Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Deal 'Em

I love playing cards. One of my earliest memories is playing Rummy with men in my grandmother’s tavern—and sharing my Popsicles with her dog. Kids can get away with things that adults wouldn’t dream of.

Later I learned Euchre (I’m originally from Illinois) and Canasta (double deck with a widow hand). I haven’t played either of these games in a very long time and doubt I’d care to play Euchre now but I’d still be willing to play a no-holds-barred, vicious, teeth-baring game of Canasta.

After I married into the Air Force, I learned to play Pinochle (double deck, no passing). I was never really good at it since I am not a card-counter and am lucky to keep track of either trump OR aces; trying for both causes the blue screen of death in my brain. Sad, I know, but I always enjoyed myself.

As my kids got old enough to play cards, we found Wizard, which is a great trick-taking game that we all enjoyed. The luck in it lessens with each hand because each hand is dealt with 1 more card than the last. The addition of the Wizards and Jesters gives you a touch of control that is more fun than simply playing Oh Hell.

When my son, Chris, was in high school, Richard and I taught him and his friend, Eric, how to play Pinochle. Now what I need to know is how is it that 2 kids with no clue can come up with great hands time after time and beat the snot out of 2 veteran adults? They would bid something outrageous, not really understanding what they were doing, and manage to make the bid each time. It was really quite embarrassing. Still, we all had a good time and that’s what counts, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

When I found my way to the Internet, I found very nice free downloadable programs of card games from around the world at Thanos card games. Here I discovered Mizerka, King, Preference and Madrasso, among others. Of these, I taught my daughter and husband to play Mizerka since it’s for 3 players and it’s getting almost impossible for me to find 4 card players these days. This has some elements that were new to us so it stands out as a very good trick-taking game. Nastiness, tough decisions, and “oh, shit” moments included.

Then I found the Board Game Geek and lots of card games, some just variations of older games like the Mystery Rummy series or Corsari, which we like very much. Some are totally new ideas for us like Crazy Chicken (Drive), 6 Nimmt (Category 5) and Coloretto, which have all been hits with us. These are all lighter games that you can play with your children or with non-gamer friends and have a good time. I love Crazy Chicken, although I rarely win, and my husband is partial to Corsari, which he wins only occasionally. Why are we attracted to the very games that we don’t seem to have a knack for? That seems dumb to me but I still can’t fight the feeling.

Some are trick-taking games that I may get to play occasionally because they don’t require 4 players--David & Goliath and Sticheln—and require only basic knowledge of trick-taking games to have fun. Others are trick-taking games that I’ll be very lucky to get to play like Mu, and Victory and Honor because they require a higher degree of trick-taking experience but I’m happy to have them in my collection in the hopes that some day…ah, some day…

There’s also climbing card games where the “trick” keeps going around the table, getting stronger with each player, until everyone passes. The last player that played to the trick, wins it. Again, this was a totally new concept for us and Gang of Four became a favorite even with 3 players and a dummy hand. A couple nights ago we gave Frank’s Zoo an inaugural playing with 6 players and I can see this one getting played when we want something light and fun. It’s not as easy to look at your hand and form a plan until you’ve played enough to know what beats what in this strange hierarchy but that isn’t necessary if you’re looking for something fun.

These are just the games I own; there are many others, each a little different with its own twist on the rules. If you like card games, there’s something here for everyone. And give the dog a lick of your Popsicle; it won’t hurt him.

I finally got to try Ta-Yu as a partnership game. I and my son, Chris, teamed up against Richard and Chris’ girlfriend, Jessica. Chris had played before but Jessica was playing for the first time.

This is not a rowdy, quick game at any time; it’s a head-to-head competition and the play was appropriately slow and calculating. We were drawing our tiles ahead of our turn in order to have time to plan our move but there was still plenty of down time whenever the board took an unexpected turn.

Amidst all this silent pondering, we managed to get in a few chuckles and a good laugh or two. At one point I declared that a certain tile looks like boobies in a sports bra—well, it does! So during one of the long, indecisive pauses waiting for Chris to make a move, I asked him if he wanted my boobies. It’s a good thing no one was drinking anything at the time.

In the end, it was a very close game, the final score decided by the last tile played by Jessica who was sitting to my left. After much thinking and weighing of choices, she decided to block our access to a 2-point space but also gave us one connection. This turned out to be a very good move because Chris’s next play would have given us the two-pointer and a single connection. The final score was 40 (5 x 8) to 49 (7 x 7). If Jessica hadn’t blocked Chris, the score would have been 50-49. I consider that a very close game.

Christmas Wish Lists

I see the Christmas Lists are starting at the Geek, and none too soon. As for myself, I don’t put games on my Wish List since I buy so many during the year. I usually find one or two to buy before Christmas, though, to have something new to play with friends and family during the holiday season. This year I’m thinking of either Apples to Apples or Squint—something fun for a bunch of people. My Wish List usually includes music CDs, DVDs, books, my favorite perfume and PS2 games. Yeah, I’m a PS2 junkie as well as a board game addict! “I Love Katamari” is my #1 choice this year, followed closely by the third Sly Cooper. Of course, if anyone insists on buying me a board game, I’ll graciously accept!
Until next time, let your actions be controlled by knowledge.



huzonfirst said...

Mary, have you ever checked out John McLeod's Rules of Card Games site ( It contains rules and variants for hundreds of traditional, original, and published card games. The amount of information stored here is truly staggering. I highly recommend any fan of card games spend some time browsing through this indispensable site.

sodaklady said...

Thanks, huzonfirst. I'll bookmark that.

ekted said...

I play Duplicate Bridge, Spades, Hearts, Pitch (high low jack), Rook, Euchre, Canasta, Pinocle, Cribbage, and Uno. :)

Shannon Appelcline said...

I don't play card games that often any more, because I always feel like I could be playing *real* games instead. But I do have fond memories of Euchre, Hearts, and Golf while growing up. And I have a full shelf of small Euro-card games, some of which get occasionally brought out as a filler.

GROGnads said...

I spent some formative years in the Public schools up in Michigan, where I learned to play "Euchre" in Jr. High! Then during my Sophomore year in High School there, I 'advanced' to the "Chess Club" where we mostly played "Duplicate Chess" with '4'-players as Teams in that. For the most part, it was also where we'd gather for face-to-face playings of "WARgames!", and later on we'd gather at one another's house for those. It was a bit later on once I was out of High School and in my very first apartment that WE broke out the "WAR!" Card games such as "Naval War", and "Nuclear War", or "Armor Supremacy", with "Enemy in Sight" and "Modern Naval Battles" much later on. I never did get into the "Up Front" Card game at any time, so some would consider that as "missing out" I'd suppose.

Coldfoot said...

Who are you and what have you done with Grog?

Fellonmyhead said...

Card games are fantastic, and the most portable I know. But like Shannon I prefer real games. It comes as no surprise to me that many card games play as good as (if not better than) many designer games.

When you visit the pagat website check out some of my favourite games like Sergeant-Major, Cassino, and Nommie Whist. I was taught "Nommie" as Nomination Whist, but it is Whist with bidding and partnerships under a different name as far as I can tell. As I have noticed people not only call the same card game by different names, but often assign the same name to different card games. Let's not forget the many variants on a single game, too.

gamesgrandpa said...

First card game I ever played was Crazy Eights, and I've loved card games since about age four. My favorite is Pitch (7-point and 10-point, among other variations). I also enjoy Hearts and Oh Hell (which we always called The Bidding Game; we called different card game Hell). As fellonmyhead said, there seems to be an endless list of name variations for the same games and the same names applied to various games.

My wife and I played Canasta in college, and I enjoy Rook. Cribbage, Euchre, Pinocle, and Spades are fun, but haven't caught on with our family as much.

I agree -- the pagat site is amazing.