Americans should give thanks, even amid economic hardship. That’s the message ”and opportunity ”of a new board game.

Simply called The Thanksgiving Game, the “game’s mission is to help people focus on what’s really important during the holiday season ”celebrating God’s blessings with friends and family,” according to the game’s Web site.

The game was created by Lexington, Ky. native Louie Stotz back on Thanksgiving in 1977. His homemade version became a family classic. After years of playing the game during the holidays, Stotz’s son-in-law, Tim Lester, said other families should be playing the game, too.

Stotz agreed, and Lester went to work on a version of the game for retail distribution. Lester is vice president of marketing for The Thanksgiving Game, Inc., the Kentucky-based company founded in 2007 to create and market the game. The game has been on the market for several months, but this will be its Thanksgiving holiday debut.

“To play it is to love it,” Lester told “Once you do, it’s so much fun, and it’s a way to spend some real quality time.”

The game has several steps: ThanksGiving, ThanksGuessing and ThanksSharing.

In the first stage, participants list some of their thanksgivings on a card. “Creativity is rewarded,” Lester said, explaining that players don’t want to make it obvious who was thankful for what.

In the second step, more reflection is required as players work on linking the blessings with the blessed. There’s also a strategy option called “shoot the turkey.”

“Our friends at PETA may not like this,” Lester quipped.

Lastly, the ThanksSharing step lets players share their answers before determining a winner.

Lester told he did a lot of research as he prepared to turn the family’s Thanksgiving ritual into a board game.

“It’s the oldest truly American holiday,” Lester said on the phone from his home in Versailles, Ky. And “more Americans observe Thanksgiving than any other holiday” because it’s not tied to a specific religion.

Lester, who comes from a long line of Baptist ministers and is married to a Baptist minister of music, said his mantra is 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

While the Stotz and Lester families are Christians, and they hope the game will bring people closer to each other and to God, they did not make the game sectarian in nature.

“We wanted it to be broad-based in its appeal,” said Lester. “I know that people that are playing it will have fun and be drawn closer together through playing this game.”

“God’s hand has been in this project from the start with so many amazing affirmations along the way,” said Stotz in a September press release. “I am excited to see how this game will be used for His glory and how it will help families for Thanksgivings year after year.”

With the recent economic downtown, the game is now being positioned not only as obviously appropriate for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, but also as an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings Americans still enjoy.

“Although many teenagers today consider not having cell phone service or the ability to text message an adversity, slightly older folks have heard the stories of that bygone era from parents and grandparents, when modern staples such as sugar and chewing gum were considered luxuries,” read the recent press release. “Depression-Era reminiscers remember the closeness and appreciation for family and loved ones cultivated out of the lean years experienced during those tough times. Relationships became more valuable as material possessions became more scarce.”

The game has a suggested retail price of $19.99 and can be played by 3 to 20 players.

The Thanksgiving Game is currently available at, some Kroger stores, select Christian bookstores, and at all Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores.

“That was the first company that I actually tried to pitch the game to,” Lester said of Cracker Barrel, some of whose employees played it at a department meeting.

“They had so much fun that they decided to carry it,” said Lester. “It just seemed to fit into what they’re all about.”

A portion of The Thanksgiving Game’s sales goes to support inner-city missions providing food, clothing and shelter.

“I’m passionate about this project,” said Lester. And he’s no doubt part of a family that’s passionate about families. That’s why the Stotz extended family has been intentional, and creative, about giving thanks every year since 1977.

“My mother-in-law still has all the information from every year,” said Lester, referring to piles of blessings and memories. “She sure does.”

Cliff Vaughn is managing editor for

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