When I was growing up, my family had a cottage on an island in Georgian Bay. We filled our summer days fishing, swimming, exploring, and playing board games. We didn’t have a TV and this is long before the days of the internet, so the big communal activity we’d take part in as a family was games. We had classics like Monopoly, Risk, and Clue, and we’d also play lots of different card games like Rummoli, Euchre, and Three Thirteen. These game nights were pivotal in shaping me into the gamer I am today. They form some of my fondest childhood memories and taught me the joy of analog play.
We sold our island cottage when I was 18 and bought another one in Penetanguishene. We had that place for years, but by then my tastes had evolved to gateway strategy games like Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Carcassonne. I’d head up there for long weekends with my brothers, my parents, or just a group of friends. No matter the company, gaming always played a big part of those trips. Sure, we’d get out there and enjoy our beautiful surroundings, but on rainy days and most evening, a game or several would hit the table.
After my folks retired, they sold their house and cottage to keep a single place just outside of Barrie. But, I still get out to cottage country every chance I get. I have a few good friends with places that we’ll plan weekends away throughout the year. Due to my profession and my access to games, I’m usually in charge of selecting a bunch of titles to bring up for us to play over the weekend. It’s a job that I probably take a little too seriously, but having the right games for the right people can make or break a weekend.
Being in a small cabin in the woods or on a lake just seems to go hand in hand with sitting down to a table to play games. It’s like making a campfire, or canoeing on the lake, or using an outhouse. It’s part of the baked-in experience of heading to a cottage. They’re inseparable, at least in my mind.
For me, it’s a combination of the lack of technology, the silence and remoteness of the setting, and the desire to connect with the people I’m spending time with. There are so many fewer distractions at a cottage. Perhaps you’ll hear the odd call from a loon while you’re waiting for your turn to come around, but that sound is just nature’s personal reminder that you’ve unplugged for the weekend.
Gaming is a big part of my life, so it’s no surprise that cottage games are a thing for me too. However, it’s not just me. Whenever I visit someone’s cottage, I can pretty much guarantee they have a closet somewhere with at least a classic edition of Monopoly, some score sheets and a cup of dice for Yahtzee, or at the very least a battered deck of cards shoved in a drawer.
Games are meant to be an escape, a diversion from normal life while still being able to connect with people. Maybe that is why they are such a universal fit with getting away to a cottage. They serve the purpose to allow us to disconnect and share some experiences with the people we love.