By Eric Andrews

A card is slapped down on the table.  

It’s a Guard, and Ryan, our crew boss, jabs his finger towards me. Playing the Guard means he must guess who I am, and if he guesses correctly, I’m finished. 

“You’re the Prince,” he accuses. 

My hand trembles, and my smile wilts. I drop my own card to the table, revealing that I am indeed the Prince, and that Ryan has knocked me out and won this round. He shouts triumphantly as he collects a small red cube denoting his victory. He then gathers up the cards, shuffles them, and deals them out as we begin another hand of Love Letter.


Family style at the Landmark house. From left: Eric, Kaitlyn, Ryan and Tim. (Photo by Elaine Kennedy)

PictureThe whimsical French game Dixit is based on imagination and art interpretation. (Photo by Eric Anderson)

Prairie life can be tough. It can be rough going when the mud sucks at your boots or when the ruts in the road toss you like a rag doll. A long day’s hike can occasionally leave you feeling physically and mentally drained. Everyone has ways to unwind after a hard day. For our Landmark crew, a board game is one of those things.

We also have a ritual to initiating a game. First, a member of the crew must make a round of the house, proposing the game to each crew member in turn. After the requisite number of people have agreed to join, a second round occurs, confirming to the game is afoot. This also serves to set into agreement the time and meeting place for the game, quite usually the dinner table and right after dinner, respectively.

Love Letter has been a favorite in the past couple weeks. It’s a fast paced game of deduction, with a flair for the dramatic and a fair bit of chance thrown in. It quite often ends with a clever trick of the cards that leaves one player exclaiming with victory, while another player is equally exclaiming their rage and plot of subsequent revenge.

Previously the house had been enamored with Dixit and Masquerade.

Dixit, a whimsical French game, is based on imagination and art interpretation, where players ponder whether a clue of “Adventure” means guessing the card that depicts a young smiling boy piloting a ship through a storm, or the one with an old man stumbling upon a cave full of gold. The playing pieces used to keep score are adorable colored rabbits.

Meanwhile, Masquerade is a comical game of hidden identities. As they scramble for fast cash players are unsure who each other are—or who they are themselves, for that matter. It’s a game where Tim may claim with utmost certainty, “I’m the Judge!” And Kaitlyn may quickly rebut, “No! I’m the Judge!” Finally, when all is revealed, neither of them were, in fact, the Judge. Tim and Kaitlyn are left scratching their heads, puzzling who the Judge could be, if not them. Laughter all around.

The point of the game is not to win. Instead, it’s about gathering together around a table, being brought together by a few pieces of paper, cardboard and game pieces. There is something deeply affecting about playing a board game: It’s a pastime that harkens back to childhood, an activity very much about togetherness, and about being a family.

And that is what we are here on the Landmark Crew. For an all-too-short two months, we share our food, our time, our energy and our games. We share our joy out here on the prairie.

Eric Andrews recently graduated from Northland College with a degree in Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. Raised in Chicago, he is an Eagle Scout who has spent a lot of time on the shores of Lake Superior. Eric hopes to use skills acquired during his time on the Landmark crew to pursue a Masters degree in Conservation Biology.