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Gamers paradise

Tad Moser decides where to place the tile he drew in a large-scale version of Carcassonne.

April 23, 2014

HONESDALE, PA — When I decided to attend last Thursday’s Family Game Night at The Cooperage in Honesdale, I was expecting to experience a blast from the past—a chance to play Monopoly, Clue, Sorry, Risk, or any number of classic board games. What I found, however, were about 20 people playing a selection of popular, new-fangled board games with names I’d never heard of: Carcassonne, The Settlers of Catan, Trajan, Terra Mystica and Tokaido, to name just a few of the board games available that night.

“There has been a real Renaissance in board gaming,” explained Pennell Whitney, who was playing Carcassonne with Dave Harvey. He is one of the facilitators of game night, happy to teach anyone a new game. “I got caught up in playing these kinds of games in the 1990s,” he said by way of explanation. He confesses to owning around 100 different board games himself.

Spread out on the floor nearby, a large-scale version of Carcassonne with five players was unfolding.

According to boardgamegeek.com, the committed board gamer’s top online resource, Carcassonne is a tile-placement game. Players draw and place tiles to build a landscape of southern France, and then “people” it (with playing pieces called “meeples”) to claim ownership of fields, roads and cities, etc. When an area is completed, a meeple scores points for its owner.

I was curious to know what drew these gamers to game night.

“Board games are expensive,” explained Sandor Csontos, and the number of games offered at game night allows the chance to play a wide variety of them.

His brother, Cahir Csontos, added, “I love to learn new games, and besides, you get to meet new people.”

The draw for Courtney Dowling is that “you get to be part of a community instead of just playing games online.”

Carcassonne (first published in 2000) and The Settlers of Catan (released in 1995) are considered among the great-granddaddies of the current movement, “singularly responsible for the resurgence of board games all over the world,” Harvey said. There are now many variations, add-ons and/or alternate rules for both of these games.

Gamers on this night include a tableful mostly of high school players, as well as two men who drove in from Eldred, NY to play “Trajan” (a game far too complicated for my feeble brain). Trajan (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan), set in ancient Rome, “is a game in which players try to increase their influence and power in various areas of Roman life such as political influence, trading, military dominion and other important parts of Roman culture…. [The goal is to] acquire victory points.” (Again, see boardgamegeek.com)