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Got A Date? Game On!


Not into playing games? Maybe it’s time to re-think that strategy. These 10 fun, classic and engaging pursuits are a great way to gauge if your relationship’s the real winner.

By Matt Christensen

he oldest known board game — Senet, an ancient Egyptian “race” game, similar to Backgammon — existed as far back as 3300 BC. Of course, relationships go back even further. Coincidence? Absolutely! But it can certainly be used as an excuse to learn a little more about your partner,
This game gives you a sense where your partner’s strengths lie.
love interest or relationship by gaming together. Amy Spencer, life optimist and author of Meeting Your Half-Orange: An Utterly Upbeat Guide to Using Dating Optimism to Find Your Perfect Match, offers her thoughts on how playing eight classic games (and two modern ones) can teach you much more than whether or not your opponent is a sore loser.

1. Monopoly
In the game of real estate and tiny thimbles, your opponent’s strategy (or lack thereof) can give you a closer look at his or her decision-making process.

Spencer says: “Monopoly teaches you how someone comes at life by studying the way that person handles making purchases around the board. If a player is jumping to purchase every property on the board, he or she is probably competitive and/or aggressive at work, wanting to scoop up as much of life’s pie as possible. However, if someone takes time to plot those moves more carefully, he or she probably does the same thing with personal finances — or spends time carefully researching life’s bigger decisions.”

Fun fact: The Monopoly mascot was originally called “Rich Uncle Pennybags.” Now known as “Mr. Monopoly,” the name change occurred because Hasbro felt his prior moniker didn’t convey the right image.

2. Trivial Pursuit
Want a less-traditional way to learn what sorts of interests your partner has? If you’re just getting to know someone, you can gain plenty of insight into his or her tastes from navigating a few trips around the board together.

Spencer says: “This game gives you a sense where your partner’s strengths lie. Of course, not everyone can answer everything, but knowing what categories your date feels most comfortable with and seeks out is very telling. And if your date’s a geography buff while you’re more versed in River Phoenix and other ‘80s pop-culture touchstones, it’s not a make-or-break issue. In fact, two people who share comprehensive knowledge of all the categories between the two of them not only make a good team when playing trivia games — they might make a good team in life, too.”

Fun fact: Trivial Pursuit was invented in 1979 by Canadians Chris Haney and Scott Abbott while they were playing a game of Scrabble.

3. LIFE (The Game of Life)
Despite the name, it’s not a foolproof method for predicting the future. That said, The Game of Life can offer a potentially revealing glimpse into your partner’s goals, lifestyle choices and reservations about the future.

Spencer says: “Talk about seeing the path someone wants to set out for his or her future! Kids? No way — I prefer taking the route where I win the lottery! Yes, it’s just a plastic car on a game board, but as much of a fantasy as it happens to be, we tend to make the same choices in game play that we secretly want for ourselves in life. It’s like giving ourselves an extra shot to succeed in some way. So, take notes on what your partner does and keep them in your back pocket. If your date puts a baby pin or two in the car without blinking, you can bet that person would be OK with having a few real-life kids, too.”

Fun fact: This game was originally created in 1860 by lithographer Milton Bradley, whose most successful venture up until that point had been a portrait of a beardless Abraham Lincoln.

4. Battleship
Like an argument without the fighting, this analog combat simulation is a great way to find out how competitive someone is while negotiating issues in real life.

Spencer says: “Because it’s literally a game of war, Battleship tends to bring out the competitive side of people more than most games do, so you get to see if someone’s moves tend to be more aggressive (“Oh, you’re going DOWN!”) or more playful. This is probably a good indicator of a person’s fighting style in life; i.e., whether someone will get loud and aggressive during an argument or be more thoughtful about it.”

Fun fact: Adapted into its current “board game” form in 1967, the original version of Battleship — a pen-and-paper variation — predates World War I.

5. Chess
Strategizing one (or 10) moves ahead can reveal how much your partner takes “big picture” issues into consideration, so a game of Chess is the perfect way to gauge what sort of thinker he or
This may be a word game, but I think it can tell you a lot about how someone does business.
she is.

Spencer says: “Chess is the ultimate game of smarts which provides great insight into how your partner’s mind works. Does your partner make moves quickly and definitively? Or does he/she stop to think about them for a long time and then try a few practice moves before finally letting the piece go? This is probably how your opponent makes similar decisions in life — say, for example, when you’re lost on a drive and figuring out your next turn. The chess players who move quickly are probably willing to make a quick exit off the highway to see where they are, while those who move more slowly may prefer double-checking the map first. In a chess match, you’re not just aiming for checkmate… you’re looking for clues about how a person handles all the little choices in life, too.”

Fun fact: There are 318,979,564,000 possible ways to play the first four moves of a chess game on each side of the board.

6. Scrabble
Does your partner go for the triple-word score right off the bat, or wait to leave you stranded in a sea of vowels? However he or she chooses to play this classic board game can convey everything from recklessness to business savvy.

Spencer says: “This may be a word game, but I think it can tell you a lot about how someone does business. Some Scrabble players choose to play offensively, laying out their best big word with pride; these may be people who exhibit their best without focusing on what others are doing around them. Others prefer playing more defensively, laying out smaller words around previous letters that give you little to work from; those may be people who are focused more on the bottom line — and possibly more shrewd when it comes to business or money issues.”

Fun fact: The highest known score for a single word played in official competition is 392 points, achieved in 1982 by Dr. Saladin Khoshnaw. The word was “caziques,” which means “black-and-red or black-and-yellow orioles of the American tropics.”

7. Uno
Are you comfortable enough with your partner to enjoy downtime together? Are you cocky or humble in victory? According to our expert, this game (Uno means “one” in Spanish) can potentially offer insight into two areas of your relationship.

Spencer says: “Because this game is so simple and requires less strategy than a lot of other games do, you’ll get a good idea of how long you two can enjoy spending quiet time together. Is your date up for playing just one quick game before losing interest and wanting to move on, or is he/she in for a tournament round… say, best two out of three? I think it’s also interesting to note how someone says ‘Uno’ and dangles the one card that’s left before winning. People who get cocky and wave the last card in front of you are likely to be very competitive people in real life who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there, even if they might lose. Meanwhile, those who present their good cards more quietly may tend to be heavy thinkers who are cautious about claiming victory in life too soon.”

Fun fact: Uno was invented in an Ohio barber shop in 1971. The next year, barber Merle Robbins sold the card game’s rights to a funeral parlor owner who then formed a company called International Games, Inc., which subsequently marketed and popularized Uno until it was acquired by Mattel in 1992; the board game variation, Uno Attack, was released in 1999.

8. Clue
When facing a life-altering choice, you want to be in tune with your partner’s decision-making skills. Deductive reasoning, patience, and the ability to keep a straight face are all part of this murder mystery mainstay.

Spencer says: “Clue can offer insight about your partner’s deduction skills. Life, after all, is full of big decisions, like whether you should buy a house or move to Cleveland. Making these kinds of choices requires a lot of back and forth, listing pros and cons, and eliminating options along the way. You’ll learn a lot by seeing how hard your partner tries to figure out the mystery and how well this person’s reasoning actually works. For a game about silly characters and funny fake murders, there’s a lot of real information being processed in order to win.”

Fun fact: Clue (known as “Cluedo” outside of North America) was originally invented by an English clerk as a game to play during WWII air raid drills in underground bunkers.

Want a more direct way to tie relationships into your board game experience? Try these two entertaining recommendations:

9. Do Tell: The Relationship Board Game for Grown-Ups
Buy it!
This ultimate ice-breaker game allows you to control how much personal information you’re willing to reveal using an assortment of increasingly risqué questions, dares, tasks and challenges perfect for a one-on-one encounter — or a great group game night.

Spencer says: “Often, the reason new or established couples don’t talk about some of the bigger issues is because they’re awkward conversations to initiate. This game gives you a way to explore these intimate topics in a casual setting. How do you start talking about your past, your fears, or the family you want to have someday? This game gives you an opportunity to talk openly about some deep subjects with the vibe of a fun game surrounding it. It’s easier to talk about such things when you don’t feel the weight of The Serious Conversation pressing you to do so. Putting it in a game format lets you get to know each other in a fun, casual way.”

10. TableTopics TO GO: Dating
Buy it!
With this compact deck of cards, you can randomly pull (or methodically ask) queries specifically designed to spark a light conversation or explore the inner workings of one’s soul.

Spencer says: “What’s cool about this game is that you can take it with you — in the car, on a date, or for drinks. It’s so easy in those early days to end up talking about light, easy things, like a movie or TV show you’re both watching. While you can learn a lot from all that, this game is a way to high-tail into some deeper topics that can tell you far more about how your partner thinks, his or her world view, and deep down, what makes your date happy. You can learn what you want to about someone by pulling the cards you like most.”

For more wisdom, check out Spencer’s newest literary masterpiece, Bright Side Up: 100 Ways to Be Happier Right Now.


Matt Christensen has written for such publications as Maxim, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and WWE Magazine.
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