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Battleships & The Captain’s Boys – How Board Games can be a great way to impart Life Lessons.

July 19, 2017 | open mic
Ragavan Manian
Musician. Engineer. Writer.

Like the music he creates there is a beautiful symphony in all that he does. Father, musician, writer, maker and a fantastic mind, he reminds you of all that is good and pure in life. A curious and adventurous child Ragavan Manian, from Team Imagin8ors, explores and seeks new things with an infectious enthusiasm and zest. 

 

My two little boys Karun (8 years) and Sunaad (5 years) play board games, whenever they are, well, bored! There are a host of games to choose from, with their interest area ranging from Myth and Mythology to Mickey Mouse! But the one game that has found a lot of favour recently is Battleships.

According to Wikipedia, the Battleships board game has World War I origins, starting out as a paper and pencil game.

Picture courtesy Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Picture courtesy Creative Commons/Wikipedia

To me and a host of adults out there who grew up on a steady diet of Herge’s famous  characters, a more apt reference would be the Tintin comic, Flight 714. If you haven’t read the pages where the sullen, stingy and scruple-free multi-billionaire Carreidas repeatedly flummoxes Capt. Haddock, then you’re missing something hilarious!

But even as I enjoyed the comic and was intrigued by Battleships, I never got a chance to actually play the game, and it faded from my memory – that is, until it made a grand appearance in our household in the guise of my son’s birthday gift. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly both my little boys picked up this game. They are nearly three years apart, and in the early years, “three” represents a significant cognitive gap, separated by numerous cognitive milestones. Some examples:

Data source: www.understood.org

Their board games therefore tend to be divided into two neat piles. In line with his age and interests, the younger one prefers the motto of “have dice, will play”. He loves rolling the dice, driven by the sincere belief that he’s the “luckiest person in the family”. His cries of elation when he leads the board on the perennial family favourite “Snakes and Ladders”, or his shrieks of despair when he falls behind, have earned him the nickname of “Mr. Noisy” in our neighbourhood. The older one prefers intrigue (Scotland Yard, anyone?). He feels let down when “dumb luck” plays a significant part in a game, where he cannot ‘outsmart’ his opponent.

Like many great board games “Battleships” tends to straddle the space between luck and logic. Yes there is a good deal of chance in the game, but it also requires strategic thinking. Children delight in shouting out the words, “a miss!”, “a hit!” and “a sink!”. There is implicit confrontation in those words; however no actual violence is inflicted. The vessels on the board don’t even sink when they’re sunk – they just end up looking more dressed up! The power of their thought processes in affecting the opponent’s fleet is a revelation – almost like a spooky action-at-a-distance effect. Abstraction and Generalization – Computational Thinking concepts that even adults have difficulty wrapping their heads around, form part and parcel of this game. The moments of silence and strategic thinking add to its old-world charm.

Open Mic Imagin8ors

Above all, this game demands that the players be principled – a facet of the Collaboration, that we need in dollops in the global citizens of a brave new world, in a time when the planet is ridden by the damage done by the collective greed of the past generations. The temptation to gain strategic advantage surreptitiously (a.k.a. Through peeking!) was initially so strong in the children that, during the first few rounds I had to step in and act as the Captain of the boys, to enforce ground rules and stringent penalties against ‘cheating’. But eventually they understand that it is a lot more fun and engaging to follow the rules. A fair game of  Battleships seems to teach long-term lessons that stick in more ways than one.

Open Mic-imagin8ors

Carreidas in Flight 714 was driven by the desire to win the game of Battleships at all costs against his opponent, the poor, sincere Captain Haddock. This may have helped the former win the game, but in the end his guile was exposed and the Captain’s Boys won the day!

What board games rule your household? What life lessons have you been able to share through them? We would love to hear from you…

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