Writer’s Block: Playing games strengthens relationships

It’s not a perspective you hear very often.

Olivia Koester
Olivia Koester

I’m not talking about the childish games men and women sometimes play in romantic relationships – making one another jealous, holding past mistakes against each other, etc. Obviously, those do nothing to further love, support and understanding.

Board games and card games, however, go a long way.

All too often, friends and romantic partners are at a loss for what to do on a Saturday night. Turning on the TV is often the fallback.

I love “The Good Wife” as much as anyone, but taking in an episode (or three) doesn’t allow me to really bond with my friends and family, discover new facets of their personalities and discuss what’s going on in their lives.

My fiance Matt and I are huge game players, and I think that’s part of the reason we have gotten to know each other so deeply.

Our newest favorite is Morels – a strange, complicated card game for two that has players forage for and cook a variety of mushrooms.

In the game, mushrooms have varying worth. The morel is the most valuable when cooked, good for 6 points. But the morel is very rare. Collecting large numbers of more common mushrooms might serve a player better.

Incredibly intense strategy is required to succeed in this game.

As Matt plots his next move, I can see his wheels spinning. Morels has helped illuminate how his mind works for me.

So swept up in the game, one is one’s true self. The good qualities and the bad come out naturally.

I deny that I’m competitive because I think it’s a pretty negative trait, but there’s no getting around triumphant laughter or a brief stint of pouting when the game is through.

Games have taught Matt that I am competitive, and he accepts it.

Another recent favorite of ours is Table Topics.

Table Topics isn’t a game you win or lose. It’s a box full of thought-provoking questions.

We own the original set, but dozens of boxes are available for purchase: one that centers around food, one that asks very specific questions about the ’60s, another that is more adult – the “Not Your Mom’s Dinner Party” box.

Matt and I stuff some cards in our pockets before we head out on a walk or take a long drive.

Answering random questions is a great way to get to know each other. We’ve told each other things we’ve never told anyone before. I’ve learned a lot about him and a ton about myself.

In college, Cards Against Humanity was a favorite of our friend group. It’s a raunchier, more depressing version of Apples to Apples that works well with a large number of people.

It requires a certain amount of vulnerability to admit that you don’t know what some of the cards mean.

The game allows players to share their particular brands of humor, encouraging players to appease opponents’ funny bones because they serve as judges. A positive outcome results when one considers other people’s opinions, as it does in good relationships.

Play always elicits laughter.

Ticket to Ride is another favorite that brings friends closer. I’m most familiar with U.S. and European versions of the game where players are tasked with building train routes across country or continent.

The directions stipulate that the player who has traveled the most goes first, inspiring discussion of past adventures.

One of my closest friends is Norwegian, and Ticket to Ride Norway was the perfect birthday present one year. It was fun to hear her make the cities on the board come alive with her memories of them.

Games are special. They provide an interactive way to pass the time with loved ones, new friends and old.

Olivia Koester can be reached at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com