games I've played lately
About a year ago, I told Mark Dominus that I wanted to learn to play bridge, but that it was tough to find friends who were also interested. (I’d rather play with physically-present people whom I know than online with strangers.) He said, “Sackson’s Gamut of Games has a two-player bridge variant.” I had never heard of Sackson, A Gamut of Games, or the two-player variant. I said, “oh, cool,” and went off to look into it all.
So, A Gamut of Games is a fantastic little book that you can get at Amazon for about ten bucks. (That’s a kickback-to-rjbs link, by the way.) It’s got about thirty games in it, most of which you’ve probably never heard of. I’ve played only about a fifth of them so far, or less, and so far they’ve been a lot of fun. The first game in the book is called Mate, and is meant to feel a bit like chess, which it does. It’s a game of pure skill, which is quite unusual for a card game. When I first got the book, I would teach the game to everybody. It was easy to learn and play, fun, and a novelty. I also taught Martha how to play, using a Bavarian deck of cards, which made the game more fun for her. We’d go to the neighborhood bar, get some chicken tenders and beer (root and otherwise) and play a few hands.
I got to wondering why more of the games in Gamut weren’t available electronically. I found a Lines of Action app for iOS, but it was a bit half-baked, on the network side. Then, through Board Game Geek, I found a site called Super Duper Games offering online Mate, in the guise of “Chess Cards.” It’s a really mixed experience, but I am a big fan.
The site’s sort of ugly, and incredibly slow. There are some weird display issues and some things that are, if not bugs, are darn close. On the other hand, it’s got dozens of cool board games that you haven’t played before, and you can play them online, against your friends or strangers. If you join, challenge me to something. I’m rjbs.
So far, I’ve only played a small number of the available games.
One of my favorites is Abande. Like many SDG games, I think it would be even better played in real time, and I’m hoping to produce a board for playing it. Another great one is Alfred’s Wyke, which should be easy to play at a table with minimal equipment. I think I’ll play it with wooden coins, which I bought in bulk several years ago.
There’s also Amazons, Archimedes, Aries, and many more.
In many cases, the games would be improved by realtime play, I think, but only one game has stricken me as greatly hampered by its electronic form. Tumblewords is a cross between Scrabble and Connect Four, which sounds pretty great. It seems like it probably is pretty great, too, but it’s got a problem. In some games, like cribbage, part of the goal is to correctly identify what you’ve just scored. Similarly, in Tumblewords, part of the challenge should be noting all the words that each move introduces. On Super Duper Games, the computer does this for you, using a dictionary. It means you get points for all sorts of words that you’d never have noticed otherwise. I think I may have to play this one in real space before anything else!
Check out Super Duper Games, even if only to read the rules for the games there and play them. Or, maybe try playing something! If you don’t want to challenge me, there are dozens of open challenge sitting around at any time.