Games and Gamers

The Continuing Lure Of Cards

four aces

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I am occasionally reminded, with a certain pang, that I used to know how to play bridge. Not very well — I left off at the "learn the secret language of asking for aces" phase — but well enough to play socially with pals in a college dorm. I played, but only moderately. (Bridge is surprisingly well-suited to goofball college students, since it is literally possible to be "vulnerable with nothing on," which is a completely clean scoring reference but generally caused us to make jokes about being alone in the shower, which was in turn related to Mystery Science Theater 3000. For real, I have never been cool a day in my life.)

Anyway.

So bridge, I played a little. Spades and hearts, on the other hand, my friends and I played a lot. Somewhere, there exist multiple spiral notebooks tracking spades games in particular, all down the page, following our progress until we got tired or had to go to dinner or someone actually had to do some work. (It is my theory that in college, cards are the beer of nerds.) There was a nice big lounge in our dorm with a couple of big tables, and we happily passed many a shuffling-and-dealing hour there, until one of the RAs told us that four-person card games are exclusionary because people who wander by cannot join in. She suggested something everyone could play, like Go Fish.

(As you know, no peer-delivered insult stings a 20-year-old quite like being excluded from a wild, boundary-pushing, independence-testing, social-more-challenging game of hearts.)

We moved. Sometimes to the floor of the hallway outside someone's room. As you can imagine, this greatly improved our relationships with our peers.

Then in law school, I played nickel-dime-quarter poker, not very well, with a group of guys who typically cleaned my clock.

But as we continue thinking about screen-less, unplugged entertainment (as we started to do yesterday and I think your response suggests we should continue to do), I realized I rarely play cards anymore. And it's too bad, because even silly card games are more fun than they often get credit for.

The other day, I had occasion to play one called Too Many Cooks, which is sort of like hearts, but not really, and it's about soup, but not exactly, and chilis are kind of like hearts, but again, only after a fashion, and there's such a thing as "the four of mushroom."It's also a surprisingly aggressive game for one that features cards that have happy little peas on them. This is a game about soup, but it can, at times, accommodate the idea of vengeance.

It's kind of great, to be honest. And halfway through it, one of my friends (the one who taught me to play bridge, in fact, so long ago) had occasion to somewhat grandly ask the friend who provided the game, "Is it permissible to lead a chili before chilis have been played?"

Someone in yesterday's car-games thread mentioned Mille Bornes, and I was a big fan of that one, too, as are my nephews. That game is why I can't say "Sunday, Monday, Tuesday" in French, but I can say "flat tire" and "end of speed limit."

So here's my question to you (and please understand that I am not returning to bridge, as a concession to the shortness of life): What are your favorite card games? They can be standard-deck games, or ones like Too Many Cooks that require their own decks to allow you to "follow soup." (Hey, I didn't make it up.) I'd like to learn some new ones, because there's only so much Wii boxing a girl can credibly enjoy.

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