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“Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of the party.” Or at least our family Christmas party. Every year, at about this time, one or more of us is sent forth into the marketplace to seek out a new game suitable for playing at our Christmas party. That means a game that can be enjoyed by all age groups, is not too complicated and can be played by any number of people (We never know exactly how many people are going to show up.)

This seems to be a task that is becoming harder and harder to accomplish especially in light of the fact that we now have to lure the younger generation away from Call of Duty and Gears of War!!!

I remember, as a kid, playing Snakes & Ladders and a hilarious game called Winkle’s Wedding which was played rather along the lines of Consequences. And then there was that most basic of games, Tiddlywinks. Who would think you could have so much fun with a few small plastic discs and a cup!

Over the years we progressed from those simple pastimes to more sophisticated fare; Clue, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Boggle. Then someone introduced Pit and all hell broke loose. I’ve never heard people make as much noise as we did as we parlayed corn, wheat, soybeans and barley cards until somebody ultimately screamed “CORNER ON RYE!!!”

We tried Twister for a while but some of the older members of the family found the going rather difficult and a considerable amount of cheating ensued. One or two of the less agile were also in danger of putting a back or hip out of joint so that particular game was dropped from our repertoire.

Then we tried Trivial Pursuit. This was quite a success and we played it for several years. We even splashed out and bought several different versions but after a while it began to pall, the same people always seemed to win, and we moved on to Charades. This was always a party favorite but it took some people rather longer than others to get the hang of the rules. Frustrated by her own team-member’s obtuseness in failing to discern her mimed antics, Grandma would inevitably break down and speak the clues out loud thus earning her immediate disqualification! It definitely wasn’t a game for the shy and retiring but luckily we had enough extroverts in the family to make it a riot.

SongBurst turned out to be too generational. Mum and I would sing such ditties as “Mairzy Doats” and “I wouldn’t Leave my Little Wooden Hut for You” and the kids would complain that there were no such songs and then they would belt out some unintelligible lyrics by the current rap star or rock band and we oldsters would look at each other with a wild surmise. The game always ended in a stalemate as neither side would recognize the validity of the other’s efforts.

For a couple of years now we’ve been playing Cranium although last year the playdough was found to be rock solid and we had to improvise by using giant marshmallows.

The games in the stores today aren’t cheap and they all seem to include some kind of fancy mechanism for dispensing cards, keeping time or otherwise making the game more palatable to today’s high-tech generation. But I can’t help thinking that they’re probably not half as much fun as some of the games we used to play. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and bring out some of the old favorites. Anyone for Tiddlywinks???