CMP Review 2024-01-18

CMP Review 2024-01-18

January 18, 2024

About a year ago, my teenage son discovered a fascinating board game called Root. This “game of woodland might and right,” recommended by the publisher for ages 14+, first interested my son because it reminded him of the Redwall novels by Brian Jacques. The game, published in 2018, is a pioneer of the “asymmetric” model, where each player has markedly different goals and scores points in widely different ways.

Over the Christmas holiday, I enjoyed many hours of play with my two sons and my new son-in-law. The elegance of the game along with the range of strategic options engaged me in an unusual way. The customary sadness of holiday-end good-byes as family members returned to school and home was compounded by the sense that I was leaving these game sessions behind.

Board games remind us that we are embodied beings, or as Dom Gregory Dix puts it, “ensouled bodies.” We move counters, roll dice, pass cards, and contemplate moves all without the aid of screen or computer. We are face-to-face, eye-to-eye, as conversation flows freely between the game setting and our real lives.

Last weekend we tried to bridge the physical and virtual, and with an elaborate set of microphones and cameras, we brought our distant son-in-law into the dining room with us as we played an encore game of Root. My wife provided the hands for Andrew so his intentions could be fulfilled physically on the board in plain view of the other players. We all forgot the presence of the Zoom screen as voices filled the room and our conversation again glided effortlessly from game goals to life goals and back again.

No, it was not the same as when we could all smell the pine of the tree in the next room and share the same bottle of sparkling apple cider. But we were family again, and devices combined with voices, counters, hands, and eyes to allow ensouled bodies to fellowship mind-to-mind.