opponent in front of you. The main goal of the game is to capture your opponent’s King. Every move you make should be structured around this goal. If you’ve ever played checkers then you are already familiar with the chess board. It’s an 8 by 8 board with squares that alternate between black and white. There are 32 pieces in total, 16 for each side. The pieces are: a King, a Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights and 8 pawns. Each piece has a specific place on the board. Each piece has it’s own specific move and the players take turns, beginning with the White player who opens the game and followed by the Black’s move.

To memorize and record the movements on the chessboard for posterity, an algebraic notation system has been invented. Put simply, each horizontal line is called a rank, while each vertical one is called a file. Viewing the board from the White side, the first file on the left has the letter “a” assigned to it. The next one “b” and so on until the 8th file is reached which ends at “h”. The ranks are numbered, so it goes from 1 to 8, starting from the White player’s side and going all the way up to the Black. This system of notation makes it very easy to record how each piece is moved. Beginners are advised to memorize a number of openings in order to optimize their chances of winning. Later on, they will be able to devise their own strategies, but as in every thing, you begin by studying the rules and conventions before you can break them.

While Chess may not provide the same feel for action and instant gratification as a video game like Counter Strike would for example, it develops skills that are more useful than a trigger-finger. Attention, intelligence and abstract thinking cannot be taught with games that are all style and no-substance. To adapt an old saying, “the roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

Introducing your child to D&D

photo credit: mrdestructicity

photo credit: mrdestructicity

Dungeons & Dragons is one of the most popular pen-and-paper games today. In it, players are tasked with creating a character and navigating their way through an adventure as it is told by the gamemaster (GM). To play D&D you will need a rule book, the board, the various dice and of course, lots of imagination. One player is assigned the role of game-master and will be in charge of running the game (or campaign) and controlling all the NPCs (non-player characters) that the players encounter.

When we say “D&D” we refer to a specific set of rules and a specific game setting. Dungeons & Dragons is an RPG set in a fantasy world. There are other pen-and-paper RPGs out there, from sci-fi settings to those taking place in the modern world and more. RPGs vary in complexity, some requiring only minimal rules and details while others can boggle with the level of detail required to play a simple game. D&D is intermediate in this aspect in that you can play it using only the basic rules but you can always delve deeper and use the hundreds of additional books for different settings, campaigns and additional detail.

Once you come to grips with the fundamentals, the game becomes very addictive. A game is rarely “completed” in the traditional sense, and it’s played in sessions, players usually opting to resume the game that they were playing before. If your child is fascinated by heroes, dragons, castles, exotic monsters and so on, D&D can be one of the most interesting games you can introduce to him. The fact that the majority of the game requires imagination for the stories to unfold is a sure way to get your kid hooked. However, for kids under the age of 12, the initial learning curve can be a turn off as few have the patience to go through the minute details.

However, if you as a parent help them understand the basic rules, you will not only help develop their intelligence and imagination but also strengthen your relationship with him. D&D is indeed the perfect family game as everyone can participate in the game.

To play a game of D&D you need a minimum of two people. However the real fun starts when 4 or more players get involved. It’s more fun to play with a group because each character can complement the features of another, so a group dynamic is created. In addition to this, you may want to add pencil and paper, dice, character figurines and written rules for a more immersive experience.

The most basic form of a D&D game is when the gamemaster begins by describing a scene. For example, you could start by describing your kid in a deep, dark forest. You can explain what it looks like, what sounds are heard and other details as you see fit. With kids, it’s important to focus more on bigger elements and action rather to get bogged down in details as they can quickly lose interest.

After this, you can present your kid with a number of options of what he can do. Of course, you will want to limit descriptions so that their character doesn’t stumble into dark cave that is teeming with werewolves. Instead, give them some kind of puzzle to solve. If they’re unable, you can always introduce a fairy that magically appears to guide their way.

When this type of storytelling becomes more natural to you and your child, you can add more tools and game mechanics into play. For example, the concept of playing a character is one of the basics of D&D. Your child can choose a class (such as a Fighter, Wizard, Rogue and so on) and a race. You will write down the name of the character and some details about him/her such as height, weight and so on. Next, the mechanism of rolling the dice in order to determine whether an action is successful or not can be introduced. For example, if the wizard tries to cast a Magic Missile spell, you can roll an 8 sided die. If a 3 or greater is rolled, it means that the spell was cast successfully. If the task is harder, you can increase the minimum number that has to be rolled.

Props and figurines also add another dimension to the game. You don’t have to get anything fancy. Doll houses, cardboard and pieces of paper can be used. If you want to get more “official” you can always purchase set of role playing figurines.

By slowly introducing new elements to the game, you will be able to keep their interest without overwhelming them. Once you’ve got these basics down, you will want to introduce written rules. You can either use the official D&D rule sets or use your own invented rules. The D&D Basic set is good for beginners. Once you’ve mastered that, you can always proceed to use the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books.

We also recommend that you have a scheduled time and day for your D&D sessions. You want your kid to look forward to spending time with you. Don’t get caught up in rules and details when starting out. You want to keep it fun and lighthearted. There is plenty of time to get serious, but that’s only when you’ve got the essentials down.

The best place to play D&D with your kid is without a doubt at home. Here you can have the privacy and the quiet you need to spend some quality time.

If you or your kid doesn’t get excited about Dungeons & Dragons, you can always take a look at alternate pen-and-paper RPGs such as Star Wars Roleplaying Game or The Wheel of Time.

Pen-and-paper RPGs can be a great opportunity to connect with your child. If your kid isn’t excited about traditional sports or outdoor activities, these can be a great outlet for their energy and imagination. Remember: take it easy, keep it fun and lighthearted. Before you know it, they will be creating complex characters, citing rules from the books and doing advanced dice rolls. The trick is to get them hooked enough to want to learn more.

The History of Monopoly

photo credit Mike Fleming

photo credit Mike Fleming

The Parker Brothers unveiled their board game, Monopoly, in 1935. Without a doubt it became a sensation almost overnight. There was no telling about the need for such a game so no one could have possibly foreseen that a game about buying, selling, banking, real estate and business could become so popular… yet it did. The game soon spread to other continents and it became a world-wide success. It is estimated that at least 750 people have played Monopoly, all over the globe since it was first released. This number has also been recorded in the Guinness Book of Records and Games Magazine has inducted it in it’s Hall of Fame since it first created it in 1984.


The roots of Monopoly predate way before 1935. In fact, we could say that the first real precursor to Monopoly was created in 1904 and it was called The Landlord’s Game. Created by a woman of the Quaker conviction, Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips introduced a board game which sought to educate people about the single tax theory of political economist Henry George.

After The Landlord’s Game came out, many other variations on the original game were created. Elizabeth Phillips was in fact forced to patent a newer version of her game in 1924, of fear that her invention would be reproduced without authorization. Ten years later, the Parker Brothers came out with their own version of the game called Monopoly. The design of the game has been altered and improved continually as the game grew in popularity. But despite the many changes that the original game suffered, the basics of the game have remained unchanged – a testament to the game’s genius.

In 1970 the history of Monopoly took downturn when a man by the name Charles Darrow filed suit against the Parker Brothers, claiming that he was the sole creator of the popular board game. Years of litigation followed and the name of Monopoly was tarnished by this fight. Many people who were associated with the Parker Brothers defected to Darrow’s side and Darrow’s rights as an author soon entered popular folklore.

Since then, historians and board game enthusiasts have studies the evolution of the world’s most played board game.

Monopoly and the Third Reich

It’s a little known fact but Monopoly was played even by prisoners of war held by the Nazis. The British Secret Service created a special version of the game in 1941 and distributed it with the help of the International Red Cross to those who were captured by the Nazis. This version included real banknotes, city maps, working compasses and other tools to help people escape.

Rich Uncle Pennybags

It is said that the mascot of Monopoly, the old dapper man who goes by the name of Rich Uncle Pennybags was patterned after financing giant and philanthropist J.P. Morgan.

Each place a different Monopoly

The Parker Brothers adapted their game to different cities and cultures. Thus, the London-based Monopoly will differ from the Atlantic City version of the game by having slightly different rules, street names and avenues. Some companies have even commissioned a version of Monopoly for promotional purposes, for example McDonald’s. There’s a version for kids called Monopoly Junior. However the most extravagant has to be the Monopoly version which is gilded, gold or silver plated sold for prices ranging up to $100,000.

Monopoly-themed video games and franchise adaptations have also been released with titles such as Monopoly Tycoon, Monopoly Casino and even Monopoly Star Wars. The original board game has also had several addons sold along it. In the 1990s, you could even watch a TV-version of the game on ABC (it lasted for only twelve consecutive Saturday nights however). Hollywood director Ridley Scott has also shown interest in creating a film based on the game.

The various versions and knock-offs of the game are testament to the game’s universal appeal. Closing on to almost 100 years since it’s inception, the game is as fresh as ever as it is played by both children and adults alike.