Daily Illuminator

January 26, 2024: Board Games On TV

We are living in the digital streaming age of television, so how could I relate TV back to board games? Believe it or not, tabletop gaming has played a funny, and sometimes quite serious, role in some of the most well-known series of all time.
Season 6, Episode 12 – "The Label Maker"
Fans will certainly remember the time Kramer and Newmann battled against each other in a head-to-head game of Risk in Jerry's apartment. Kramer becomes paranoid and is convinced Newmann is cheating by sneaking into the apartment to make secret moves. As is on par for Seinfeld, hilarity ensues!
StrategoThe X-Files
Season 2, Episode 1 – "Little Green Men"
In a flashback sequence during this 1994 episode, Fox Mulder and his sister Samantha can be seen playing the classic game Stratego. Spending time playing the game with his sister is a core memory for him, as it is during a moment vital to the mythology of the series. I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say things get rather . . . spooky.
Settlers of CatanThe Big Bang Theory
Season 5, Episode 13 – "The Recombination Hypothesis"
Brick. Wood. Wheat. Sheep. Ore. These are the 5 resources in Settlers of Catan. But there's one Sheldon needs that has Raj and Howard absolutely rolling with laughter. As always during this series, Sheldon doesn't get the joke. If you've played the game, it is the joke – so there's no need to say it here! While other games are mentioned and seen during the show's 12 seasons, this is certainly the most memorable.
Dungeon and DragonsStranger Things
Various Episodes
Stranger Things is one of the most popular and successful TV series created by Netflix. What makes this game reference unique is that it sets up the entire premise of the show, beginning in the very first episode. The Demogorgon, part of Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin's long Dungeons and Dragons campaign, is a central figure and plays a pivotal role in the series as whole. Want to know more? Journey to the Upside Down!
The Cones of Dunshire - Parks and Recreation
Season 6, Episode 9 - "The Cones of Dunshire"
Ben Wyatt is between jobs and uses his copious amounts of spare time to create his very own board game – The Cones of Dunshire. While rules for this somewhat fictional eight-player game may be incredibly complex, or even convoluted, it really does look like fun! In a future episode, it is seen being played by Pawnee's accounting firm, much to Ben's surprise. In 2020, I made a full-size copy of the game – including the Ledgerman hat! – from scratch using craft materials, thrifted items, and this guide. Sadly, it's never made it to the table.

Board games show up in many, many other series. Keep an eye out for more the next time you're binge watching!

-- Michelle Richardson

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