Whitney Novak, co-owner of Kazoo Toys, rearranges a shelf at her store in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Atlantans are turning to good old-fashioned board games to keep engaged while social distancing. Kazoo Toys is still open for business, allowing for one customer in the store at a time. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the AJC)
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Bored at home? Atlantans are turning to good old-fashioned board games

Let’s face it. No one needs to play “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” We know where Carmen is — at home self-isolating. But there are dozens of games that children, adults and families are playing now since everyone is at home and needs something to do. Or, are even desperate to have something to do.

With families hunkering down at home, Kazoo Toys in Buckhead started a delivery service for families in need of entertainment but don’t want to leave the house as well as a subscription service with home delivery. Parents can call the store or email them listing what kinds of games they may be interested in, and Owners Joe and Whitney Novak select various games. “We find out the parameters that the family wants in games such as the ages of the kids, what their interests are, budget and then once or twice a week we deliver a package,” says Whitney Novak, who owns the store with her husband. “It’s always fun to have something new, and we’re confident that we’re picking out something good. The kids love having something show up at the house; it breaks the boredom.”

Kazoo Toys sells a variety of board games, puzzles and educational toys for infants all the way to teens (and some adults). Contributed by Kazoo Toys.
Photo: For the AJC

In addition, families can have their toys delivered or take advantage of curbside delivery. “We have people call ahead, we take their order and then they pop the trunk,” she says. “I know that we’re getting a lot of word of mouth business because once one family does it, we get calls from others on the same street or neighborhood. Or, we’re getting someone picking up games for several families.”

Kazoo sells fun education games that focus on imagination, creativity and movement, she says. But, she is quick to emphasize that the classics are as popular as ever. “We are out of Monopoly,” she says. “In fact, our vendor is out. We carry the original Monopoly. You can go elsewhere to get Monopoly Georgia or the variations.”

The classic board games include:

Monopoly

Monopoly is a game where players buy and trade properties with the aim of being a real estate tycoon and make everyone else go bankrupt. Ironically, Monopoly was created by anti-monopolist Lizzie Magie to showcase the negative aspects of land hoarding, but it eventually turned into a training ground for young capitalists.

Monopoly is perhaps the ultimate board game. Contributed by Hasbro.
Photo: For the AJC

Scrabble

Scrabble is a game for wordsmiths. The purpose is to have players make words out of random letters, sort of like a living crossword puzzle. The game ends when all letters have been drawn and one player uses his or her last letter. In addition to classic Scrabble, there is a retro 1949 version as well as a deluxe edition, Scrabble Slam Card and Scrabble Junior.

Clue

Clue is perfect for those who love mysteries, especially murder mysteries. The object of the game is to find the murderer and would-be Sherlock Holmes go undercover as one of the suspects in order to reveal the real bad guy or girl. Clue is so popular it’s been turned into movies, television shows and books — even a musical.

Generations have played Clue trying to find out who is the murderer. Contributed by Hasbro.
Photo: For the AJC

Candyland

Candyland was created in the 1940s during a polio epidemic, so it’s the perfect game for today’s coronavirus situation. There’s not a lot of strategy to Candyland, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun for children and adults who have played it years ago. Basically, you choose your character, including Giggy Gumdrop or Mally Malmo, and then try to make your way down the rainbow path to Peppermint Forest, the Lagoon of Lord Licorice and Princess Frostine’s Ice Palace. Whoever gets to the King Kandy’s Castle wins.

Checkers

Checkers is one of those board games that children and adults can both enjoy. The object is to jump over your opponent’s pieces, which means you get to seize it or block them so they can’t move and have to surrender. Whoever has taken all of the opponent’s checkers wins.

Jenga

Jenga is a game of chance, luck and skill. The game consists of 54 wooden blocks, and the players stack the blocks to build a tower, but once the tower is finished, the real challenge starts. The goal then is to remove pieces without imploding the tower. The winner is the last person to remove a block before it falls. Novak says it’s an increasingly popular game, “both in the board size and giant size.”

Life

The Game of Life — was America’s first popular board game. Created by Milton Bradley in 1860, the game basically follows the player’s through all the stages of life — getting a job, married, maybe children, but players could also land in the poor farm (since renamed bankrupt), or suffer from life’s hazards. The winner who reaches early retirement wins.

The Game of Life was the first popular board game in the United States. It was invented by Milton Bradley. Contributed by Hasbro.
Photo: For the AJC

Pretty Pretty Princess

Pretty Pretty Princess is aimed for children ages five, and the goal is to get a complete set of jewelry in their chosen color plus a crown. “We’re seeing a lot of moms coming in and buying it,” says Novak. “They played it as a girl and want their daughters to also. It’s flying off the shelves.”

But there are some classic games in the making. “There are a lot of people who have done the Monopoly, Life, Clue and want something new. It’s the been-there-done-that syndrome, and they want new and different family games,” she says.

Among the soon-to-be-classics, according to Novak, are:

Prove It

Prove It the ultimate challenge game. There are four categories: mad skills, fingers crossed, buddy system and know-how. A player picks up a card that offers a challenge, and the two competitors bet back and forth as to who can actually meet the challenge until the dare is called. “People are liking games that offers challenges,” she says.

Pencil Nose

This game tests coordination and creativity in a silly way. Participants attach a pencil-style dry erase marker to a glasses frame, they pick a card and have to draw the object using their nose. The first person to guess the drawing wins. It’s sort of Pictionary with a twist.

SculptaPalooza

SculptaPalooza is a hands-on party game where participants race against the clock to sculpt something with Playfoam® (similar to Play-Doh but lighter and squishier) and then guess what was made. To make it even more challenging, there are five categories such as sculpting with your eyes closed or sculpting a prop to act out a scene.

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Sci-Fi, comic or movie-based games

Not everyone is into the traditional games; in fact, a large percentage prefer science fiction, comic or movie-based games. Oxford Comics and Games in Buckhead caters to people from college age to the 40-year-old crowd that wants “fantasy theme, movie theme games and video games,” says Zach Overton, the evening manager. “Our customers basically aren’t into Scrabble, but we do have a couple of Monopoly games,” he says. Among the big sellers at Oxford are Kanagama and Carcassonne.

Kanagawa

Kanagawa is a game for — dare we say — geeky artists. The premise is that in 1940 Master Hokusai opened a painting school and is sharing it with his disciples. Each player or disciple must prove his or her “worthiness” as an artist and paint preferred subjects, such as trees or animals, while paying attention to the changing of the seasons. The winner is the first who draws as many Lesson cards as there are players and places them on the school board.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is named after a medieval fortified town in southern France and each player draws a terrain tile and has to help build the town including roads, buildings, cities and fields.

According to Novak, games, puzzles and arts and crafts activities are as popular as ever, and she suspects business will increase the longer people stay home. “It’s definitely picking up,” she says. “We’re seeing a lot of the higher number of puzzle pieces being sold. A month ago, people were buying the 35 to 60-piece puzzles, but now we’re seeing 500 to 1,000-piece puzzles. Those are puzzles that everyone can pitch in and do over a longer period of time.”

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