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Review: Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered with the V&A at Maidstone Museum

By Angela Cole

Does your family enjoy some friendly rivalry over Monopoly at Christmas?

We may all spend hours on our technical gadgets, whether it’s kids with headphones glued to YouTube, or parents checking Facebook and Twitter or – god forbid, work emails – but it’s when we put them to one side and sit down to play a game together that memories are made.

The process of sitting round together and playing a game will, hopefully, never go out of fashion and, if sales of board games are anything to go by, they’re almost as popular as ever.

Star Wars features in Game Plan
Star Wars features in Game Plan

Maidstone Museum’s latest exhibition, Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered, which runs right through the summer holidays until October, has tapped into both our childhood memories of playing games together (and maybe crying when we lost) to the ones we want to make with our nearest and dearest right here and now.

Put together with the V&A, it has a healthy dose of nostalgia and rightly so.

Whether it’s the mother of all board games, Monopoly, complete with a “Go Directly to Jail” lifesize cell for visitors to be sent to, or more up to date games like Cranium and Sonic the Hedgehog, there really is something for all ages.

You’ll also learn more about those games’ predecessors, such as the first remotely played chess game between the House of Commons and the House of Representatives in Washington in 1897, to one of the first war games to depict the Allies against Germany in the First World War.

Get your game on at Maidstone Museum Picture: Andy Jones
Get your game on at Maidstone Museum Picture: Andy Jones

Star Wars fans will enjoy 1977’s Escape from Death Star and what family hasn’t owned Mouse Trap? (The exhibition’s copy has all the pieces, though, unlike most!)

Being held in the main exhibition room in Maidstone Museum, it has a second room where you can roll up your sleeves and get down to some serious – or not so serious – gaming. And again, there’s no limit on age, whether it’s four or 84.

Sonic and Friends at Maidstone Museum
Sonic and Friends at Maidstone Museum

Museums director Victoria Barlow said at the exhibition’s launch that it’s just all about fun.

“As adults maybe we need the permission to be childlike every now and then and just be a bit silly,” she said.

“What this exhibition says to all of us is that to step out of our ordinary lives and ordinary worries is really important. And it is important for us as museum people to remind us and remind our visitors to have fun. And please come and make some noise!”

If you’re unsure whether to make that noise inside the museum, you can save it til you get home, as you’ll leave feeling inspired to dig out Cluedo from upboard under the stairs.

Ludo is one of the games on show at Maidstone Museum's new exhibition, Game Plan
Ludo is one of the games on show at Maidstone Museum's new exhibition, Game Plan


Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered will be at Maidstone Museum until Sunday, October 1.

Entry is £4, £3 for children, and £12 for a family of up to four. There are some associated games nights too. For more details visit maidstonemuseum.org or call 01622 602838.

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