Growing up I loved playing board games. Video and backyard games were great, but board games were the one gaming style that brought multiple generations of people together to game, and interact. Even as I have grown older, I still have a closet full of board games that I enjoy getting out to play with friends, or with my own children. An even greater passion of mine is wine, which I enjoy exploring and learning about often. In an effort to bring the two together I decided to see what would happen if I tried to pair wines with board games. I asked the question “What are some of your favorite board games to play?” on the social networks, and couldn’t believe the number of responses I got back. Most I had played, some I had not (some of which will be arriving soon, so thanks for that people!)
My thought process for the pairings was to try to pair the mindset/strategy you need to do well at a game, with a wine that complements that mindset/strategy. That may not make sense now, but I think it will as you read on. Enough about that though, break out your 8 sided die, and let’s get started.
The makings of a fun night in.
Synopsis – The classic crossword board game. Use any combination of your 7 letters to create a word on the game board, and collect the most points possible while doing so. Whoever has the most points in the end, wins.
What it takes to win - The rules of Scrabble may sound like checkers, but the game play and strategies involved are more like chess. It’s not enough to have a dictionary in your head for this game. You also need to see where on the board you can score the most points and if you are leaving high point opportunities open for your opponent. Watching and waiting for your opponent to make a mistake you can capitalize on, while ensuring you don’t make one as well. As one person said to me, “being good at Scrabble is an art”. Which is why I draw stick figures, and don’t play Scrabble!
The wine pairing – At first it seems simple, but as you learn about it you find that it is actually complex, and being good at making it is an art. Sounds like Champagne to me.
Synopsis – Someone’s been murdered! Scour the mansion for clues to figure out who did it, with what weapon, and in what room. This was one of my favorite games growing up and I still love it today.
What it takes to win – Whenever another investigator asks you a question you have to tell the truth. The rest of the time it’s all about deception and observation. Pretend an investigator’s question reveals something when it doesn’t, ask questions you already know the answer too. Do anything you can to keep people guessing as to what you really know. At the same time, pay attention to every thing people are asking. A lot of times what isn’t asked will reveal more than what is.
The wine pairing – Since this game is all about deduction I will base the pairing as if the wine was being served blind. With that criteria I will select the ever so tricky and hard to pin down Pinot Gris.
Synopsis – Get your tokens around the board from start to home, by following numbers/directions on the cards you draw.
What it takes to win – Let’s face it, this is a game to play with the kids. There isn’t a lot to it after all, right? You draw a card and move the number of spots, if you can. There are certain cards that allow for special movement like moving backwards or switching places with another player, so overall it’s pretty simple. There are, however, a few simple strategies that you can use to make up ground, or set your opponents back. And who doesn’t want to snatch victory from the clutches of their five-year old’s hands now and then. MUWA HA HA!
The wine pairing – Beaujolais Cru. When most people think Beaujolais, they think of the Nouveau wines released the third Thursday of November every year. Simple, sweet, immature, just like the little ones you are playing the game with, or their Dad in the case of my house. But when someone who is used to the Nouveau wines tastes a Beaujolais Cru, they are generally pleasantly surprised by the complexity compared to their Nouveau relatives.
4. Apples to Apples
Synopsis – One of the simplest games you will ever play, but also one of the funniest. In it, a rotating dealer lays out a “Description” card, then each player plays a “Thing” card from their hand that best fits the “Description” card. The dealer chooses which card played was the best, and that person gets the point. The hilarity of the game is in the card combinations players use, and the table talk that ensues as the dealer tries to decide which card fits best. I would share some of the better combinations I have seen, but AtA combinations are kinda like what happens in Vegas.
What it takes to win - Beyond the fun and laughs there is a critical strategy that players need to use when playing AtA, which is to know your dealer. Since the person dealing changes with each hand you have to adjust your mindset on what kind of card to play. Does the dealer like witty responses? Dirty? Logical? Knowing what kind of response the dealer gravitates towards definitely gives you a leg up against your opponents.
The wine pairing – Obviously, you want a wine that shows an apple component, so just about any white wine would work. Additionally, there is the need to know the dealer, or from a wine perspective, the region from which the wine comes from. There are still several possible options, but I chose Chenin Blanc for this pairing. A strong apple component, and with labels that reference Steen, Vouvray, Anjou and Samur, and others, it is important to know the label to understand what you are getting in the glass.
5. Trival Pursuit
Synopsis – Answer trivia questions to get pie pieces to fill your game marker, and win the game.
What it takes to win – Banks and banks of useless information stuffed in your head. Also, knowing your strengths and landing on those questions when you can.
The wine pairing – If there is a key to Trivial Pursuit it is to stay focused so you can access those buried folders of the mind where trivia answers dwell. To say focused you need low alcohol and ripping acidity to help cleanse the palate of any distractions. Bring on the German Riesling.
6. Arkham Horror
Synopsis – A lot of you probably haven’t heard of this one. It is a unique game in that you play it cooperatively with your fellow players against an ancient monster trying to destroy the world. Based on the universe of H.P. Lovecraft, you will not easily find a more complicated, expansive, time-consuming, or rule driven game. You feel like you can’t win through most of the game, it beats you down, steals your lunch money, and laughs as it throws your money down a sewer cause it didn’t really need it anyway. Having said all that, this is, by far, my favorite board game of all time.
What it takes to win – Everything you’ve got, and then some. It takes knowledge of all the rules in play, nimbleness to adjust your strategies as the game changes, multiple hours to devote to finishing a single game. You need several players working together to get ahead, solo missions never succeed. And since it is a game based on dice, you need some luck too.
The wine pairing – For this game you are going to need a wine that will smack you around a bit. It can’t be soft, it’s gotta be a little mean. It needs to be able to stick around for a long game without losing it’s disposition. I needs to be a wine that can stand up to one of your teammates uttering “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!” I’m pouring Nebbiolo.
Synopsis – Everyone has played this game, and nearly everyone hates it, but we all own it. You know what this game is all about… control the land, build on the land, bankrupt everyone.
What it takes to win – Monopoly is like a reality show. It’s all about luck, making deals, building alliances only to tear them down. You need a wheel and deal attitude and you gotta look for ways to get coin wherever possible.
The wine pairing - For this game you want a wine that makes you see dollar signs, cigars, rings, and bling. But let’s face it, not everyone can sit on the Monopoly mountain top. You are going to need juice that you can get by the Magnum at the hotels of Boardwalk, and that you can get by the box in the streets of Baltic Ave. King Cabernet, your game has arrived.
8. Viticulture: The Strategic Game of Winemaking
Synopsis – “Viticulture is a strategic board game that challenges players to create, cultivate, and expand a vineyard in rustic Tuscany.” (Description pulled from the Kickstarter page for the game)
What it takes to win – I have no idea, because this game hasn’t been released yet. It recently reached its funding goal on Kickstarter though, and it’s scheduled to be released this spring. Everything I have read about the game, including an early review, has me excited for it.
The wine pairing – Come on, do I even need to say it…crack open the Chianti…and it better have wicker!
There you have it, 7 games you can play today, and 1 you can play next Spring, paired perfectly with a delicious wine. Now I know you have opinions on my pairings, a game I may not have included, or even flaws in my strategies to win. I hope you will let me know all about it in the comments section. I would love to read what you have to say.