Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Games People Play

Our family was always one that played games together. My parents, my siblings, my in-laws & my friends.

As children we eventually reached an age to play Monopoly. Our attention span couldn’t last, even on long Michigan Winter days. One spent the first hour traveling ‘round and ‘round collecting properties, the next hour trying to trade to a Monopoly and the third hour watching either the Mortgage Dept. or the slumlord slowly crush you.

We watched our older siblings take up Risk and eagerly waited for the age we could finally play to achieve Total World Domination! Too much power was granted for turning in cards, so we placed a limit and enjoyed hours of attacking with die. Once introduced to Axis & Allies, Risk was forgotten. Instead of just ground troops, we could conquer the world with submarines, Bombers and tanks. In college, we began to play Dungeons & Dragons which is such a time-suck, all other games were relegated to being played only rarely.

Along the way, we played other games like Stratego, Life, Battleship, (“You Sunk my Battleship!”) and Masterpiece. I gained appreciation for art in that game.

My maternal grandmother loved Dominoes and Rack-O!

We played Darts, Ping-Pong (primarily Polish), and even shuffleboard--inlaid when dad re-tiled the basement floor.

As Baptists, we were strictly forbidden playing with regular cards. However, Rook was completely acceptable, as it was not of the Devil. (Had four suits, but they were colors, not shapes, and numbers, no king. And no Joker [Satan]. Well…it DID have one (1) odd card, but that was a Bird, so baby Jesus smiled.) [Ah…the counter-culture that is Christianity!] Unfortunately, Rook really was best played with four people, and we always seemed to have too many. Luckily Uno came along, and we lost interest in Rook. Eventually we were introduced to Up-and-Down-the-River and this has been THE game of choice for my paternal family ever since. It has been played at almost every family function for over 30 years.

As we matured, we realized regular playing cards will (probably) not doom us to hell, enabling us to branch out to Hearts, Hand and Foot, Tripoley, and of course the mid-western stand-by--Euchre.

My mother-in-law taught me Cribbage.

As my children have grown, I delight in teaching them games such as these, and picking up new ones such as Five Crowns and Loot. Recently, my daughter’s boyfriend introduced us to Settlers of Catan and we have become hopelessly addicted. Part of the game involves trading with other players. (Like Pit, only without the raucous.)

The first time I played, I picked up this “art of the deal” very quickly. None of this “trade you a wheat card for a sheep card” for me! I was making elaborate side-deals, and contingent clauses and weaseling as much I could get for as little to give. My daughter told me she was playing with her boyfriend’s family when the following exchange occurred after boyfriend’s father made an artful deal.

Daughter: Wow—your dad is starting to deal like my dad.
Boyfriend: NO body trades like your father.

He he he.

We have even developed family legends within our game playing. When you play Tripoley at our house, one particular chair wins. Always. Doesn’t matter who sits in it. Playing Up-and-Down-the-River, if you get the Yellow 6, (a normally innocuous card), it will doom you. My sister always wins at Up-and-Down. Her husband is always last place.

20 or 25 years ago, my brother, my sister and their spouses played a game of Dutch Blitz. We have never heard precisely what happened in that game (just bits and pieces) all we know are two things:

1) They became so angry at my brother they wouldn’t speak to him for hours; and
2) They vowed to never play the game again.

Every time that story comes up, my brother smiles a secret little smile. He enjoyed the game, and did quite well at it, apparently. (I’ve heard part of the reason is that smile.)

For all their technological wonder, and advancing involvement with others, video games do not draw me like a good card game.

What games do (did) you play?


  1. I love Rook, reminds me of my mom. Used to play Monopoly with my neighbor, went on forever, she borrowed money to keep playing....Oh, I learned Pinocle (sp?) at 12 yrs. old, but can't remember how to play it now. I'm jealous of all the games you know!

    My kids like Scrabble. Had fun with Cranium one Christmas Eve.

  2. Wow -- I can't believe that you couldn't play cards as a baptist!!

    Scrabble is a great favorite of mine. A few months back when playing with my mom and dad while they were up for a visit from FL, I had my first ever (and maybe the only one that will ever happen!) seven letter word. It was right off the first picking. I was able to play "nickles." It was freaking awesome.

    Cribbage is another one my grandpa taught me when I was a kid but I've re-learned recently with some friends from work and my father-in-law.

    Poker is another one I enjoy.

    I play hearts every single day at lunch with my co-workers.

    Chess is also sweet; I played a lot in high school but have fallen out of playing since then. I'd like to get back into it.

  3. Growing up we played bridge, cribbage, hearts, chess, Scrabble, Monopoly, Risk, and several other board games. My kids have never been into board games all that much although my son was into collectible card games like Magic for awhile.

    When I was in high school, I joined the chess team. That was just after Bobby Fischer won the world championship and chess was actually considered cool for a couple of years. I didn’t play much for about twenty years after that until I ran across a club that met in the basement of the rectory at my local parish. I’ve been playing chess competitively for the last fifteen years and I coach the local high school team.

  4. My brother and I were partial to Monopoly and Risk for the bulk of our childhood. When we were really young, we played my dad's Stratego game.... and by "played" I mean we made up our own rules and proceeded to lose most of the pieces. We also played large amounts of chess, though that has fallen off in recent years. We live on opposite coasts now, so we tend to simply play online backgammon these days.

    Growing up, I played cribbage, Skip-Bo and canasta with my grandma all the time. I still regularly play canasta whenever I am back in Winnipeg visiting family friends.

    I have introduced my fiance and her family to Skip-Bo. Aside from that we have been known to play Cranium, Taboo, Farkle, Scattergories, Trivial Pursuit (one of my strong points) and of course Scrabble.

  5. We play board games more than cards growing up. I grew up on scrabble, boggle, Dictionary, Trivia Pursuit (regular and Bible edition), stratego, life, monopoly, clue, and pictionary. My dad could generally beat everyone at everything. In fact, the entire family would play as one team against my dad in Bible Trivia and he could still win. It's meant alot to me that my oldest son now plays chess at school and home. It's fun that he shares a passion my dad also had. I could never beat my dad at that game either (unless he didn't use his queen.) I'm afraid my youngest likes the Wii so much that it eclipses board games. At least we all get exercise challenging each other in the Wii Fit games.

    There's an awful lot of family tradition tied into play time. It really does connect families together.

    This year my mom added a new game to Christmas. For the first time since she remarried, both her family and her husband's entire family got together. Instead of exchanging gifts at christmas, we played dirty santa with gifts she prepared for the game. It was quite fun.

  6. My family bought all of the classic games from Target that come in those wood, book-like containers. We try to play them at least a few times a month. :)

  7. We played Battleship and Uno growing up, but my sister was 4 years older than me so she didn't get a lot of enjoyment out of playing games with someone who wasn't a challenge. But when I got married I learned to love card games. We played Hearts, Spades, Hand and Foot, Rummy, and I love a good poker game. :)

  8. My mom and I (when we were living together, raising the kids) knew that Boggle was the game of choice for the family. She and I played incessantly for several months. At the family reunion, she and I totally dominated the field. No one would ever play Boggle with us again. :)

  9. Games? Honestly I cannot think of any kind of games I was into when I was young. The neighbor kids and I used to spend our time tramping around in the desert and mountains near our home armed with our trusty Daisy air rifles. It was really just idle play, but games like cards or board games and such, I don't think we did much of.

    The first game I can think of that I really got into was Dungeons and Dragons when I was about 15 or 16. One of the older neighbor kids came over and told me about it, and said I really had to try it out. I did not understand the concept at first, but the lure of those 20 sided dice... the Monster Manual...those rules... .those books... those dungeon master cards...I was hooked!!

    But trouble started when a girl decided she wanted to play with us. We explained the rules to her, but problems started when she decided that the diety that her Paladin character was going to worship was Jesus. JESUS?!!?? He is not in the Feind Folio!! So while all of us were paying homage to Thor and Wotan, she was playing with the God we actually prayed to every Sunday. It felt weird to me, I knew there was something strange and wrong about it, and then some of the local parents caught wind of it. Pretty soon, our local church leader was condemning D&D as 'of the devil', and after that it was no more playing that Satanic game.

    For a while, we tried a subpar game called Tunnels and Trolls, but nothing doing. From then on, it was no more magic and fantasy.

    Oh Well....

    Still not much into board games, I guess because I just did not grow up with them. RoseMary and I sometimes play Scrabble because it helps her with her English language skills (English is her 2nd language) - she regularly kicks my butt.

  10. My favorite game bar none is Anagrams. A close second is almost any game that involves the creation or manipulation of words.

  11. Monopoly was our vice. My brother developed a strategy where he just bought everything he landed on, and the rest of us learned that this was actually a good idea (if you didn't run out of money). We then decided to barter and sell our cards and went on massive building sprees by mortgaging all the other unmatched properties. He is now a realtor. Surprise surprise:)