I recently wrote about Gaming with a Grandson, relating some stories about my grandson. My wife and I were talking about gaming after that, and I mentioned remembering playing games with my grandmother. My wife suggested that might be the basis for another article, so here goes……
When I was in elementary school in a very small rural town in Oklahoma in the 1950’s, we lived a couple of blocks from one set of my grandparents (and across town from the other set). I walked to and from school, a route that took me past my nearby grandparents’ house twice a day. Most days, after school, I stopped at their house on the way home and stayed a while. Sometimes during these visits, grandma and I played games. They did not own any real commercial boardgames, and they did not play cards, but grandma taught me some games and some things about gaming.
The first game I recall learning from her was checkers. We played checkers a lot, although it has never been a favorite of mine. However, she taught me a checkers variation that I enjoyed very much. The game was called “Six Corner Kings,” and I believe she learned to play it a few years just before or just after 1900. I have looked for information about this game online, but have found no mention of it. If anyone reading this knows of a reference for this game, please let me know.
To the best of my memory, this is how Six Corner Kings is played. Using a regular 8x8 checkerboard, with a light square in the bottom right corner, both players place six checker kings on the board, in opposite corners. The kings are placed on dark squares in the player’s right corner, so they form two diagonal lines of three kings each, facing the same arrangement, diagonally, in the opponent’s right corner. The kings may move forward or backward, only diagonally on dark squares, normally one square at a time. A king may diagonally jump friendly kings (the same player’s kings) without removing them from the board, and multiple jumps are allowed. Kings capture (and remove from the board) opposing kings by jumping over them on a diagonal. Multiple jumps (with intervening open squares) may include both friendly and opposing kings, in any order, removing only the opposing kings. This allows some intriguing set-ups and trap plays. Jumps of opposing kings must be taken when available, including multiple jumps, but a player is not required to jump his own king, which may stop a multiple-jump move, if the player chooses. The object is to capture all the opposing kings.
Grandma was a whiz at this game; she probably played the game for over 60 years. We sometimes played many games of Six Corner Kings in one sitting.
She taught me dominoes, too. She only played a basic version, with scoring of combinations of 5 or multiples of 5. I had never seen dominoes played before she explained to me how to play this game. Interestingly, it was one of two games I played with my wife’s stepfather, much later in life, and he was a whiz at it, virtually always beating me. I also played with dominoes during lunch hours at work even later in life, playing a variation called “Shoot the Moon,” with six players on two teams. And, even today, our family occasionally plays “Mexican Train Dominoes,” but it was grandma who taught me the rudiments of dominoes.
The third type of game grandma played with me was one we made up (as have a great many people in this country, I’m sure) – States and Capitals. We each took turns naming a U.S. state, while the other person had to name that state’s capital. Oh, yes, there were only 48 states at that time. That game was a major reason for my long-term interest in geography, I believe.
Grandma’s game library and game interests were extremely limited, but we had many hours of fun playing those games together.
Beyond playing the games themselves, however, she taught me some things about gaming, not overtly, but subtly and by example. She did not play in a cutthroat manner, but played games for fun. I know she let me win a lot, until I realized what was happening and could compete well on my own. Then, she played to win, and any bad moves in checkers or missed scoring in dominoes had to stand. She laughed a lot during our game sessions, and the atmosphere was light and friendly, but still competitive. She would play checkers or dominoes anytime I suggested it, and she always congratulated me when I won. She displayed good sportsmanship (gamesmanship? gameswomanship?) at all times. She played until I was ready to quit, never indicating that she was too tired to play another game. She provided me with a gamer’s role model that could not have been better planned. I have realized only in recent years how much I learned about gaming from her, while playing only those two (or three) different games. I’ve also realized that she, even more importantly, taught me how to be a grandparent.
---- Gerald; near Denver, Colorado
aka: gamesgrandpa -- a grandpa who is a mile high on gaming