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The Recorder - Games for isolation

So, you’ve binge-watched “Tiger King” on Netflix. Now what? 

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has turned roughly 85 million Americans into virtual shut-ins itching for new ways to pass the time and keep up spirits. Sales of board games and video games are up across the country and overall gaming hours have increased since people starting staying at home to try to stave off the spread of the novel coronavirus.

For example, the Hasbro-owned games Sorry, Jenga, Connect 4 and Clue were top-sellers on Amazon in March, according to cnbc.com and sales of Monopoly, Operation and Play-Doh have also been strong. Also, Nielsen’s SuperData reports digital video game revenue reached an all-time high last month, at $10 billion and online poker has exploded in usage in the past couple of months since social distancing protocols have squelched gatherings around physical poker tables.

Locally, Gill resident Alden Booth’s regular Monday night poker group changed the way it operates while people are in lockdown. Booth and his friends went without poker for a couple of weeks before deciding to get creative. Instead of playing on internet sites, the group plays together remotely, with Booth acting as a ringleader of sorts. Booth, who co-owns The People’s Pint in Greenfield, explained he sets up a laptop or phone pointed at a table in his Gill home that has the name of each player, watching via the video conferencing platform Zoom, written next to where they would sit. He then deals the cards face down and, on the honor system, tells other participants to look away while he flashes each player a glimpse at their cards. Booth then adds players’ chips to the pot if they choice to stay in the game.

“It works actually pretty well,” he said. “We had eight people playing the other night.”

Booth also has a penchant for board games, as evidenced by their presence at The People’s Pint for his customers to play. The Pint is also the site of Cribbage Nights two Sundays a month and Booth said a local chess group holds its games there.

Booth grew up playing games like Monopoly, Risk and Life and enjoys more recent additions to the subculture, such as Cranium and Apples to Apples.

“It’s incredible all the board games that have come out. There are some great games,” he said. “The great thing about board games is you can get together with people to play, which is actually against what we should be doing right now.”

“There’s nothing better than a board game, or a puzzle,” he said.

Many classic board and card games — like Monopoly and chess — can be played online.

Asked for recommendations during these unprecedented times, Booth said he greatly enjoys playing Codenames, a card game in which two teams compete against each other by having a “spymaster” give one-word clues to his or her teammates, who must avoid guessing words that belong to the opposing team. Codenames can be played online at codenamesgame.com.

Greenfield Games, which bills itself as the largest tabletop game store in Western Massachusetts, is a mecca for local game geeks. Deemed a non-essential business, the store is temporarily closed per order of the governor, but employees will continue shipping orders as inventory, the government, and distributors’ status allows, according to the website. Those in charge will also take this time to focus on several long-awaited projects at 238 Main St. In-store gaming is also on hiatus.

Poker can also be played online with friends and strangers alike via countless websites. According to cardplayer.com, online poker rooms have thrived following the temporary closure of all 465 commercial casinos in the United States and 97 percent of the 524 tribal casinos. A more whimsical example is The Governor of Poker (governorofpoker.com), in which players peruse the Wild West, playing in saloons to build a reputation as a force to be reckoned with. Another free site, donkhouse.com, allows friend groups like Booth’s to play together online. Users must create profiles online and can then join digital poker tables accessible only to those who are invited.

CNN Underscored this month compiled a list of board and card games to make it more enjoyable to stay at home. The games that made the cut included Dog Crimes, Scotland Yard, The Game Plan Game and The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth.

Dog Crimes, a solo board game, consists of 40 crimes and the player must use sequential reasoning to figure out which canine is the guilty pooch. In Scotland Yard, you have to hunt down Mister X in the streets of London like a detective with the Metropolitan Police Service. The Game Plan Game is geared to children ages 4 through 10 and teaches them about problem-solving, critical thinking and even manners. 

The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth is a cooperative strategy game that revolves around J. R. R. Tolkien’s beloved high-fantasy novel series. It also features a companion app you can screen share to easily play virtually.

If trivia is more your speed, the list also includes Cinephile — for movie geeks — and Trivillennial, crafted with millennials in mind.

The internet is littered with a seemingly infinite number of online trivia games. Sporcle and Triviaplaza can help you find the right one for you.

There’s also Trivialogy, a home for weekly pub quiz question packets for hosts and venues, private trivia games, and trivia fundraisers. Understanding the trivia lover’s plight during this pandemic, the site has created The Quarantine Quiz — like the regular weekly team trivia game, but aimed at those sheltering in place. Visit bit.ly/3bypQVm, where you will find lists of questions and answer sheets players print out at home. Winners are encouraged to post the results and a picture to Trivialogy’s Facebook or Instagram pages, using @trivialogy101 and #quarantinequiz. You can also hear Bill from the Home Office read each week’s questions. Teams cannot consist of more than six players and the use of web-enabled electronic equipment and books are prohibited.

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