For nearly a year, most of us have been stuck indoors talking to the same people — or ourselves — and socialising digitally.
Living in nightmarish monotony hardly makes for interesting debate or entertaining chit-chat.
On a recent walk with my husband, I lapsed into silence for a good half hour. ‘Awkward,’ he joked. I have nothing new to say!
Luckily, a simple yet ingenious trend has come to my rescue. Conversation cards.
Whether you yearn to connect more meaningfully with your partner or simply take a break from anxious exchanges and laugh over silly, sweet, or outrageous personal topics, there is a game to suit.
Anna Maxted and her husband Phil (above) tried out conversation cards to help people connect to their partners after being stuck indoors with them during lockdown
They are easy, inexpensive and surprisingly entertaining. You don’t need to prepare. Just sit on the sofa, open the pack and ask a question.
Conversation cards are far juicier than quizzes (which merely expose your ignorance) and work brilliantly whether your loved one is in the same room or in another city or country.
There’s a huge variety — and my husband Phil and I have tested the best. Turns out we still have a lot to talk about…
PROVOCATIVE BOREDOM CURE
The Confessions Game, £22, theschooloflife.com
Aha! This will be nicely provocative and shake off the boredom, I thought. It sells itself thus: ‘The best encounters . . . are those where we can talk honestly, sharing triumphs, joys, fears and longings.’
One hundred questions fall into five categories: career, sex, money, relationships and family, and you throw a die to determine your subject.
The Confessions Game, which costs £22, gives 100 questions in five exciting categories – career, sex, money, relationships and family
Alas, quite a few are unsuitable for repetition in a family newspaper. However, many were fit for private consumption and were a riotous success.
For example: How have you let down your parents? Which professional contact would you like to apologise to? (Me: the one I introduced by the wrong name 20 years ago.)
What have you failed to achieve? Which friend do you envy the most? What might your parents complain about in you? (Phil: ‘I think I’m always right.’)
What do you wish your partner could change about themself? (Me: ‘If I say sorry — which I loathe doing anyway — not to take it as a cue to keep banging on about what I did wrong!’)
The Confessions Game had us screeching with laughter.
Our Moments (Couples), £16.95, amazon.co.uk
Billed as 100 ‘conversation starters for great relationships,’ this is excellent. Even Phil is impressed, despite a slow start.
Question: What should you probably do but never will? I respond: ‘Jump out of a plane.’ ‘No,’ says my husband. ‘It’s got to be ‘Turn yourself in to the police’ or something like that.’
My question, ‘would you like to travel more or less than we do now?’ prompts sarcasm: ‘Less. I’ve always been frightened of Abroad.’
Anna and Phil were impressed with Our Moments (above), despite a slow start. It only costs a bargain £16.95 on Amazon and provides 100 ‘conversation starters for great relationships’
Then I get: What are you too hard on yourself for? I hesitate, and he answers for me ‘Absolutely nothing!’. In answer to: Who would play you in a movie? he says: ‘Ian McShane!’
But we are forced to think.
Question: What do people overestimate about you? Me: ‘How much I’ll tolerate.’ And: What are the two biggest lessons learned from previous relationships? I say, ‘Fidelity is all-important. And you shouldn’t go out with someone who makes you work to be liked.’
Question: What’s the best thing you learned from your mother? Phil: ‘How to make Yorkshire puddings.’
And: What do you most look forward to about getting old?
Phil: ‘Making cakes. Eating cakes. You can eat all you want.’ This brightens a dull evening, and we learn a lot about each other.
MAY CAUSE A ROW
The Hygge Game, £18, fortnumand mason.com
This game of 300 questions is subtitled ‘cosy conversation in pleasant company’.
The Hygge Game, £18, offers a staggering 300 questions, and is subtitled ‘cosy conversation in pleasant company’
Not true. The company is my husband, who is disagreeable.
He takes umbrage at the first question: Do genius and madness go hand in hand? (‘This is facile. They are not linked.’) Even worse:Is being sensitive a weakness or a strength? (‘For heaven’s sake!’)
We move on. Next: Describe an opportunity you turned down but now wish you’d accepted. He growls: ‘Is this supposed to be depressing?’ Fine. Try: What is the most overrated movie? He snaps: ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’
He asks the next question: What would you never do again? I say, ‘Go on a big dipper.’ He disapproves. ‘Nothing more significant?’ (Me: ‘No. It really hurt my back.’)
He asks another: If you could spend a whole day with any person, who would it be? I say, ‘My Dad.’ (He died nearly 25 years ago.) At last, something that isn’t trite.
I ask the next question: What quality do you appreciate most in a friend? He replies, ‘Boundary observance.’ Mmm.
Anna and her husband Phil enjoyed the fascinating discussions prompted by the cards (above) but found that some questions lacked substance
If you could be a famous person for the day, who would you be? ‘The PM. Not Boris specifically. I’d like to see how the Government works.’
Although some questions lack substance, we have a fascinating, sparky discussion.
ESCAPIST FUN TIME
Lay Your Cards On The Table, £13.99, anthropologie.com
There’s a deceptive simplicity about these 60 questions, which aim to ‘spark the conversation between different generations’ but work just as well as discussion starters for couples.
They fall into three categories: Small Talk, Deep Dish and Private Matters. That makes for a mixture of gentle, direct and probing questions.
Lay Your Cards On The Table (left and right), £13.99, has questions under three categories Small Talk, Deep Dish and Private Matters for a mixture of gentle and probing questions
What makes you nervous? What would you like to change about your body? And why? What does a good life mean to you? What was your worst birthday
There are suggested rules but we just picked cards at random. I loved playing this game with Phil, for the stories and information it prompted.
What is the most special memory you have of your grandmother or grandfather? What age do you feel like? And why? Our conversation was by turns intimate, fun and fascinating.
A wonderful way to escape, even if only briefly.
CHARADES FOR TWO
Digital Connections, £12, theschooloflife.com
This is a lovely game of 52 thoughtful questions, exercises and suggestions, though be warned: both of you must be up for self-expression and aping around.
Ideas include: Choose a memory you both share, perhaps of an old acquaintance or an embarrassing incident, and act it out using mime. Try to guess what the other person is referring to.
Digital Connections, £12, provides couples with 52 thoughtful questions, but is for the more active partners who do not mind aping around
The cards have a charades element to them and ask people to invent and sing song lines, draw how they are feeling and recreate hilarious scenes
(I re-enact the birth of our first child by emergency C-section. It’s funnier now than it was then.)
Or: On a sheet of paper, write down the following: 1, Something you regret; 2, Something you want to forgive; 3, Something you long to share; 4, An area you want to improve in. Show each other your pieces of paper and discuss.
It’s amusing to take turns inventing and singing a song, first line, ‘If only I could be with you…’. (Particularly as we’re together 24/7.)
We draw how we are feeling in an abstract way — big black scribble, anyone? — hold it up, and discuss. Then we read a favourite poem and discuss it. Charming and delightful.