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Board games beat partying, say enthusiasts

TORONTO - Monopoly has never been so hip. Risk never so cool.

TORONTO - Monopoly has never been so hip. Risk never so cool.

Board games are making a comeback, and the typical players — children who squabble over their turn in Candy Land or seniors who carefully lay down a double word score in Scrabble — are making room for new contenders.

Twenty-somethings now hunker down to try their hand at one of the oldest pastimes, in what some enthusiasts are calling the "golden age" of board games.

"It used to be you'd go to the bar and if you wanted to have fun and party, on top of the cover, you're looking at dropping $40 on drinks," said Jamie Weir, 25, a multimedia specialist from the Toronto area, who recently discovered a cheaper alternative to the local pub — a coffee house stacked with games.

"Playing a bunch of board games, chatting seems like a wonderful substitute," said Weir.

Tired of the same old bar scene, Weir began gathering with friends to toss the dice.

He then happened upon Snakes and Lattes, a new Toronto establishment that he and his friends have "gone nuts" for.

Weir said it's now his local watering hole, where he stops by two or three times a week to play one of the thousands of games from the popular Settlers of Catan to his latest addiction, Quatro, a "Connect Four on steroids," said Weir.

Jasen Robillard, 33, organizer of The Calgary Board Game MeetUp group, said it's not surprising young people flock to board games. He began his group in his 20s, seven years ago. At the time, 40 members rotated through community centres, apartments and houses to play games.

The group has now morphed into a 400-member entity, with people milling in and out of large retail spaces instead of homes to play Yahtzee or Trivial Pursuit.

Robillard said board games became his way of connecting to people after leaving the ever-social world of university in Waterloo, Ont., to head to Calgary.

Robillard said the appeal of the board game is cyclical. Young people wanting to be social will gather to play games, but as they marry and have children it's a hobby that falls out of favour, until their kids get older, he said.

The renewed interest in board games among a younger generation could be in reaction to pressure-cooker environments, where people are tethered to their technology, added Robillard.

"People still crave actual human activity. We're spending so much time now with our technology maybe subconsciously we're craving that," said Robillard.

Oddly enough, people are using technology to Tweet about their authentic entertainment.

"Playing Settlers of Catan in real life with my sister! Not on the Internet! This is extremely exciting," one person tweeted this week.

Greg Ferguson, senior brand manager for games and puzzles at Hasbro Canada, also said buzz online has led to the popularity of a new game called Cuponk. Teenagers have uploaded video of the game on YouTube.

"It's really about showing off their trick shots. You wouldn't necessarily think teenagers and board games," said Ferguson, about the simple game, similar to throwing a ping pong in a cup.

"But it's exciting to see the kind of stuff that gets posted online."

For Robillard, he hasn't completely traded in partying for a quiet night of board games.

"I've got a card game called Tichu," said Robillard. "We bring that to bars," Robillard said with a laugh.

 
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