Playing outside the box

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Ruk-Shuk?

How about Rumis?

These are just a few of the not-so-mainstream board games that drew people to the Milne Public Library on Saturday.

Williams College computer programmer Chris Warren held a workshop to teach interested folks how to play 12 of these games, many of which hail from Europe.

Warren, 35, is a member of the North Berkshire Game Group, an assembly of about a dozen people who share an interest in board games.

They play, but they also brainstorm to develop their own games.

Warren said it's a hobby and a subculture. And while some might think the Internet and video games would make board games extinct, Warren said there's a resurgence in their popularity.

"For me, I like the tactility of holding the pieces and playing face-to-face," he said.

These unusual board games deal with strategy, mythology and chance. They're not like Dungeons and Dragons or the card game Magic, but they do borrow from their concepts.

While some require higher intellectual ability than, let's say, Monopoly, Warren said most everyone can pick them up rather quickly.

"There is a lot of jargon, though," he said.

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They're also quicker. While Risk may take anywhere from three to five hours to complete, these games last 45 to 90 minutes.

Is there cheating?

"Absolutely, but it depends on the crowd," he said. "Not so much among (hardcore) gamers."

Williamstown's Tommy Kirby, 11, and Eric Hirsch, 11, walked into the library and surveyed the games.

"I've played Settlers of Catan," Kirby said.

"I've never heard of any of these games before," Hirsch said.

Both were excited to learn as they started firing questions at Warren as he set up the pieces to a game called Carcassonne, which challenges players to build the medieval French city using farmers, knights, thieves and monks.

Helen Olshever, who runs youth services at the library, said, "It strikes me that a lot of the focus of these games is historical."

Olshever said the Milne holds a number of workshops throughout the year for children and teenagers. The schedule is available at www.milnelibrary.org.

Anyone interested in joining Warren and the gamers can visit www.nbgg.org.

"All of these games involved thinking and brain-building," Warren said. "But that's like any game."


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