Play Stuff Blog

The Strong’s historians, curators, librarians, and other staff offer insights into and anecdotes about the critical role of play in human development and the ways in which toys, dolls, games, and video games reflect cultural history.

Board Game Prototypes and a Gift of Clank!

We receive lots of donations every year at The Strong, from single items to accumulations numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. One of the largest collections ever gifted to the museum has been the game collection we received from the founder of Mayfair Games. This collection includes not only thousands of games, but important archives related to a game manufacturer and to game design and marketing. And the collection holds game prototypes which I find fascinating artifacts.

Translyvania (Transylvania) game prototype and published edition, Mayfair Games, Inc. 1981, The Strong, Rochester, New York. The name is misspelled on both the game booklet cover and the map board.

Most of the prototypes relate to Mayfair’s published games, from the early, simple Translyvania (notorious for its spelling error) to the firm’s 1991 version of Cosmic Encounter. But recently I found a non-Mayfair prototype called Heroic Adventures with a many-years-old Post-It note that said “Return to Designer.” The museum chose to honor this request if we could. But all I had was a name.

Sometimes the internet rewards those who Google. Without much stress, I found a person with that name, who worked as a game designer. I emailed the firm, explaining what we had. Not long afterwards he wrote me back, astonished that his 20 or 30-year-old prototype had survived, and grateful that we offered to send it back. In exchange he said he’d be glad to send us a first edition of his latest successful and award-winning board game. Thus, The Strong added Clank! to its collection.

Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure board game, Renegade Game Studios, 2016, The Strong, Rochester, New York. Gift of Paul Dennen. Clank! won a Mensa Select award in 2017 and was highly recommended or nominated for about 15 other awards. The game is a deck-building grab for points while exploring a dungeon. Your wooden pawn hopes to steal an artifact for more power. But a dragon—represented by a beautiful black silhouette—hunts any intruders and may find them if they stumble and make a noise like . . . Clank! Quality materials and artwork characterize the game, and now there are expansion sets, multiple specialty versions, and different language editions. As a curator, it’s an honor to add such a gift from the game’s designer to The Strong’s holdings. The museum gains a new game , and I think we’ve also won a friend.   

Michigan in New York

Mary Valentine The Strong Museum Trustee  

When I was a kid, Sundays were my favorite day of the week, because my dad was home (he worked Monday through Saturday) and we got to play the card game Michigan.

Read more >

Playing with Almost Nothing

In these days of lockdowns and social distancing, resourcefulness has become a watchword in so many facets of our lives. All of us are working to become a little more adept at making the most of what’s immediately at hand in our homes. Fortunately, when it comes to play, sometimes the primary raw material turns out to be ingenuity—something that doesn’t require a trip to the store or an online purchase.

Read more >

A Soft Spot for Blanket Forts

You look up from your work email after hearing muffled giggles and the sounds of shuffling furniture, with a vague feeling that every single blanket in your house is being dragged to a central location. Don’t be alarmed, though—it’s just someone building a blanket fort!

Read more >

Building a Settlement: German-style Games in North America

January brought the start of a new year and also the start of a new project. I began to inventory and process the Mayfair Games archival materials that were donated to The Strong museum in 2017. In an effort to learn more about the company, I started reading about the board games, card games, and role-playing games it produced. I quickly learned that Settlers of Catan, one of Mayfair Games’ most recognizable titles, not only ranks as an awesome game, but also has a history that changed the gaming industry.
Read more >

Screen Time…Then and Now

With many of us spending more time at home right now, it’s likely that our screen time—time spent in front of our televisions, laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc.— has increased a bit.

Read more >

Activity Sets: Playing with Glass, Foil, Plastic, and Goop

Spending most of my time at home with my young children has revealed that I’m not especially innovative when it comes to crafts. Thankfully, there are people willing to experiment with materials to develop activity kits and craft ideas for kids. Their work has resulted in some notable successes, as well as a few questionable developments over the years.

Read more >

Playing with Sidewalk Chalk Brings Us Together While We’re Apart

Read more >

Family Aggravation

However much you care for them, there’s no denying that families can be aggravating. That said, in my experience growing up, aggravation wasn’t an emotional response to stresses in our household—it meant Aggravation, my family’s favorite board game.

Read more >

Patience, Persistence, and Paper Craft

Read more >

Down the Rabbit Hole

Read more >

Pages