Bored? Board games can help

ON NIGHTLIFE

October 26, 2006|By SAM SESSA

Nayo Carter wanted an alternative to another night of clubbing. She was tired of having to shout at her friends on the dance floor and needed a more relaxing way to spend a Wednesday night.

So Carter dusted off her collection of about 20 board games and brought them to the New Haven Lounge one Wednesday earlier this month. The event, called Got Game? turned into a weekly gig. And the result is one of the best ways to spend a Wednesday, hands down.

"It was something reminiscent of everybody's' childhood," Carter said. "Everybody played board games when they were little. ... It was just a little different than what I'm used to."

The Haven looks a little shady from the outside (it's in a strip mall, and the lights in the sign are burnt out), but inside it's pretty comfortable. The lights are kept low, pictures and portraits of jazz icons such as Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong are on the walls. Last week, the house music was a mix of smooth jazz and soul (Barry White's "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" made my night).

And as for games, there are so many choices. Yahtzee, Life, Monopoly, Mouse Trap, Simon, Jenga, Battleship, Scrabble, Operation. They even have Hungry, Hungry Hippos! It's like opening the toy closet as a kid.

When we went last week, our eyes glazed over and we absent-mindedly shuffled around for a few minutes, just staring at all the options. Each table had a different game.

The best part: There were only about a half dozen people playing games, so we had a huge selection to pick from. Finally, we decided to start with Yahtzee. There weren't any writing utensils at the table, so I borrowed two golf pencils from the doorman and we got down to business.

After almost losing a couple of dice off the edge of the table, we started rolling them into the (thankfully clean) ashtray. We only played one game before dashing off to another table. (For the record, I won Yahtzee by a landslide).

Battleship was up next, but the dim lighting made it hard to read the letters and numbers in the grid. I would call out B4, and my girlfriend would have to squint for a second or two, trying to figure out which square it was. After two games of Battleship (resulting in a tie), Operation was up next.

My girlfriend, Amie, (who is pre-med) had never played and wasn't too enthusiastic about fishing flat plastic objects out of a cartoon man's half-naked body with a pair of metal tweezers. I, however, was pumped.

I hadn't played Operation for a good 10 years, and revisiting it was actually a little disappointing. The game still made me jump in my seat a couple of times when the man's red nose light lit up and buzzed, but on the whole, it wasn't as fun as some of the other games. We didn't even finish digging out all the little plastic pieces - we just gave up and headed for Perfection.

Perfection is not easily recognizable by name, but once you see it, you remember it right away. You have to fit the little weird-shaped, yellow plastic pieces into their corresponding holes on the spring-loaded blue plastic board in under a minute. After 60 seconds, the board pops up and scatters the pieces.

Amie hadn't played Perfection before either, so I deviously didn't tell her about the second part of that. She went first, and actually got most of them in. She was in the zone, racing against the clock, so when the board sprung up with a "Pop!" it caught her completely off guard. She let out a little yelp, which was quickly replaced by intense glaring. She won at Perfection, partly because I was still laughing well into my turn. She had the next pick, so we ended up at the coffee table playing Jenga.

Jenga is the game where you stack up dozens of wooden logs and take turns carefully pulling out logs from the bottom and placing them on top. Whoever makes the whole stack collapse loses. Somehow, even though I'd never played before, I won.

After Jenga, we tried to play Simon 2 (a newer version of the game where you hold the round plastic object and tap the blinking lights in a sequence), but couldn't get the hang of it. Unlike the Simon that I grew up with, Simon 2 is double-sided, with even more lights on the bottom side. We gave up after five minutes and decided to head out.

Carter's got a great thing going with Got Game? The only thing I would change is the location (I'd love to see it at a bar downtown), but otherwise, keep it just like it is. People haven't discovered it yet, but they will.

Got Game? starts at 9 p.m. every Wednesday at the New Haven Lounge. Admission is $5, and includes entry for a free door prize, drawn at midnight. Last week it was a $10 gift certificate to Red Star Tavern. The New Haven Lounge is at 1552 Havenwood Road. Information: 410-961-8379 or go to myspace.com/douhavegame.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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