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Coronavirus: Board games old and new flying off Toronto store shelves

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WATCH ABOVE: It seems families are looking for some good old fashioned fun during the pandemic. As board games and puzzles continue to sell out, there's one tactile toy that proves what's old is new again. Melanie Zettler explains. – Oct 30, 2020

It probably isn’t puzzling that throughout the coronavirus pandemic board games and jigsaw puzzles have continued to sell out.

Traditional favorites like chess and checkers remain strong sellers at Face to Face Games on Danforth Avenue, but there is one ironic best seller here.

“Through the pandemic, the first thing to sell out was the board game ‘Pandemic,'” said Face to Face Games Toronto co-owner Kelly Ackerman.

“Pandemic,” which was released in 2008, is a cooperative game based on the premise that four diseases have broken out in the world, each threatening to wipe out a region. Every player gets a character such as a researcher, scientist, quarantine specialist etc. and each character has a special power that helps the player to stop the viruses that are spreading.

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Kim Iverson, long time board game fan and parent of two young children, said she is looking forward to spending cold winter nights indoors playing games like “Go Fish.”

“It’s just nice to be able to pull it out. It’s been away for two months in the cupboard, pull out a new one and have those 20 minutes hopefully to really connect and engage and not be in front of a TV,” said Iverson.

But likely the biggest boost for an old school game came earlier this week when Toronto-based toy company Spin Master paid US$50 million to acquire Britain-based Rubik’s Brand Ltd.

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“This was a pinch-me moment,” said Anton Rabie, chairman and co-CEO of Spin Master.

“I mean, it is so iconic. To think about Ernő Rubik: 1974 in Hungary, he invents ‘Rubik’s Cube’ and the impact this man has had. They have sold 450 million cubes globally.”

The world’s top-selling puzzle game offers the challenge to be patient and to keep trying. For the puzzle to be solved, each side of the cube must return to one complete colour.

Some of the most popular Spin Master toys include “Etch a Sketch” and “Kinetic Sand,” but the company’s top-selling game globally is “Headbanz” — a quick-question family game where players must figure out what’s on the card in their headband.

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But whatever the board game people decide to play with the members of their own household these days, it’s possible we all end up winners.

“There’s been a ton of research that shows that playing games with people is the best way to build connections, it’s the best way to build trust because when we all subscribe to the same rules of a game. Whether you beat me or I beat you, doesn’t matter. Our relationship is enhanced dramatically and our connection is enhanced,” said Ackerman.