Aldona Bird, Contributors, Latest News

Board games a fun way to go offline

For a few days around Christmas, when my family was all together, we decided to stay off our phones. I turned on my “do not disturb” setting for the first time, and enjoyed the digital fast.

This month, I’ve been into board games. I borrowed a game — Wingspan — from a friend and in the last two days my family and I have played it four times. Each play-through takes about an hour.

This game has several features I enjoy: rules that do not put players in direct competition with each other, birds and pretty artwork.

More complex than for most board games I’ve played, the rules seemed overwhelming. So I watched a video (only slightly defeating the purpose of focusing on games) on how to play.

Each player has their own board showing three habitats: wetlands, grasslands and forest. We each get bird cards, goal cards and food tokens (grains, berries, rodents, invertebrates and fish).

The bird cards show realistic and very pretty artwork of each bird, and a description — including the bird’s common and Latin names— habitat it can be played in, number of points it is worth, its wingspan, type of nest it makes, other information relevant to game play and a fact about the bird.

On their turn, a player can gain food or eggs, play a bird or pick up more birds. Some bird cards also have advantages that happen during another turn. There are costs to playing birds, and since the game is played in four rounds, there are end-of-round goals. It all seemed complicated at first, but after playing through once, we all got the hang of it.

Out of the four times we’ve played it, I won only once. But I chose to keep some birds because I liked them a lot, rather than because they gave me many points or other advantages and so sentimentality may have contributed to my low scores.

I found this a great game and somewhat educational — there isn’t an overwhelming amount of information about each species, but there are quite a few birds in the deck and the informational tidbits are fun and interesting.

Another game I purchased recently, and am looking forward to playing more, is Parks. In this game each player moves two hikers across different trails, gaining water and other assets along the way. These assets are used to visit national parks — pictured on oversized cards. Players can gain gear which gives them advantages and take pictures along the way.

The player who has the most memorable experience wins — which of course is counted in a typical board game scoring system.

Parks is similar in terms of game play to Wingspan. Players do their own thing parallel to other players, and, other than taking a park or gear that someone else may have had their eye on, competition is limited.

If I keep up being intentional with limiting my pointless screen time, I’m sure I’ll eventually move on to another hobby. For now I am thoroughly enjoying this phase of playing games with my family.

ALDONA BIRD is a journalist using experience gained working on organic farms in Europe to help her explore possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County. Email