Saturday, March 25, 2006

Weekend Gaming

I went for the weekend to my parent's house, along with my daughter Tal and her friend, and Rachel.


Tal is a game player. She likes all the standard games, as well as some non-complicated Euros, like Settlers of Catan, The Menorah game (she loves, as do all of her friends), and Havoc.

Most of the time, however, when she is not playing with me, she is playing Chinese Spit with her friends. This weekend we played: The Menorah Game once, where Tal won and I was about to win on my next move; and regular Spit, which she made me play with her friend. Tal claims that she hasn't beaten me, yet. I was feeling particularly slow, because I am still sick, so I lost to her friend.

Actually, it came down to single card. I was already down to no flip pile when I missed a single card play. Her friend emptied her hand without my having a chance. The next round, she didn't have a draw pile, and it again came down to single card. I was left with 8, and she with 10. Naturally a 9 eventually flipped up, rather than a 7 or J. We both hit the pile at the same time, but my card somehow ended up stuck halfway into the pile, whereas hers was correctly located on top. Oh, well.


I brought along a few other games. One was Queries and Theories, which I though might interest my father who had once been a computer science teacher, but he doesn't remember anything about natural languages. Another was Lexicon. Lexicon is an old game, one of I don't know how many that are designed around the idea of cards that each have letters on them, and with which you need to form words.

The basic problem with card games with letters whose rules simulate various standard card games is that it is much, much easier to meld words than it is to meld the numbers in a standard deck of cards. True, it takes a little more thinking, but so many more combinations can be used that it is rare that someone doesn't go out within two or three turns.

In this case, the game is a melding rummy. You are dealt ten cards, and on your turn you can either a) lay a word, b) add to an existing word, c) swap cards with an existing word, or d) swap cards with the deck or discard pile. First one out gains no points, and the rest gain the face value of their cards (common letters have higher values). Players are eliminated as they go over 100. Last one standing wins.

As I said, if the game really played out like Gin Rummy, where ten or twenty turns occurred each round, it would be a grand game. As it is, someone always goes down within two or three turns, which makes the game fairly uninteresting. Still, it is fun playing around with the anagramming, and I would play it again, casually.

The game comes with a rulebook that contains another twenty variations, all simulating regular card games, such as Lexicon Bridge, Lexicon Whist, and so on.

Anyway, Rachel and Mom and I played a few rounds, and then my Mom and I played a few more two player later in the day.

Scrabble and Three-Player Bridge

After Mom and I both got bored with Lexicon, I suggested Scrabble as a better alternative, and then won by an embarrassing amount. I scored 395.

Later, my Dad actually volunteered to play three handed bridge with my Mom and me. Three handed is bridge extremely gutted, but still ok if you are not really expecting "bridge", per se.

There are variations, but ours is that eight cards of the fourth hand are turned up. Each player bids, and whomever wins the bidding gets the fourth hand as dummy. The remaining five cards are turned up after the lead is made, and always turn out to contain four cards of some suit one of the defenders was bidding on, at which point they make some pithy remark about how "if they had only known!" That's why it's not really bridge: no partnership bidding, no control over the contract, and no information about where the other cards lie.

I find it generally useful to be quite aggressive when bidding three player. However, you can get a feel for how many values are underneath by listening to the other player's first bids. If one of them passes, odds are that there is a lot under there. If everyone is bidding aggressively, odds are that not much is under there.

We played a few hands.



Anonymous said...

As an alternative to 3-player Bridge, you may want to look into Skat and/or 99.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Anon: I would be up for it, but I don't expect that my parents would be willing to learn any more new games at this point.