Editor's Note: Playing games for fun – and to win

It was an unexpected turn of events.

My  husband and I both grew up playing, and loving, board games. I don’t play them often. I’ve been at parties where games have been suggested and shrugged off, I guess because no one wanted to do anything that structured, but usually, once you get one going, everyone has a lot of fun – as long as everyone in the group approaches games the same way.

I grew up in a “play for fun” kind of family. We were the kind of people who, after someone won the game,  we would keep going until someone placed second, because we didn’t want to stop; the kind of people who realize they stopped remembering to update the score sheet halfway through the game because they were all laughing too hard.

My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a “play to win” kind of family, the kind of family with a lot of fiercely competitive members, who can turn a game of Scrabble into a blood sport.

My now-husband and I were only dating the first – and last – time I played cards with him and his mother. I finished the game fighting  back tears and wondering why they were being so mean to me.

As it happens, my family tends to get together more often, and play board games more often. As a result, over the years, we seem to have mellowed out my husband’s competitive streak – more or less. He’s still competitive, but he’s OK with not keeping score.

Over the weekend, we had a rare date night. At the end of our evening out, with the babysitter back home and the kids in bed, we decided to keep the date going with cocktails and a game of Monopoly in the living room. We had so much fun, we decided to play again the next night.

We invited our 8-year-old to play with us, but it didn’t take long for it to dawn on him that playing Monopoly is very similar to doing math, and he abandoned us to go back to watching cartoons.

Here’s when the unexpected occurred.

In well-established board games, there are the official rules, and then there are house rules – the rules that do not appear in the game play instructions but everyone abides by anyway. Probably the best-known house rule is Free Parking in Monopoly. Parker Brothers insists that Free Parking doesn’t mean anything, and nothing is supposed to happen when you land there. But I’ve never played with anyone who didn’t pay taxes into a pot that is taken by the person who lands on Free Parking.

Now, in the house rules I grew up with, there were two ways to get out of jail: roll doubles or with a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. If you were unlucky enough, your piece could languish in jail for days.

When I failed on my third roll to get doubles, my husband told me I had to pay $50 to get out of jail.

I balked. I demanded he look it up in the official rules (yep, that’s a rule). And when I was proven wrong, I pouted.

And somewhere in the back of my mind, I heard myself telling my boyfriend/fiance/husband, “It’s supposed to be fun! Get over it!”

Hm. Maybe that competitive streak didn’t mellow so much as transfer.

Have fun, and enjoy your MidWeek.

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