Beyond Monopoly

In the early ’90s, just as it appeared the only skill a child would every need was eye-hand coordination for video games, a revolution was erupting amidst the old board games we used to play: Monopoly, Parcheesi, Chutes and Ladders…

The spearhead was Klaus Teuber, a German dental prosthetics craftsman, who invented The Settlers of Catan. Instead of rolling dice, turning cards or spinning a wheel and then moving, the games that Teuber (and others) created had a completely different “mechanic.” Suddenly, playr decisions were being made before any dice rolled (if, indeed, dice hadn’t been eliminate altogether). Other designers produced even more mechanics, from auctions (Ra) to area control (Louis XIV) to picking out cities for a postal route (Thurn and Taxis).

The Settlers of Catan won Germany’s Game of the Year (1995) and, thanks to some visionary game retailers, leaped the Atlantic at about t time we discovered the Internet. “Euros”—most of these games are designd by Europeans—had arrived.

Euros are multiplayer strategy games that allow players to assume roles as diverse as island builders (Puerto Rico), electrical company plant operators (Power Grid) or pirates (Cartagena)—to name three of hundreds. Most are designed to be played in an hour, more or less, and to be played by families (age range is typically 10-plus).

Log on to www.boardgamegeek.com(and click on “Games” at the top) for a look. The popularity is ranked by site members; the first 24 listed are all Euros released within the past 12 years or so. (Boardgamegeek is not a purchasing site, but it has links and ads that will lead you to shopping carts).

The next time the grandchildren visit, pull a Euro off the shelf and supplement their video game eye-hand workout with a little brain workout. (Doesn’t do us any harm, either.)

Courtesy the May-June issue of GRAND Magazine, “Beyond Monopoly” in Grand Central.

SKIP MALONEY

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