It’s as simple as saying some words.
I’m drawing cards from a deck, and telling people what I’ve pulled, and I’m saying ‘Carolina Chickadee, Painted Bunting, Juniper Titmouse’.
The words pour from my mouth, spill into the room: all rhythm and contrast and bouncing consonants.
‘Loggerhead Shrike, Bewick’s Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher’
Say them out loud. Don’t just read. Listen to the different sounds, how they feel as they roll around your tongue and fly out into the world.
It’s well documented that I believe that boardgames are made by people. You can’t turn a pile of cardboard into a game without people to play it with. It’s also worth noting, that people, in many ways, are made by language.
Not everyone can speak, but everyone needs a way to communicate. We’ve built a whole wealth of world on the ability to transmit ideas. Most of the time, we do that by the movement of letters into words, and words into sentences.
Speaking is a delightful, deeply human process. We use these incredibly specific muscles to generate a stream of noises that follow just the right pattern to communicate an idea. Each word is built on centuries of language evolution, and the teaching and culture that has given us a way to share ideas and concepts and learn from each other. We understand the things we say.
We hear them. They bring images to mind.
‘Violet-Green Swallow, Horned Lark, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.’
Speaking is such a simple joy. Just enjoying the poetry of sound. The strange delight of a set of syllables you’ve never heard before. Conjuring something new into existence.
Wingspan is a game about birds. It’s lovely. There’s beautiful pictures, and a solid engine building game at its core.
My greatest joy this year has been announcing the names of birds as I play them (with the little factoids at the bottom of each card, if you’re lucky), activate them, or just bring them out for display in the middle of the table.
‘Steller’s Jay, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Shoveler.’
It’s just the names of birds. Just the odd labels we’ve given to beautiful tiny creatures that fly and dance and peck for food. And it’s so much fun.
Spirit Island actually has something similar. It’s powers all have magnificently poetic names, instantly evocative of some deep and ancient knowledge.
‘Grant hatred a ravenous form, Wrap in wings of sunlight, Flow like water, reach like air.’
When you’re playing games with people, it’s really delightful to hear their voices. To hear them say things you’ve never heard them say before. Boardgames are littered with moments where you explain your move, or this turn’s worry, and realise you’ve said something that couldn’t possibly make sense in any other context.
I love it when games give you word fuel. Give you syllables to wrap lips around and sentences to dance with. Playful speaking is a joy. Singing ‘American Robin’ to the tune of ‘American Woman’ until your housemate creases into tiny folded pieces is priceless.
We sit at the table to find joy in each other. So it’s good when we’re given something wonderful to listen to.
Say it loud.
‘Bobolink, Clarke’s Grebe, Prothonotary Warbler.’
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