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Attention all board game lovers!

As we continue to anticipate great times ahead once the Optima Verdana® card room opens — when we will spend many an evening with friends huddled over a backgammon or Scrabble board — we can, in the meantime, feed our curiosity about the history of board games. It’s fascinating!

While much has been written about board games by scholars and laypeople alike, one of the best sources around is It’s All a Game:The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan. Written by Tristan Donovan and published by St. Martin’s Press in 2017, this smart, engaging book by a renowned games expert helps us understand how board games continue to captivate our attention and to bring us back to the proverbial table, in spite of the allure of myriad technology toys and the scourge of decreasing attention spans.

Optima Verdana’s sky deck featuring various game rooms among the pool, sauna and spa.

Throughout the book, Donovan explores the roots of board games’ consistent popularity. Analyzing the influence of social, political, and economic influences on board game designers and manufacturers, Donovan maps the evolution of our modern-day relationship with board games across time, geographies, and cultures. He also examines the impact this leisure activity has had on popular psychology. 

Donovan writes expansively on the history and evolution of ancient games and their current-day counterparts. He traces the Indian and Persian influences on chess and explains how the rules and game pieces evolved to reflect first Muslim and then European societies. He also examines how games like Monopoly developed as games that required both strategy and luck, paying special attention to how the original versions of these games reflected the times in which they were born, and how they changed over time.

Marvin Glass, a board game inventor from Chicago, in the a 1961 issue of Chicago Tribune Magazine

Donovan’s survey of gaming history is full of amusing anecdotes and eccentric characters, including a discussion of Marvin Glass, an eccentric and paranoid toy inventor from Chicago, whose infusion of plastics into board games like Operation and Mouse Trap brought the board game and toy industries together.

If you’re a trivia buff, you’ll also love It’s All a Game, since Donovan spares no detail about board games and their histories. And if nothing else, it will help you build a huge arsenal of interesting tidbits and stories to share when you find yourself gathering and gaming at Optima Verdana®!

Trending Now: The Art of Playing Bridge

No one can dispute the remarkable benefits of participating in multi-player card games — from stimulating the brain to problem-solving with others, relaxation and relieving stress. And then consider the added perks of being in an exceptionally-designed physical space, flooded with natural light and furnished with comfy mid-century Modern gems. Taken together, what could possibly offer a better way to spend a few hours than settling into the Optima Verdana® card room with three other bridge enthusiasts for a friendly match?

For those who aren’t already in the know, bridge is a four-person card game played by two teams who compete to earn the most points by winning tricks: sets of four cards, one from each player. Players are dealt 13 cards each round, in which they bid on how many tricks they think they can win and determine which suit trumps the others. While the origins of bridge are not definitively known, a similar game called khedive appeared in Constantinople before 1870, and a nearly-identical game had been played in Greece prior to that. The game of bridge eventually made its way to New York society in 1893, and it has been a staple in our leisure culture since then. 

Today, according to the American Contract Bridge League, a whopping 25 million Americans over 18 know how to play, even though this is far fewer players than in the 1950s, when at least one person played bridge in 44 percent of U.S. homes. In the past several years, there has been a dramatic onboarding of new players of all ages, very much a result of sequestering at home during COVID-19.

The single best way to learn bridge — and to continue to improve — is simply by playing. And don’t be afraid to read bridge books, listen to podcasts and exchange tips with fellow players. Check out these great bridge resources for endless ways to make bridge playing part of your everyday life. And when you’re ready to take advantage of Optima Verdana®’s extraordinary space to gather and game, grab a fresh deck of playing cards, a few friends and enjoy!

Optima Verdana’s sky deck featuring the party room, billiard table, ping pong table and various game rooms.

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