The Journal is an online collection of articles and essays written and curated by Thomas W Coombs, published bi-annually.

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Issue 42; Chairman of the Board

Did you know you can spend £750 on a backgammon set at Aspinal of London or £1,495 on Scrabble at the same store, or maybe your a chess person, £7,000 from Harrods? Now I am not boasting anything here, this not about an expensive item I bought or flashing my wealth.  Mostly as I do not have wealth, I am a writer with a 9 to 5 plus it is bad manners.  There is just no hope of me getting one of these luxury delights.  However they show one thing, that in this technological world we find ourselves in, the humble board game not only has a place but also a future in every home.

Chess became big again and boards were flying out of shops thanks to Netflix and The Queens Gambit, not sure we will see anything like that for Ludo or Guess Who, but time will tell.  Thanks to lockdown, not a term I thought I would use, I found, once again, my love of the board game.  Not only are they fun and make you think, some more than others, they bring people together that television and film do not.  New games are invented each year but most are terrible and clamber onto a modern aesthetic they believe children and young teenagers will enjoy or even adults for that matter.  Look how funny it is to say terms whilst having the mouth spreader used in the dentist jammed in your face.  Actually, no, that is just disgusting.

Retro is a term thrown about a lot these days.  Anything that isn’t in the Now is retro, someone said to me “nice retro shirt” once, it just had a grandad collar, you can still get them but as I had had it a while apparently it looked retro.  What is truly retro are old things, games consoles started this, people getting their old Nintendo's out and blowing on the cartridges once more.  But we were still looking at tech, so out came the boards and because they were used they are classed as Vintage.  I, without even meaning too, have become cool.

Monopoly in its various forms, scrabble, Cluedo, Jumanji and Trivial Pursuit have all had the dust blown off and set up on a Friday or Saturday night but now with an open bottle of wine.  My wife and I have become fans of these older board games, even getting hold of an old family chess set, then trying to remember what to do and how the horse moves.  Playing all these games sent me on a bit of a nostalgic journey of my childhood and the search began for a game, a game I never played much as a child due to my sister not wanting to play it, it was a classic boys game at the time.  The name of this game was “Key to the Kingdom” a simpler version of D&D games out around the same time.  I began on auction sites and retro selling sites, some had the game but with pieces missing and still wanting hundreds of pounds sterling or dollars for it.  Really?  Is this what retro and vintage have created? A world of greedy forty year olds, cashing in on the stuff hoarded in a loft or basement.

I gave up on the search, until a few weeks ago after a brain melting game of Trivial Pursuit we got onto the discussion of other games and my beloved but lost Key game came up again.  And on a whim I googled it and there it was, right at the top and foremost at a vintage (that word again) games site, a small family run company and they had a full used version, in good condition with nothing missing, all for less than £100.  I bought it straight away, without thinking about it, and finally after a few years and giving up I had paid money to someone late at night for this game.

Within a week it arrived and that Friday evening with wine in hand, we began playing a nerdy adventure board game from my childhood together, now who says romance is dead.