While New Year’s is now behind us, I was reminded of the holidays while looking at this vintage game board sitting on my shelf. Games have always been a staple of my family’s gatherings, when we let go of our differences each year to compete over a rainbow-colored board with a common set of rules. For this game, devoid of instructions or pieces, we had to make up the rules ourselves. (This rulemaking is a collaborative effort, unlike the summer-camp-card-game Mao where experienced players know the rules and everyone else has to figure them out as they play.) Not dissimilar from examining an artwork, we look at the board to see if we can understand its internal logic, look for external references (Peter Pumpkin Eater?), and bring our own viewpoints to the piece. And like looking at art, there is no right or wrong way to have an experience–although in the case of a mysterious game, we do tweak our interpretations to make it more fun as we go along. And for fun rather than necessity, every so often we do this with a new game before we learn the official rules, and we then see just how different the play is. Why go to all this trouble? Maybe it is as simple as, after growing up with Calvin and Hobbes, an enduring, unconscious desire to make each game as fresh as Calvinball every time we play.

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