Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Play it Again, Sam. (And again, and again, and again, and ...)

(or “Fun in the Remote Highlands of New Guinea.” Vol. 3)
Almost every Sunday, after the kids have gone to Sunday School (there is no SS for adults here), Paul and I pull out the Scrabble board.  This frequently leads to visions of the two of us slowly rolling our wheelchairs into a common room and then moving our little wooden letters around with arthritic hands, while a kindly 20-something nurse hands us saltines and glasses of grapefruit juice.
I’m sure it will happen sooner than I think.
But I digress.
We used to play Cribbage, but after years of peg-moving and 15-and 31-counting, we graduated to Scrabble.  I won most of the time, until Paul caught on to all of my tricks.  It took a while, but within the last year he began to match me game for game. 
Of course, that meant we had to change the rules.  Couldn’t have him beating me that much, you know.
Last year, someone gave us one of those Scrabble sets with the turntable-style board and the little grid ridges that keep the letters in place.  Someone at Milton Bradley should have gotten early retirement with full benefits for that one.  But, even better than those upgrades, the set came with alternate rules. 
We adopted two of them at once:
<![if !supportLists]>1.       <![endif]>A player who has, or draws, a letter which is represented on the board by a blank, may, on his turn, substitute the letter and pick up the blank.
<![if !supportLists]>2.       <![endif]>A player, at the start of his turn and before adding any letters to the board, may replace any single letter already on the board with one from his or her own rack which will form an acceptable new word or words.  Any number of such substitutions may be made on a turn – but only one letter at a time, and only when correct words result from each individual change.
These changes shifted the balance of power.  I once again dominated the world of Scrabble, until he began to get wise to my strategies and implement them for his own gain.  The rat.  At this point, the scale still tips slightly in my favor, but it won’t be long before I’ll need to find some new rule adaptation that will again give me the upper hand.

Pinochle is a game that we played frequently before coming to PNG, but we have not met many people here who even know how to play.  We taught a couple several months ago, but they haven’t played since.  I think the complexity may have overloaded their circuits. 
In January, a new couple arrived (with our same last name, interestingly enough, but no relation) who enjoy pinochle as much as we do. One night in February, they invited six people over and introduced us to a new twist on the game.  I am not sure what the real name of this variation would be, but it was a rotational pinochle, where players play each hand with a different partner, and two games are going on simultaneously.  At the end, each player adds up all eight of the scores they helped attain to find an ultimate winner. 
Having nowhere else to go, Andie tagged along with us that night.  She took along a book and was looking forward to holding down the sofa for a while.  However, when we got there, the hosts were delighted because one of the players they had invited could not come at the last minute.  Now, Andie had never played pinochle before and she was less than half the age of the next oldest player, but she is a card shark.  She caught on very quickly, held her own, and had a great time.

Tonight, the first day of school term break, the four of us played a rousing game of Agricola (top picture above.)  Paul was introduced to this game at one of the numerous guy “let’s-play-games-and-stuff-food-in-our-faces” nights he’s attended over the last year.  Other G “LPGASFIOF” N activities have included classics such as Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Carcassone.  No video games for these men, no siree.  Like I said, this is a community of academics. We are much too sophisticated for that.
Okay, maybe not. 
Anyway, this was the closest game of Agricola our family has played together.  After an hour of buying wood, clay, reed, and grain, sowing and harvesting grain and vegetables, expanding and upgrading houses and families, erecting fences and procuring cattle, pigs, and sheep, the scores were 20, 24, 26, and 28. 
I was declared the winner. 
That’s really all that matters, right? 
Oh yeah … and spending time together as a family, making our own entertainment here in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Yeah, that too.  :)

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