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It's Thanksgiving, break out the boardgames
An English Rose in Georgia
Lesley Francis - 2016
Lesley Francis grew up in London, England, and made Georgia her home in 2009. - photo by File photo

Even though I did not grow up with Thanksgiving, it is my second favorite American holiday.

It hasn’t quite exceeded July 4th in my mind, since I adore summer, fireworks and I worked hard to become an American citizen, but it still ranks very high with me. I love the feeling of family, warmth, tasty food and, well, the simple idea of giving thanks in your own particular way – a time to take stock of the good things each of us have and be appreciative of it.

Another thing that the wintertime holidays make me think of is family games, and board games in particular. Growing up in England at a time before internet, computerized game consoles and multiple TV channels, the long cold holiday evenings were often taken up with old-fashioned board games with family and friends.

I was also reminded of how we are divided by a common language when I read that the board game Clue has recently been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. Why? Because in the U.K. this game is called Cluedo and was a childhood favorite of mine.

This famous "who dunit" game where players must correctly name the culprit, crime scene and murder weapon to win (such as "Miss Scarlet in the library with the candlestick") continues to sell millions of copies a year. Like many other board games, Clue was invented by the British. My personal theory on the British aptitude for both inventing and playing games comes down to the excessive rainfall and long, dark winter nights there.

Combine this with limited radio and then TV choices during much of the 20th century, no computers and shops and most other businesses being closed on Sundays and Wednesday afternoon and you start to get the picture. British families had to come up with something respectable to do indoors and at home.

A British couple from Birmingham, England, Mr. and Mrs. Pratt, invented the game Cluedo during the Second World War and filed a patent for it in 1944. The English company, Waddington’s Games, recognized Cluedo as a winner but due to post-war shortages of various materials, the game wasn’t launched until 1949. Parker Brothers, now Hasbro, obtained the U.S. rights to this game in 1949 and renamed it Clue for the American market.

Today it is sold in over 40 countries from Brazil to Sweden, New Zealand to Abu Dhabi. In Brazil the game is called Detective. The secret of its success is probably because the same successful formula works when translated into any language. For more information, visit

According to the National Museum of Play, whose mission is to "explore play and the ways in which it encourages learning, creativity and discovery and illuminates cultural history," for a game or toy to make it into the Toy Hall of Fame, historians and educators assess them against strong criteria, including the inspiration of creative play over generations.

Clue/Cluedo has been featured in TV series and books and travel and has been produced in junior, advanced and themed editions over the last 60 years. Other board games inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame include Chess (2013), The Game of Life (2010), Candy Land (2005), Scrabble (2004), Checkers (2003) and Monopoly (1998).

This year, in addition to Clue/Cluedo, the whiffle ball and paper aeroplane were also inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. It is fascinating to see the range of honorees from Barbie to bicycles and crayons to yo-yos. The weirdest in my opinion is the cardboard box (really!), which is another English invention, one probably favored by children who get too many clothes for Christmas. More information can be found at

I will leave you this week with a quote by Albert Einstein, famous German physicist who developed the theory of relativity: "You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else."

God bless America and Happy Thanksgiving!

Francis can be contacted at or at

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