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Do You Yahtzee?

The unseen world of boardgaming

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The jig is up, all you Parcheesi-playing, Backgammon-battling, Monopoly-mastering, Candyland-obsessed, closet cases: There are public opportunities in the Treasure Valley to relish in your board game fancies. For years traditional board games like Sorry!, Chess and Checkers have been played in the comfort of our own homes, inciting gratuitous rivalries between family members and friends. I still refuse to play Monopoly with my play-money-grubbing, hotel-stealing sister. But the option to play new and exciting board games that aren't as well known is available in the Treasure Valley (which sounds like a game in itself).

SimplyFun, an in-home sales company for games, puzzles and puppets, was created by Gail DeGiulio, a wife, mother and businesswoman who was tired of playing the same old board games with her children and friends. Ashli Hamson, a SimplyFun consultant for the Boise area, goes into homes and allows families the opportunity to purchase board games that are unavailable in a traditional toy store. The setting is no different than when your mom hosted of a Tupperware party and coaxed her friends to buy some of the wonderful plastic contraptions--only this time, Mom may purchase toys she will actually enjoy playing with her kids. "We promote the importance of play," says Hamson, "The games are really for all ages. All adults love the games." Gone are the inane days of bingo with grandma and grandpa, SimplyFun's games are great for ages 3 to 80, including Liebrary, a game created by actresses Daryl Hannah and Hilary Shepard. In Liebrary, players creates their own first line of a given book genre and attempt to convince the other players that their line is the actual first line of the book.

All games are available to purchase online; however, booking a session with Hamson allows potential clients to sample and try out the games for free to see which ones tickle their fancies. Another interesting game SimplyFun offers, Chess on the Loose, is an elaborate new take on the traditional game in which certain new pieces are included to mix things up a bit. New pieces include a "Frankencheck monster," used to play games of Chess Frankencheck and treasure tiles to play Treasure Chessed. Other board games SimplyFun offers are: Tunebaya, Ooga!, Eye to Eye and Texas Roll 'em.

For those of you who wish to hold onto memories of playing Scrabble long ago, the Treasure Valley Scrabble Club is an excellent way to sharpen up your vocabulary and competitive edge. Ben Rice, director of the club now in its second year, said he played Scrabble with his mom and online for years and wanted to see if he could get a group together. "It's more fun in person than online," says Rice. He then contacted the headquarters of the National Scrabble Association to find out how to start his own club in Boise. Currently there are about 10-14 players in the club--some of whom are more hardcore than others--but Rice is not opposed to newbies entering the world of public Scrabble playing. "Everyone's really nice here," Rice says. As long as you can spell and lack a short fuse, you'll fit in just fine.

Scrabblers play head-to-head in a tournament-like fashion, and though the club has more adults than young folks, Rice says the group wouldn't mind a few members of the younger crowd so long as they mind the official rules.

"To be good at Scrabble, you don't really need to know what words mean," says Rice. The popularity of Scrabble is more about the acquisition and utilization of vocabulary than the definitions of a word and, he says, even some the nation's best Scrabble players may be clueless about the proper definitions of their scoring words. Despite the relatively low number of regulars in the club, Rice says the playing ability of the players is spread wide, with scores ranging from the 200s to the 500s, thus no one need be intimidated about diving right in.

Not a Scrabble player but have a penchant for Pictionary? It's not hard to start your own gaming club. If the game has a national association, and many of them do, it's best to contact them first for directions--think of it as like a really toned-down version of a fraternity chapter. Pass fliers around town, talk to your friends about your new club, see if there is a general interest in your board game of choice and you just might be the next director of the local Chutes and Ladders society.

The Treasure Valley Scrabble Club meets every first and third Sunday of the month, 6 p.m., Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Boise.

For more information on SimplyFun, visit www.simplyfun.com or call 1-877-557-7767 (or contact Ashli Hamson directly at 440-9966 or ashlihamson.simplyfun.com).