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25 Awesome Board Games That Will Make You Smarter And More Creative

25 Awesome Board Games That Will Make You Smarter And More Creative

We all (probably/hopefully) have fond board game related memories. What if I told you that all that time you spent throwing dice with the family had measurable long-term benefits? The following board games are especially amazing in terms of cultivating your priceless brain cells!

1. Ticket to Ride

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    What it is:

    This is a game where you try and connect cities on the game board by building railways. Whoever builds the longest railway, or finishes with the highest score, wins the game.

    How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

    Ticket to Ride, while simplistic at a glance, is a strategy game at its heart. There are several ways in which you can inhibit other players and their expanding rail lines, and multiple paths to victory. It’s a game where you can hone your manipulative skills, develop your logistical abilities, and even learn a bit of basic geography!

    2. Takenoko

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      What it is:

      This one reminds me a bit of World of Warcraft’s farming minigame, except, they’re really not that similar besides the fact that both deal with pandas. In Takenoko, you grow bamboo to appease the tastes of the resident sacred black and white bear. Whoever grows and maintains the best bamboo farm and satisfies the panda best, wins the game.

      How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

      There’s no better way to learn some organizational skills than to put together a farm, even if it’s a board game based one! Plus, you’ll certainly grow (pun?) your detail-oriented related skills in the process, since victory depends on the quality of your farm. Just as in real life, those who are the most fastidious are likely to come out as the winners.

      3. Stratego

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        What it is:

        Ah, a classic. Basically, two players are given an army, whose ranks/power are hidden from their opponent. Among these soldiers, you hide a flag. Whoever captures this flag first, or takes out enough of the enemy’s troops, wins.

        How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

        The name says it all. This game is all about strategy. In one sense it’s a mind game since you’re trying to find the other player’s flag, and attempting to make predictions based on the rank of the unit you’re attacking. While you might not become the next Napoleon playing this game, your analytical and observational skills will surely get a boost…

        4. Settlers of Catan

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          What it is:

          If you’ve played the Civilization games, you’ll have a decent idea about what this game is like. Settlers is all about building up territory and resources until you have enough points to win the game. Much like Civilization V, you play on a hexagonal game board with randomized resources. Apparently, it’s popular among college aged kids (though I wouldn’t know since I never got invited to the cool board game parties).

          How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

          It’s all about resource management, trade, and prescient planning with this one. This game will, with luck, make you more frugal or at least more aware of the limited nature of the resources you possess (i.e. money). Often in this game you’ll be backed into a corner or given a plot of land with few resources, and making do with what you have is necessary to win. A good life lesson, if there ever was one.

          5. 1812 – The Invasion of Canada

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            What it is:

            This game is about the oft glazed over War of 1812 (if you can tell me why this war started without Googling it, I’ll give you a virtual cookie). Two factions, one British and one American, vie for control over territory in North America. Whichever side ends with the most zones under their control wins.

            How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

            At the very least, this game will teach you a little bit about history, since I’m betting at least ninety percent of people know nothing of the specifics of this particular war. The fact that the Native Americans are on the British side will tell you a little bit about early U.S./Indian relations. As with Stratego and Settlers, you’ll also develop your planning (scheming) skills and get a better idea about how wars are fought.

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            6. Euphoria

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              What it is:

              The goal of this game alone makes it worth playing: you need to take control of a dystopian city. To get there, you’ll need to step on opposing players (figuratively), keep your workers uneducated, and find other morally questionable ways to rise to the top of the dictatorial food chain. If you are an aspiring autocrat (any Mr. House fans here?) or have a natural tendency to believe in your superiority over others, this one’s for you.

              How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

              What better way to hone the skills necessary to compete in a capitalistic society like America than to test your mettle in a game about conquering dystopia (which is at only a tiny bit worse than our current system)? While it probably won’t help you rise up any corporate ladders in real life, you’ll be better prepared to take advantage of others when given the opportunity.

              7. Amerigo

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                What it is:

                A game about exploration, with a twist. Your actions are determined randomly, at least in part. A tower located in the middle of the game board contains colored cubes that, when jostled free at the bottom (whenever a player adds more cubes to the tower), determine what you’ll do. The cubes will direct you in your mission of exploring a South American archipelago, where you’ll build towns and create trade routes in order to acquire victory points.

                How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                This game will make you think. Not only will you be doing the typical planning and resource management, but you’ll need to base all of your moves around what the tower gives you. In other words, this game will test your ability to react to ever-changing circumstances; always a useful trait to have.

                8. A Game of Thrones

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                  What it is:

                  This game has a simple premise, even if you aren’t familiar with the titular book series/television show. Whoever conquers the most land gains the Iron Throne.

                  How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                  This one, while improving your strategic abilities, will also improve your knowledge of the Seven Kingdoms. Perfect in today’s world, where knowing Game of Thrones lore is almost as essential as learning actual history. Additionally, as in the show, you’ll be put in situations where diplomacy, and perhaps betrayal, are your only options.

                  9. Kemet

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                    What it is:

                    Relive your sixth grade fantasies and create the Egyptian Empire you always wanted! This is a game mainly centered on war, with other things going on simultaneously that you’ll have to manage.

                    How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                    As with many war games, you’ll need to make sure you balance your resources. You may do a lot of damage to your opponent militarily, but forget about everything else you need to manage, such as your workers and upgrades. Anybody who wants to be a better leader will find a lot to like about this game, since it requires an ability to keep up with all of your ever-fluctuating responsibilities to win the game. If nothing else, you’ll learn a bit about Egyptian culture and iconography…

                    10. Trajan

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                      What it is:

                      A board game about ancient Rome! That should be enough to pique your interest. Your goal in this game will be to acquire as much power as possible, through multiple avenues.

                      How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                      You’re learning more about the Roman Empire. Isn’t that enough? No? Ok, well I suppose you’ll be able to brush up on your lobbying skills, since a large part of this game deals with influencing Roman politics in your rise to the top. Of course, there will also be lots of war and trading, since this is the Romans we’re talking about after all.

                      11. Small World

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                        What it is:

                        Like the name implies, Small World gives players an unnaturally tiny game board to work with. Never has the phrase “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us” had more meaning. You’ll need to grow your fledgling empire by kicking other players (literally) off of the map.

                        How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                        This game will teach you all about balance. Since there’s so little room to work with, you’ll have to rush to colonize the board. That being said, grow too quickly and you’ll over-extend yourself, ending your empire’s existence faster than you can say “Julius Caesar.”

                        12. Clue

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                          What it is:

                          Does this one require an extensive explanation? The game’s all about finding out who the killer was, their weapon of choice, and the room where the murder occurred.

                          How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                          Make like Sherlock Holmes and improve your powers of deduction! Clue probably won’t qualify you to become a professional sleuth, though hopefully it will make you more observant!

                          13. Agricola

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                            What it is:

                            Build a farm! Whoever constructs the best one, wins. It’s more complicated than it sounds though, as the game takes into account every little aspect of your homestead when determining the final score. Concentrate too much on raising animals and not maintaining your home? That could cost you the game.

                            How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                            As in real life, Agricola gives you multiple avenues to victory, and you’ll have to determine which ones will have the most beneficial effect to your farm, and thus your final score.

                            14. Twilight Imperium

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                              What it is:

                              This is a game where you can live out your life-long dream of ruling an empire…in space!

                              How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                              Your brain is going to get a workout playing this one, that’s for sure. Really, that’s not surprising considering that you’ll be running galactic-sized civilizations in this game, compared to the earth-based ones in previous examples.

                              15. Descent: Journeys in The Dark

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                                What it is:

                                From the looks of it, this is a board game version of a classic dungeons and dragons game (I’m no expert but I did read Ready Player One…). One player serves the role of the proverbial dungeon master, while the rest play as the stereotypical heroes.

                                How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                If you ever wanted to hone your latent maniacal psycho killer traits, there’s no better way to do so than to be a dungeon master. That being said, you’ll learn a lot about reacting to random, often terrible situations playing the role of the hero as well.

                                16. Chutes and Ladders

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                                  What it is:

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                                  Well, this one probably needs no explanation. Basically, ladders are good. Chutes are bad!

                                  How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                  Let’s face it; life can be pretty crappy sometimes. You get thrown about a hundred curve-balls every year, so it’s nice to be able to handle yourself well in times of crisis. In Chutes and Ladders, you’ll often find yourself randomly knocked down several squares for no reason other than sheer random chance, much like what happens in reality. Better to test how you handle adversity in a friendly kid’s game first, right?

                                  17. Shogun

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                                    What it is:

                                    Take on the role of a Daimyo (basically a Feudal Lord) during Japan’s Sengoku or “Warring States” period. Each player is offered the same courses of action; it’s up to each individual to determine the ones that will best lead their state to victory.

                                    How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                    For one, you’ll learn a lot of cool Japanese vocabulary. “Daimyo” is a pretty nifty word to know off the cuff, after all. Also, since every player has the same options, you’ll really have to out-think your opponents if you want to beat them.

                                    18. Pay Day

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                                      What it is:

                                      Think of this as an easier version of Life or Monopoly. You’ll be given a monthly salary, and you’ll need to budget it well to win.

                                      How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                      If you have kids, they’ll definitely learn something about the value of money playing this game. Speaking as a young adult myself, you really don’t understand what it’s all about until you get your first bill or emergency expense thrown at you, so the earlier you learn to cope with it, the better. Also, this game is great at demonstrating the fickle nature of the capitalist system.

                                      19. Scotland Yard

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                                        What it is:

                                        Assume the role of a detective for Scotland Yard. If you don’t know what that is, then you’re already learning something! The goal is to catch the escaped mastermind criminal before he eludes your grasp…

                                        How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                        If anything, it’s great to immerse yourself in a bit of British culture, since European countries are looked upon as being so “cool” these days. Other than that, you’ll get a brain boost from having to predict and anticipate the criminal mastermind’s movements.

                                        20. Acquire

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                                          What it is:

                                          Be a pretend real estate tycoon and use underhanded business tactics to ensure that your business crushes the others. The wealthiest player wins!

                                          How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                          This will definitely give you a taste of what it’s like to be an investment banker on Wall Street. You’ll have to invest in stocks, orchestrate mergers, and manage your business in a way that results in the most profits. Though you may never own an actual real estate empire, these skills might prove to be useful anyways. Remember, it’s a cutthroat world out there! Better to understand the people draining your bank account than remain mystified by the process, right?

                                          21. Chess

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                                            What it is:

                                            After such an eclectic list of games, I’m sure you’re scratching your head at the inclusion of good old chess. For those not in the know, the goal of the game is to take out the opposing player’s king.

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                                            How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                            There are way more strategies out there for chess than I can write about here. Suffice it to say, to become even semi-decent at chess, you’ll need to have good analytical skills and an ability to predict your opponent’s moves far in advance. Both of which could come in handy in any number of professions.

                                            22. Scrabble

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                                              What it is:

                                              Another old favorite! It’s what everyone used to play before Words With Friends stole its thunder. Using the letters given to you, make words to gain points. Whoever ends up with the most points, wins!

                                              How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                              One thing I’ve learned in life is that people’s vocabularies are painfully limited. If I have to explain to somebody what the word “facetious” means one more time I think I’ll blow a gasket! Play this game a lot and you’ll be improving your word reservoir, which everyone around you will appreciate.

                                              23. Pandemic

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                                                What it is:

                                                A zombie game! Who doesn’t like those? There’s no one winner in this game; you either defeat the virus and all win, or allow the infection to run rampant and lose as a team.

                                                How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                                Though I love saying that I hate group projects, it’s a fact that cooperation is key to success in this world. What better way to see if you have the ability to work with others than to determine if you and a few buddies can defeat the zombie plague?

                                                24. Diplomacy

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                                                  What it is:

                                                  Use all of your cunning and intellectual faculties to try and negotiate your European nation to the top of the pre-WWI era food chain.

                                                  How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                                  Learning about history always makes you smarter, and this is no exception. Everyone wonders how something like World War I could have started, and this is why. Complicated alliances created through convoluted diplomatic processes. Can you address your country’s needs without angering others? Can you do so better than actual turn-of-the-century leaders? If your answer is yes, perhaps you should seek a job in congress…

                                                  25. Le Havre

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                                                    What it is:

                                                    I’ve always been interested in ships, so this game caught my eye. Basically, you’ll have to oversee a harbor. In the process you’ll build ships and develop your port by constructing useful structures. It’s a game all about building your harbor’s economic potential.

                                                    How it makes you smarter/ more creative:

                                                    Though airplanes replaced ships for travel purposes, ships still dominate when it comes to the trade of goods. There’s no better way to understand how this system (which basically sustains our current way of life) works than to manage your own harbor and see how you do in managing the import and export of cargo. If anything, you’ll see just how difficult maintaining the profitability of all this is. Like they say, it all comes down to logistics!

                                                    I hope you enjoyed reading this list as much as I enjoyed creating it! There are a lot of strange, eclectic games on here, so be awesome and try a few of the crazier ones out. If you’ve played any of these, let me know what you thought of them in the comments below… unless it’s in reference to chess or scrabble, I’m pretty well-versed in those!

                                                    Featured photo credit: dice-072504-1.jpg/MorgueFile via mrg.bz

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                                                    Last Updated on October 22, 2020

                                                    2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

                                                    2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

                                                    Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

                                                    Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

                                                    Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

                                                    Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

                                                    Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

                                                    By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

                                                    The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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                                                    1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

                                                    Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

                                                    Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

                                                    Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

                                                    When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

                                                    The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

                                                    Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

                                                    To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

                                                    Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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                                                    We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

                                                    It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

                                                    After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

                                                    Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

                                                    Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

                                                    To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

                                                    Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

                                                    Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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                                                    When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

                                                    Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

                                                    We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

                                                    When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

                                                    Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

                                                    2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

                                                    If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

                                                    The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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                                                    To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

                                                    With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

                                                    So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

                                                    • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
                                                    • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
                                                    • Say no to all else.
                                                    • Say no again.
                                                    • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
                                                    • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
                                                    • Meditate.
                                                    • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
                                                    • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
                                                    • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
                                                    • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
                                                    • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
                                                    • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

                                                    Final Thoughts

                                                    These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

                                                    Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

                                                    More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

                                                    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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