Games people play my photos, my words

When winter comes there are a lot of days when I don’t feel like bundling up in multiple insulated layers, opening some hand warmers and grabbing a backpack full of camera gear to do some outdoor photography.

I do still go out. Winter landscape and wildlife photos are nice to have. But I also use winter months to work on some indoor photography project ideas I jot down during the year.

This is one of those projects.

We have a number of board games we’ve bought over the decades that are stashed on shelves in the basement. Each game has its own unique elements: board design, tokens or pieces, cards and other objects. Many of these are so ingrained in our culture that they immediately bring to mind the game. The race car or dog or thimble in Monopoly. A knight in chess. A checker. The candlestick in Clue (Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick).

The small size of the pieces gave me an opportunity to do some macro or close-up photography and to try some different lighting techniques.


When I was a kid it seemed like everyone in the neighborhood had a Monopoly game. When the weather was bad we would often set up the Monopoly board and start playing, but I don’t remember ever finishing a game. The game took hours to complete and during those hours we would either head outside to play or transition into “dodge Monopoly” – throwing game pieces at the opponents while running around the house.

I admit we had a neighborhood full of very active kids with short attention spans.

According to various online sources, Monopoly originated in the United States in 1903 as a way to demonstrate economic theories. The game in its current form was first published by Parker Brothers in 1935 and is now produced by Hasbro. Players buy properties as they move around the board, develop the properties with houses and hotels, and collect rent from their opponents who land on their properties. The goal is to drive all opponents into bankruptcy.

The table is set for the start of a game of Monopoly.
Tokens for three players stand ready at the start of a game of Monopoly.
Approaching "Go" and $200, good. Landing on Boardwalk with hotel and $2,000 rent, bad.
Jail is a strong possibility in Monopoly. You can end up in jail by landing on the "Go to Jail" space, by drawing a Chance or Community Chest card sending you to jail or by rolling doubles three straight times in one move. To escape jail you can use a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, roll doubles on any of the next three turns or pay a $50 fine.
Tokens in a Monopoly game are the automobile (or race car), battleship, shoe or boot, Scottish terrier, wheelbarrow, thimble, top hat and iron (the iron was replaced by a cat in recent editions).
The car wasn't one of the original six tokens in Monopoly but was added in 1936 as the seventh token.
The battleship was one of the "original six" tokens when Monopoly introduced tokens in 1935.
The work shoe token in Monopoly was one of the "Original Six" tokens introduced in 1935.
The Scottie dog, one of the most popular Monopoly tokens, was added to the set after World War II.
The wheelbarrow was added as a token in Monopoly in the 1950s.
The thimble token in Monopoly was one of the "Original Six" tokens introduced in 1935.
The top hat was one of the "Original Six" tokens in Monopoly, introduced in 1935.
The iron was one of the "Original Six" Monopoly tokens introduced in 1935.


When I was a kid there was one father in the neighborhood who was a very good chess player and took time to teach his sons and some of the neighborhood boys how to play the game. We learned how each player moved as he stressed the importance of strategy and patiently examining the board to analyze all possible outcomes before making a move. “Think several moves ahead,” he told us.

But we played the game more like checkers, speeding from move to move and quickly finishing the game. Of course, this would often transition into “dodge chess” (see “dodge Monopoly” above).

According to various online sources, chess is believed to have originated in India before the 7th century, but individual pieces took on their current powers in Spain in the 15th century. Rules were standardized in the 19th century.

Each player has 16 pieces: a king, a queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops and eight pawns. The queen is the most powerful piece; the pawn is the least powerful. The goal is to “checkmate” the opponent’s king (position pieces so the opponent’s king is under inescapable threat of capture).

Chess pieces are lined up and ready to do battle.
Pieces in a chess game are, from left, king, queen, bishop, knight, rook and pawn.
The king is the most important player in chess. Lose it and the game ends. But its lack of mobility makes it weak offensively.
When a chess player believes defeat is imminent he can resign by tipping his king over or by saying "I resign."
The king is the tallest piece in most chess sets and usually has a cross on top of the head.


I think I was born knowing how to play checkers, as was every other kid in the neighborhood. It’s the earliest game I remember playing, but I don’t remember anyone teaching me (I assume one of my parents did). The rules are simple and the game moves quickly.

According to online sources, checkers and other very similar games have been played for thousands of years. Archeologists have found boards resembling checkerboards that date back to 3000 BC.

In checkers, the person with the darker checkers (in this case, black) moves first. All moves are diagonal to an open square.
Players capture opponent's checkers by jumping them diagonally. In this case, a double jump put the black checker in the farthest row, which turns it into a king.
When a checker reaches the farthest row forward, it becomes a king (identified by two stacked checkers) that can move forward or backward. This makes it a very powerful weapon.
Two kings face off during a game of checkers.
A black king is at risk of being jumped by the red king late in a game of checkers.


There were several Ouija boards in the neighborhood when I was growing up but we seldom used them. I admit it was a bit freaky to see the puck (formally known as the planchette) move around the board when participants put their fingers on it, but we would become bored with it rather quickly and move on to other games.

Maybe that’s because there is only one piece on a Ouija board, the planchette. That made it difficult to transition into a game of “dodge Ouija” (see “dodge Monopoly” and “dodge chess” above).

The Ouija board is a parlor game, but — according to various online sources — similar spirit boards or talking boards have been used by spiritualists through the years to communicate with the dead. When participants placed their fingers on the planchette, the spirit’s message was spelled out.

But scientists have repeatedly debunked the validity of messages from spirit boards or talking boards, explaining that the action of the planchette is controlled by unconscious movements by participants — a psychophysiological phenomenon known as the ideomotor effect.

The planchette on a Ouija board moves to point out a message to the user.
The planchette casts a shadow on a Ouija board.
Participants place their fingers on the Ouija board's planchette and it moves around the board delivering messages from "spirits."


Clue is a game of deductive reasoning, where players assume the role of one of the six suspects and move around a board representing rooms of a mansion collecting clues in an attempt to determine who killed Mr. Boddy (the victim), which weapon was used and where the murder took place.

The game was created in England in 1944 as Cluedo and launched in the United States in 1949 as Clue.

The game board has nine rooms that are possible sites for the murder of Mr. Boddy: the ballroom, the kitchen, the conservatory, the dining room, the billiard room, the library, the hall, the lounge and the study. Potential weapons are a candlestick, a knife, a lead pipe, a revolver, a rope and a wrench.

Suspects, represented by different color playing pieces, are: Miss Scarlet, the red piece; Professor Plum, the purple piece; Mrs. Peacock, the blue piece; Reverend Green, the green piece; Colonel Mustard, the yellow piece; and Mrs. White, the white piece.

An envelope in the middle of the board holds randomly selected cards that identify the killer, weapon and room.

In Clue, players try to deduce who killed "Mr. Boddy," with which weapon and in what room.
In Clue, players roll a die and move their pieces from room to room seeking clues on the identity of the killer.
The goal in Clue is to use deductive reasoning to determine the identity of the killer, the room where the crime occurred and the weapon used.
The solution in the game of Clue rests in cards stored in an envelope that identify the killer, the room and the weapon.

The Game of Life

According to online sources, The Game of Life was created by Milton Bradley in 1860 to simulate a person’s travel through life: education, career choices, marriage, children.

The modern version was published in 1960. We probably got it for Christmas that year. After all, popular TV personality Art Linkletter endorsed and promoted it so my parents bought it.

Years later, we bought it for our children.

The game board includes a three-dimensional track containing small mountains, buildings and other objects. The playing pieces are small plastic cards with six holes in the top to hold the “people pegs” as players get married or have children. The center of the board has a small wheel with spaces numbers 1 through 10. Players spin the wheel to determine how many spaces to move.

The objective is to retire from the game as the player with the most money.

The Game of Life simulates a person's travels through life, from college to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way.
Players ride in cars along the track of life in The Game of Life, moving past buildings and over small mountains.
The Game of Life has mountains and other three-dimensional objects along the course.
Players in The Game of Life spin the wheel to determine the number of spaces to move.


Sorry! is a very simple game. Players draw cards with instructions on how far to move their colored pawns. The first player to move all their pawns around the board wins. There are several ways to slow an opponent by bumping the opponent’s pawn back to the starting point, which is often accompanied by an apology (the source of the name).

But there was another board game we played as kids called Parcheesi that was very similar to Sorry! Similar rules, similar board, similar objective.

Turns out that both games were American brand-name adaptations of an ancient game from India called Pachisi.

The objective in Sorry! is to follow directions on cards and on the board to move all four pawns from start to home before your opponents.
Players in Sorry! circle the game board in search of home.
Pawns are in a safety zone when reaching the final steps toward home in Sorry!
Created By
Pat Hemlepp


All photographs and text: © Copyright - Pat D. Hemlepp

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