It took a quarantine for Johanna Pinzler to finally appreciate her husband Avri Klemer’s collection of more than 900 board games, most of which are stacked throughout their Kensington, Brooklyn, apartment.
Klemer — a 44-year-old finance director of a Jewish summer camp who created a board game of his own, Penguin Soccer — amassed the hoard during the couple’s 14-year marriage.
“Here we are, locked in, for who knows how long,” Pinzler, a 45-year-old theater professor, tells The Post. “And all of a sudden … what else are we going to do?”
With the city on lockdown, many New Yorkers are turning to board games to pass the time — even if it means playing them while technically alone.
Kendall Payne, a 25-year-old comedian who quit her ad-agency job a week before the coronavirus pandemic hit, hadn’t had any luck persuading her three roommates in Bushwick to play with her. So she got creative, using the video-conferencing platform Zoom to play the spy-themed word game Codenames with her far-flung friends.
“It was a nice reprieve from the isolation and boredom,” she says.
But what about city dwellers who don’t already have a stash of tabletop games?
We asked the experts for some recommendations: Geoff Engelstein, a professor of board game design at New York University, and Greg May, owner of the board-game cafe the Uncommons and a co-owner of Hex & Company — which is still selling games (and coffee to-go) at its West Side location (2871 Broadway). Here are their picks for games beyond the usual suspects.
A twist on the classic memory game of matching pairs, Memoarrr! has animal pirates turning over cards to find their treasure and escape an island threatened by a lava explosion. Professor Engelstein says it’s a great next step for little gamers.
The young ’uns will love moving a little rhinoceros up a card tower they’ve built … until it all falls down. “It’s like Jenga with cards,” says cafe owner May of the dexterity game that lets players set cards up in ways that will challenge whoever goes next.
“A pie has gone missing, and you’re trying to solve the mystery of who stole the pie,” says Engelstein, whose friends’ kids are big fans. Players gather clues around the board and then use deduction to crack the case.
Disney Villainous: Wicked to the Core
Fans of the Mouse House will love flipping the script on their favorite Disney movies by acting as the villains in the piece, scheming to achieve their fiendish goals. Four versions are available, including the “Wicked to the Core” pack that lets you play the Evil Queen from “Snow White,” Dr. Facilier from “The Princess and the Frog,” and Hades from “Hercules.” “It’s very accessible, and very well done,” says Engelstein.
King of Tokyo
“You’re a giant monster trying to stomp on Tokyo, and all the other monsters are trying to kick you out of Tokyo,” is how Engelstein describes the game that uses dice to determine your course of action. May says it’s “Yahtzee with monsters.”
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters!
This is a cooperative game, in which all the players team up to find loot and take down spirits by rolling dice and moving around the board. “Kids have to work together and build a plan,” says Engelstein. “So if your kids tend to be really competitive and yell at each other, put them on the same team.”
Players each receive a card numbered 1 to 100 and must figure out, without speaking, how to order them in ascending order. “It’s a fun, non-verbal communication game,” says Engelstein. Best of all, this can be enjoyed by just two players.
Comedian Payne and her friends used a video app to play this popular spy-themed game, in which two or more players try to find connections between a set of 25 words. May calls it “one of the most important games of the last few years, and certainly one of the top-selling.”
If you’ve mastered Risk, the classic battle to take over the world, May suggests Scythe as an entry-way into more complex gaming. “In Risk, all of the different players are the same, but in Scythe, every faction has different abilities, strengths and weaknesses,” he explains. It’s on the pricey side, but that’s because it features a lot of custom pieces.
The Quacks of Quedlinburg
The quacks, in this case, aren’t ducks but unhinged doctors who try to brew potions with crazy ingredients without exploding the cauldron. “It’s an award-winning game,” says May, “and it’s very re-playable.”
“It’s sort of an abstract game of making patterns with your tiles,” Engelstein says of this simple pastime, whose players decide where on their boards to place the set’s 100 tiles. May calls it “beautiful.”
BONUS: Can’t wait for delivery? Try making your own version of a classic game with objects from around the home. May suggests using bottle caps to play checkers with a board that you can print out online. If you don’t have a printer, draw a board on paper with a marker. Congrats — you just killed an hour!
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