Using Board Games to Help You Focus

by May 19, 2020Olaf's Corner0 comments

Something strange has been happening to my brain these days…

Like many of us I have been watching a lot of television shows during the quarantine over the last couple of months, but I recently noticed that I was having trouble following even the simplest of plot lines. I found myself pressing the rewind button more often than usual to remind myself what was being said. I am not talking complex story lines here; my favourite forms of entertainment are sitcoms and light dramas. I do not mean to imply that I am particularly sharp even in the best of times, but this was out of the ordinary even for me. So, what is happening?

After doing a little bit of digging on the subject on the internet it appears that this seems to be a common occurrence for many of us these days. There are stories of people showering with their glasses on or accidentally filling their coffee maker with baby powder instead of coffee. It appears that I am not alone in my struggle to stay focused on anything from work to study or play.

The scientific community suggests that the part of our brain (the prefrontal cortex) that is responsible in processing ‘higher functions’ such as critical thinking, controlling impulses and focusing actually weakens during periods of stress. This can be helpful during times of danger when we need to reply on rapid and reactive responses. On the flipside it lowers our ability to be thoughtful and our capacity to focus for a prolonged period of time can be significantly affected. Not only can we experience an inability to focus but also a lack of motivation. Psychologists assure us that this is not unusual behaviour as our brains are wired to react that way. Faced with the ongoing stress of the current health crisis, people have found creative ways regain their own attention, like limiting their time on social media, meditation, reading or journaling. I recently noticed that, addition to toilet paper, puzzles were amongst the consumer items that were hard to come by. Putting together a puzzle is a great way to exercise your brain without any steep learning curve or complex set of rules while allowing your mind to focus on a relatively simple task. Board games offer another great way to recharge your prefrontal cortex in a gentle and relaxing way. Planning a strategy (or your simply your next move) encourages thinking and focus in a fun and positive environment. Board games can lengthen your attention span, especially if there is a commitment to see it through to the end. Of course, not every game has to be a ‘brain burner.’ I personally found myself reaching for board games that were not too complex and avoided games that had long rule books. Luckily there are a wide selection of titles available to us that provide very satisfying game play while being relatively simple to learn.

If you are looking for some great games to sharpen your focus without overwhelming you, then here are my top suggestions:

LABYRINTH
2-4 players, ages 6 and up 

A wonderful game for any age that is easy to learn while offering room for strategic thinking and planning. The game board has a set of tiles fixed solidly onto it; the remaining tiles that make up the labyrinth slide in and out of the rows created by the tiles that are locked in place. Players take turns taking an extra tile and sliding it into a row of the labyrinth, moving all those tiles and pushing one out the other side of the board; this newly removed tile becomes the piece for the next player to add to the maze. Players move around the shifting paths of the labyrinth in a race to collect various treasures. Whoever collects all of his treasures first and returns to his home space wins!

KINGDOMINO
2-4 players, ages 8 and up

This easy to learn game mixes dominoes with a kingdom-building twist. Each turn you will connect a new domino to your existing kingdom, making sure that at least one of its sides connects to a matching terrain type already in play. Make sure to include dominoes with crowns on them: these royal treasures help to multiply the worth of your kingdom. The game ends when each player has completed a 5×5 grid, and then points are counted based on the number of connecting tiles.

 MAKE ‘N BREAK
2-4 players, ages 8 and up 

Featuring building block for adults, it is the perfect companion to train your focus and reaction times. In this fast-paced game, players must uncover and copy building plans of various difficulty, each showing 10 colored blocks in a particular arrangement, before the timer runs out. An advanced variant allows player to pass undesirable plans to their neighbor and take the one they would have drawn.

QWIRKLE
2-4 players, ages 6 and up

A charming combination of dominos and scrabble that is easy to learn and offers a Zen-like game experience. Players begin the game with six blocks that feature colours and shapes. The start player places blocks of a single matching attribute (color or shape but not both) on the table. Thereafter, a player adds blocks adjacent to at least one previously played block. The blocks must all be played in a line and match, without duplicates, either the color or shape of the previous block.

Players score one point for each block played plus all blocks adjacent. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

WHAT THE HECK?
2-5 players, ages 8 and up 

A very simple and short card game that is addictive and offers hours of fun. Players are given an equal deck of cards from one to fifteen. Each turn, a prize tile is randomly selected from a pool. The prize tile either has positive or negative points, and each player is attempting to gather the most positive points from these prizes. Players secretly select one of their remaining fifteen cards and reveal them simultaneously. The highest card gets the prize (if positive), or the lowest card get the prize (if negative). However, if two people play the highest (or lowest) card, they cancel each other out and the prize goes to the next in line…

Would you like to try a game to help you focus? Here are my top suggestions:

Labyrinth

2-4 players, Ages 6 and up.

Labyrinth

Try to move your pawn through a labyrinth as effciently as possible.

Kingdomino

2-4 Players, Ages 8 and up

Build your kingdom – Domino style

Make 'N Break

2-4 Players, Ages 8 and up

Fast-paced block buiding for adults

Qwirkle

2-4 Players, Ages 6 and up

Qwirkle

Place your tiles efficiently to gain the most points.

What The Heck?

2-5 Players, Ages 8 and up

Choose the right time to play your high cards to get points.

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