Whether they’re tucked away in the attic or kept pride of place in the living room, board games that turn normal families into property tycoons and word smiths come out to play at Christmas time.
And sometimes it can get serious. The paper hats can be thrown down in rage, and lets be honest, you don’t really know someone until you land on Mayfair with not a lot of money in the bank, and watch their reaction.
In just a couple of days time, the country will be settling down for a day of turkey, presents and mulled wine. And many families will be settling down to battle it out the old fashioned way – with a board game.
With firm favourites like Monopoly and Scrabble, there’s new games coming onto the market every year. And one particularly successful idea was from Portsmouth’s very own Rachel Lowe.
She came up with the idea for Destination, a taxi board games which has now got more than 20 editions, when she was a taxi driver while studying at the University of Portsmouth.
Ten years on, after ‘crying in the taxi home’ following an unsuccessful appearance on the first series of Dragons’ Den, the 36-year-old from Drayton is flying high.
She says: ‘I think for a board game to be successful you need to have the competitive edge and also for the player to not get bored. Timing also helps – if a game is too long players can lose interest.
‘Right now I’m excited because our Downton Abbey edition is out, and we’re looking at developing new games in 2014, possibly a Destination Great Britain.’
Christmas time brings back memories for Rachel, who used to play Monopoly and Scrabble with her brother and sister.
‘We always played the classics at Christmas,’ she explains.
‘And later on News Year’s Eve we would play Monopoly until it was nearly midnight, and then run into the street to celebrate with the neighbours and watch the fireworks.
‘Board games are great to play all the way through the year, but they do seem to be particularly popular at Christmas.’
Before video games and consoles, and before the Internet was even born (although this may seem like an impossible concept to the younger generation), board games were a must on rainy Sundays or Christmas Day.
Rachel adds: ‘We didn’t have things like Nintendo DS or iPads, it was a way to have fun with your friends and family too. It’s definitely a part of a lot of people’s childhoods.
‘I think it’s something families can do together and I know there are Wii games and things you can play with more than one person, but with board games there’s no other distraction.
‘You just sit with your family or friends and interact with each other and the game. I think it’s very nostalgic for people too.’
Rachel plays the Destination games she designs, and always works them through in the development stage. And she has her favourites.
‘I have to say I really enjoyed the Hogwarts version. I like the Downton Abbey one and the one set in London,’ she says.
‘I play them quite a lot with my family. I feel like I still have to remind myself how far I’ve come, and I hope the next 10 years is just as much fun.’
Board games are popular in the city too. Every second and fourth Wednesday of the month is Portsmouth On Board. Board game enthusiasts meet up to play against one another at the Royal British Legion at Fratton. (For more information go to meetup.com/Portsmouth-On-Board/).
And Rachel Lowe won’t be the only one next Wednesday who settles down with the family to play a board game, as mother-of-two Katie Fairhall will be getting into the gaming spirit at her home in Gosport.
Katie, 41, runs the baking business Katie Bakes and has two children 11-year-old Holly and seven-year-old Freddie.
‘We love playing lots of board games at Christmas,’ she says.
‘It’s quite a traditional day for us and when I was a child we always played board or card games.’
A favourite for the children is Articulate, where the idea is to describe as many words as possible to your team-mates in just 30 seconds, without saying rhymes with or sounds like.
Katie adds: ‘The children love it surprisingly. We didn’t think they would like it but they always ask to play it. Monopoly is always a classic too.
‘And we have our own game called Who’s In The Bag? where we have to guess who’s the name of the person stuck to our forehead on a sticker.’
For Katie, Christmas is all about spending quality time with her husband and children.
‘I love it when we play those games because it means the children aren’t just sat there watching TV. It’s nice for the family to spend time together and there’s no other stuff in the way at Christmas.
‘It’s quality family time, and the kids get excited about it too. It gets them off computers and away from screens.’
‘It’s fun to play board games at Christmas’
At this time of year, the theatres are filled with the sounds of boos and cheers. And Ferneham Hall in Fareham is no different, with Jack and The Beanstalk running until January 5. Playing the starring role is 27-year-old actress Tracey Penn.
Having appeared in pantomimes across the country, and in the UK tour of Legally Blonde, the Guildford School of Acting graduate admits she tends to be very busy at this time of year.
Tracy says: ‘I’m normally in pantomime at Christmas time, so I don’t get a massive amount of time at home. But it’s fun to play board games at Christmas with my family.
‘Scrabble has to be one of my favourite board games. I used to play Monopoly a lot too and when I was really young it was Hungry Hippos.’
‘It’s fun for everyone at any age’
Many families have their own versions of games, and it’s the same with George Hollingbery, the MP for Meon Valley. At Christmas, he plays Empire with his family. Not a commercial game, it’s one that works well with a big crowd.
The 50-year-old says: ‘You all have to come up with a category. Then you have what you are and it’s about guessing who has chosen what. So you have to try and think of something you wouldn’t normally choose.
‘But then if you play it with people you know really well, they will guess what you’ve chosen. It could be a subject like body parts, and then you all have to pick one. It’s fun for everyone at any age.’
And an old favourite is Cluedo: ‘Sometimes it’s fun to pick the victim, weapon and room out of a hat at the start of the game. It makes it a lot harder though.’
‘I love playing board games’
Jo Bushnell is the director of Aspex Gallery based at Gunwharf Quays, which hosted an exhibition this summer which drew its ideas from games. The 42-year old says: ‘I love playing Monopoly at Christmas with the family. I love playing board games, but I will be honest I rarely play them otherwise.
‘It’s just I think Monopoly is such a classic and it always brings back memories of playing it as a small child.’
For Jo, board games are part of being festive: ‘Everyone plays them on Christmas Day, it’s part of the big day.’
Popular board games this year
3. The Logo Board Game
5. Logo Billionaire Board Game
6. Tomy Screwball Scramble Game
7. Pass The Pig
8. Settlers Of Catan
9. What A Performance
10. Pointless Board Game (2013 version)
(Compiled from amazon.co.uk)