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Trivial Pursuit? Scrabble? Clue? Try Monkeys on the Moon.

September 12, 2006|by LYDIA HADFIELD

BRUNSWICK, Md. - During a rainy day at the beach or a dull evening at home, have you ever joined your family in a rousing round of Monkeys on the Moon or Bloody Mary: Further Intrigue in the Tudor Court?

I'd guess not.

It's more likely that Clue or Trivial Pursuit are the board games collecting dust on your shelves. If you're tired of Trouble, unmoved by Monopoly and no longer scintillated by Scrabble, there are choices beyond the aisles of your local superstore.

Game day at Beans in the Belfry, a coffee shop in Brunswick, Md., is a portal to a world of novelty board games.

Every third Saturday of the month, from 1 to 7 p.m., Karl Musser, a member of Games Club of Maryland (GCOM), hosts a board game meet at the coffee shop. Each month's session is an open invitation to peruse Musser's stash of unusual games and play with whomever shows up.

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"It's my hobby," said Musser, of Brunswick. He hosts the monthly meetings "mostly to have people to play with."

The turnout usually consists of three to five experienced board game enthusiasts, but Musser said there have been as many as 10 people at one meeting.

On Saturday, Aug. 19, Musser was joined by Brian Carpenter and Ligh Bailey, who take their board game hobby seriously. Musser, Carpenter and Bailey belong to a culture of adults who get together and play board games for fun.

Musser mentioned that game day attendees usually are experienced hobbyists, but newcomers are welcome.

"We do encourage more players," Carpenter added. "That's a part of why we do it."

The GCOM Web site, www.gamesclubofmd.org, provides a wealth of information about game locations, conventions, types of games available and club membership options. Board game days are held across the region in coffee shops, restaurants, homes and hotels. The games members play vary from location to location.

The GCOM Web site lists available games in alphabetical order and according to their type. Categories include: abstract strategy, action/dexterity, adventure, deduction and exploration.

Admission to GCOM meetings is free. You don't have to be a member to attend. However, for those who are addicted, membership makes you eligible to receive community newsletters and special board game event information.

During August's game day at Beans in the Belfry, the selection was small but eclectic. When asked what the appeal of board games was when compared with video games, Musser answered, "The thing I really like about board games is having real live opponents."




Bailey, Carpenter and Musser confessed that they all play video or computer games but agreed that they lack the interaction and camaraderie of their low-tech cousins. Carpenter argued that even interactive online games like "World of Warquest" still leave you sitting alone in a chair.

"There's no monthly subscription fee" for a board game, Carpenter said.

Playing a board game, Musser said, "allows for more complex games. ... You have games with a bluffing or trading component."

To research atypical board games, Bailey and Carpenter suggested accessing the Web site www.funagain.com. The site is a virtual database of old and new quirky games, reviews, interviews and chat rooms. The dizzying array of board games advertised are separated into categories such as all-time best-sellers, award-winning games and overall customer favorites.

Board games don't have to be reserved to combat soul-killing boredom or as a form of forced familial contact. They are fun to play.

And when they're a little less ordinary and whole lot more interesting, it's appealing to play them ... just for fun.

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