Let the board games begin - click, click

I've never been much of a fan of board games, although I'm tough to beat at Clue and Trivial Pursuit. So when I decided to do a column about the ever-expanding number of games sites on the Web, I went to the one source who could give me the lowdown - my friend Brian Frost, who is an online gamer par excellence.

Gaming sites tend to require registration, although most games can be accessed for free. A few sites charge for newer releases of popular games (e.g., John Madden's Football 2001). Once you're registered, you can select any game you like, and there are quite a few - hearts, bridge, gin, to name a few card games.

Once you've picked a game, the site downloads the game software to your computer (most downloads are pretty fast, in the 10-15 minute range for a 56 kbps modem). Next, select the style of game board (for backgammon, for instance), then a "character" - an icon that represents you to other players - and then you "take a seat" in an empty chair and wait for someone to play with.

If you're really good, like Brian, you start to rise in the rankings. Once you get to a certain level, you can issue challenges to other good players, who must play you within a certain period of time or they lose points.

It's important to note that all the games mentioned here are played without any form of financial reward. Some sites, like ea.com (which Brian recommends highly) offer a selection of communities to join, depending on the type of online game you enjoy. The site offers EA SportsArena, EA Clubrooms (bridge, hearts, etc.) and EA Worlds (for the role-playing gamers out there.)

Or try games.yahoo.com. Here, you can play Chinese checkers, Go Fish, and Canasta (definitely more my speed), along with other more-demanding board, tile, word, and card games. But there are limitations - WebTV users won't be able to play the games (the same is true at ea.com), and AOL users may experience some problems and delays.

And you'll have problems if you're trying to access the games from behind a corporate firewall at work (you may need a friend in the IT department to punch a hole in the wall so you can play).

My personal favorite, however, is solitaire.com. It's aimed at people who like playing double solitaire with folks from around the world. It also doesn't work for Web-TV users, but at least its operators provide urls to sites where Web-TV users can find games that work on those soon-to-be-antique sets. The other sites mentioned above were interesting, but for a nongamer like me. I found solitaire.com easy to use and access - and fun.

You can find lots of other online game sites by looking them up under the Recreation and Sports category at yahoo.com, or by visiting the Open Directory Projects online game page at http://www.dmoz.org/Games/Internet/Web/Board_ Games/.

Tom Regan is the associate editor of csmonitor.com, the electronic edition of The Christian Science Monitor. You can e-mail him at csmbandwidth@aol.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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