LEWISTON — Every day, in the late afternoon or just after supper, Joan Morin and her husband, Ray, sit down to play games. 

Exchange students at the New Gloucester home of Beryle Martin play a game of Monopoly. Clockwise, starting from front left are: Gustavo from Spain, Galiya from Kazakhstan, Jachym from the Czech Republic, Jayce Kuvaja from Lewiston, Ellyn from Indonesia and Basia from Poland. Submitted photo

She is 88, he just turned 89 and there they are, going head-to-head night after night in a game of Rummikub, Skip-Bo, Sequence, Mexican Train or a challenging little game called Quiddler. 

“It uses letters and numbers,” says Joan, “so it’s great for your mind.” 

For the Morins, game night is a beloved ritual and it’s come to be about much more than rolls of dice or numbers scribbled on a scratch pad. Game night, for the Morins, is a grand distraction from the tough realities in the world outside their windows. 

“This is our pastime during winter. It’s something to look forward to,” Joan says. “Sometimes we goof and laugh about things. It puts you in a social mood. There’s no religion, there’s no COVID, there’s no politics. It does all that for us.” 

The couple has five grown children and the tradition of evening games has been passed down to each of them. 


Is the concept of game night a new phenomenon? Absolutely not. But with things like social distancing and COVID-19 fears wreaking havoc with human interaction, there may be more people playing good old-fashioned board games now then ever. 

“The more you talk about it with other people,” says Morin, “you learn that they’re starting to play, too. I’ve got friends in Florida who play games all the time. It’s a great pastime, especially if you’re homebound.” 

Part of Matthew Strout’s collection of board and card games. The Sabattus man has more than 1,000 of them. Submitted photo


I’ll be honest with you. I had no idea that so many people were engaging in organized game nights. And it’s not just older folks killing time in their golden years. The demographics of it are all over the place. 

In some circles, young people are eschewing the club scene and expensive nights on the town in favor of a cozy place at their own game tables. 

Take Matthew Strout, of Sabattus. This is a fellow who just married in September and who absolutely prefers game night over more exotic (and expensive) adventures. 


For Strout, game night is a family affair. And then some.

“Me and my wife play most every day,” Strout says. “My dad plays quite a bit with me and so do my sister and her fiance. They play some and then every Thursday night, it’s game night and so my friends come over. There’s a group of like 10 people and a couple of them will come over every Thursday.” 

For Strout, games are a serious business. He started getting into hobby games around 2017 and it didn’t take him long to catch the full-blown game bug. 

Strout has amassed 1,087 board and card games and no, that’s not a typo. He keeps his games carefully categorized and he keeps scores, stats and records on every game played.

That’s no easy feat, considering that in the last year alone, Strout and his crew managed 1025 plays of 580 unique games. 

“So the average is two or three games a day,” he says. 


On an average weekday night, Strout and his wife will play a game or two before heading to bed. On Sunday nights, they go to her father’s house and play there. 

Just about anyone who comes within Matthew Strout’s orbit will find themselves at the game table. 

“If you hang around with me more than a couple of times, we’ll end up playing games,” he says. “I like to share the joy with people.” 

You can see an online catalog of Strout’s game collection at BoardGameGeek,com by searching for his user name, stroutqb22. 

Game night at Anita Murphy’s Lewiston home includes, from left, Donna Spugnardi, Jane Burns and Gloria Beers. Billy (the one without cards) is one of three dogs who also usually attend game night. Submitted photo


Behold Anita Murphy, Jane Burns, Gloria Beers and Donna Spugnardi. Here is a group of sisters who get together two or three times a week, between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m., to play cards. 


For this family, game night is a birthright. 

“We come from a very large French-Canadian family and grew up watching my grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles play almost every weekend,” says Murphy. “They played pinochle and other various games that included at least six to eight people playing. So, it’s in the blood!” 

Wherever they happen to play, it’s going to be a raucous spot for a few hours, with a kind of running dialogue that will sound familiar to any veteran of the card tables. 

“Put in!” 

“What’s wild again?” 

“Is it my turn?” 


“What are we eating?” 

These sisters aren’t game lightweights. They take their games seriously and they aren’t playing Go Fish out there. 

“We play poker,” Murphy says. “All versions of it, including our own. Some of the games we play are: Maverick, Low or High in the Hole, Peek-A-Boo, Last Card Wild, Follow the Dirty Queen (spade), Deuces and One-Eyed Jacks, Draw, Dumb Donna (she earned this game) and include the ‘Bibbit’ — which is a joker and can be wild — among many others. It’s the dealer’s choice. Oh, and we use just one deck to play and the next person’s turn to deal is already shuffling the other deck so we don’t waste time starting the next game — Jane’s complaint that we take too long shuffling them. 

“We do play for stakes,” Murphy says. “Dimes and quarters only. We never raise and we don’t play cut-throat. If we see someone has a better hand, we point it out. “ 

During card night, the sisters will break for supper; either one of them has cooked something or they’ll order out. They’ll have discussions about the big news of any given day while their three dogs, Eddie, Anna and Billy, crowd in around the table. 

For these sisters of the cards, game night is a firmly affixed part of their lives. It is at once companionship, stress relief and occasionally, high humor. 


“There are times that we are laughing so much,” Murphy says, “we forget what we were playing and have to stop to think about it.” 


At the age of 12, Linda Austin Barschdorf, of Lisbon Falls, played the word “zone” and got 13 points. Her mother, Myrtle Austin, added an “O” to make it ozone. Linda lost her challenge, but not her lifelong love of the game. 

What game is that? Scrabble, of course, played anywhere, any time. 

According to Barschdorf, if visitors to her home so much as mention the game, she’ll drop whatever she’s doing and set up a game right there on the kitchen table. 

School friends of her three children, Leanne, Darrin and Heidi, could count on receiving $5 if they beat her, and another $10 if they stuck around for a second game. 


These days Barschdorf loves teaching the strategy of Scrabble to her three grandchildren and has been known to throw a game when the situation calls for it. 

She also has been known to play Scrabble during lunch time at her workplace, bring several Scrabble boards along on summer outings, organize Scrabble games on Taco Nite at a local restaurant, and set up Scrabble at family reunions and holiday festivities. 


Ever heard of the game Headbanz? Me neither. 

In this one, a player sticks a card in their provided headband and then has to figure out what it says by asking yes or no questions of the other players. It’s a recent hit at Mariah Bicknell’s Lewiston household. 

“My family and I have always loved game night and found it a classic way to bond and spend a few hours without many screens present, especially as we’ve gotten older,” Bicknell says. “Recently my daughter got the Headbanz game and actually kicked our whole family’s butts at it. Super fun and entertaining for everyone.” 



“Board games, card games and hobby games are big in my family,” says Dan Ryder, of North Jay. “Wait . . . they are big with ME. I can’t get enough of them — it’s kind of a problem — and my family, sometimes with great aplomb and sometimes with coercion, comes along on the journey.” 

What kinds of games will you find at the Ryder game table? Better to ask what games you WON’T find. 

“Even without a regularly scheduled game night, tabletop games and Dungeons & Dragons have become part of the culture in our house. Stalwarts like Ticket to Ride and Splendor come to the table often, alongside Santorini and Azul. My now 10-year-old son learned his math facts at age 8 while playing DC Superheroes Deck Builder — a game geared for teens and upward — while my 14-year-old daughter cut her cutthroat teeth on Spirits of the Wild, For Sale, and Qwixx. And my wife, always a fan of party games like Just One and Anomia, is always willing to try out the quirky things I find, such as the Where’s-Waldo-meets-Busytown-meets-CSI MicroMacro: Crime City and the 3D puzzle Ctrl.” 

As with most families who are into game night, at the Ryder place there are already signs that the tradition is being spread to the next generation. The Dungeons & Dragons end of it, anyway. 

“Every weekend, my daughter goes to her cousin’s for D&D,” Ryder says, “while her uncle, my best friend, and I gather our friends across the state and from as far away as Maryland to play D&D.” 


The family of Buffy Dumont gather for a game of Tuck in Monmouth. Claudette and Paul Dumont, center, are playing the marble game with their grandsons Chris, left, and Ben. Submitted photo


For Buffy Dumont, of Monmouth, a good game of Tuck, in which players try to move their marbles around a board Parcheesi style, is the preferred way to keep her family busy. 

Not that this was her idea alone. 

“Teaching this to the next generation is what Memere and Pepere Dumont have done — and they LOVE it! Now that some of our kids are getting married, their spouses had never heard of it but jump right in and get in on family games. It’s quite competitive. Nice to still have the French Canadian games in our family.” 

Elise Jensen’s game table is prepared for another round of Mansions of Madness, a game based on the works of H.P Lovecraft. Submitted photo


The array and variety of games that are out there just waiting to be played is dizzying. For her family, Elise Jensen, of Calais, turned to one of the greatest writers of horror and fantasy in history. 


“When the days are short and dreary, and the nights are long, our family gets our H.P. Lovecraft on with Mansions of Madness,” Jensen says. “It’s character-driven, immersive and the long gameplay time means a single game can easily fill an entire evening! We play with three people, but it can accommodate up to five. It’s a cooperative game and the companion app does the work of taking the game’s turn against the players.” 

Part of the game collection at the Turner Public Library. Photo submitted by Ellen Bradley


Ellen Bradley, director of the Turner Public Library, points out that one doesn’t have to go out and buy an expensive game just to see if they like it. Many libraries in the area are offering their patrons a chance to borrow games as they would a book. 

Libraries, by and large, have been ahead of the curve when it comes to the popularity of game nights. 

“Pre-pandemic, our Family Board Game Night was a big success,” Bradley says. ” We also had tabletop role-playing game nights that drew players from far and wide. We had a monthly Family Board Game Night, an open-table Dungeons & Dragons night, and a tabletop role-playing game night for experienced players. All three were great. We had one family that used to come from Rumford to Turner for the D&D night. And then COVID . . . “ 

With the schools trying to keep the kids in person, Bradley says, the library hasn’t started its game night program back into play. 


“We’d like to,” she says, “but people are understandably hesitant to sit around a table.” 

But in Turner, at least, the library has always catered to the game community. 

“A couple years ago, we had Tom Deschenes, the creator of Quest for the Antidote and a Lewiston native in to lead a game night for his game,” Bradley says. “We had multiple tables playing the game at once. That was fun because we could see various outcomes at once.” 

Like others, Bradley believes that getting children into games isn’t just about killing a few hours for them. Gaming has its benefits. 

“We encourage tabletop/board/ card games for families because it allows different ages to play together,” Bradley says. “Families can tailor the games to suit various ages, and makers of popular adult games like Catan and Ticket to Ride are making junior editions so kids can begin playing at younger age and developing logical and strategic thinking.

“One way in which libraries can help families is in choosing appropriate games,” Bradley says. “Library staff generally knows the basic premise of the most popular games, and, if they’re libraries like TPL, have avid game players on staff.” 


Does she game herself? Oh, yes. 

“I just played Death at the Lamplight Theatre by Deadbolt Mystery Society with my 24-year-old son. I know now that I wouldn’t recommend it to a family with young children, but it would be great for teens or adults looking for an at-home escape-room type of game. “ 

Some of the most popular games at the Turner library, according to Bradley, are: Gnomes at Night, Catan/Catan Jr., Here to Slay, Happy Little Dinosaurs and Ticket to Ride Jr. 

Others libraries haven’t had much success with game nights since COVID-19. 

“Back in September, we actually attempted to start one of these, but saw very little attendance,” says Marcela Peres, director of the public library in Lewiston. “The feedback we got from people was that they weren’t ready to spend hours playing in the library, potentially with strangers, during the pandemic. We did host a few virtual trivia nights last year, which were much better attended.” 

Cheryl Woodard’s daughter Ali, left, plays cribbage with her boyfriend, Jordan Hodlofski, center, and her father, Jon Woodard. Submitted photo



We heard from a whole lot of others, too. For the family of Cheryl Woodard, of Greene, it’s cribbage. In Beryle Martin’s household, the kids play Monopoly.

A few mentioned Cards Against Humanity. Others noted games we have never heard of, including Gloomhaven and Mysterium. And there were nods to familiar games like Trivial Pursuit, Operation, Battleship, Sorry and good old checkers.

Not to mention Candyland, Trouble, Life and Yahtzee. We could go on, but we won’t.

Bottom line is, even if you’re a hardcore game player like Matthew Strout, with his 1,000-plus game collection, you’re probably not going to run out of games any time soon. As fast as you can play them, new games are hitting the market.

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