Saturday, January 24, 2009

Games People Play

I found myself laughing rather hard this evening.

I had a little bit of time between going out of the office and heading home (blowing off an ill-timed Friday night meeting in the process), so I stuck around the nearest mall and watched the first round of a Friday Night Magic tournament. There, a friend was playing around with a deck that had been cobbled together from some of the worst cards I'd ever seen... and he was dumbfounding some of the tournament-savvy veterans with more than a few unlikely wins. In what I assumed was the highest point of his evening, he took down a opponent's expensive deck in a single turn with three cards that probably cost him less than a single can of Coke.

It's difficult for me to describe what he did, because I have to assume that not every person out there plays Magic. Nevertheless, his little play went as follows:
With a 1/1 Manaplasm and a Crafty Pathmage(!) in play, he first taps the Pathmage to make the Manaplasm unblockable until end of turn. Then he proceeds to play Sangrite Surge on the Manaplasm, giving it +3/+3 and double strike, as well as an additional +6/+6 from its own ability. The result: a 10/10 unblockable Manaplasm with double strike, which dealt 20 damage to his surprised opponent and won the game in a single move.
I'm not sure if you understood that, but heck, I laughed. I laughed so hard that I had to move away from the crowd just to get some air.

And it's not just Magic, of course — it's the games. It's about how funny these games can get sometimes.

I remember a game of Cluedo played one boring afternoon many years ago, for example. I remember that the person in the lead was running Professor Plum up and down the board, pulling the rest of us into the mansion's rooms, figuring out what cards we had in hand, and filling out his notebook far faster than the rest of us. It was obvious that he was in the lead, and after a few more minutes he tossed down his cards and triumphantly announced that it was, well... Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the Revolver.

He was reaching for the envelope when a tiny voice piped up: "But that's wrong."

"No, that's right. Why?"

"Because," said the astute opponent, pointing at said player's discarded hand, "you have Colonel Mustard among your cards."

I love unexpected comeuppances like that, especially when it gets the whole table laughing. And it's not even just the errant Colonel Mustard and his trusty revolver, mind you. It's a whole lot of things:

...It's that drawing in Pictionary that you and everyone else immediately associate with a horse, or a cow, or a bull... only to find out that it's actually the artist's best attempt at a self-portrait.

...It's that game of Boggle where everybody gets more words than you do, only to lose to some thirteen-letter monstrosity that you picked up while they were writing things down.

...It's that card shark who goes all-in on a pair of Aces into a full house, only to find out that you've been sitting on a straight flush.

...It's that four-year-old who uses the snakes in a game of Snakes and Ladders to move his token ahead instead of behind. (When we asked him why he was playing against the rules, he insisted that the snake was eating the token and then "pooping it out".)

...It's that game of chess where one of those little pawns manages to deliver checkmate.

...It's that row of hotel-lined properties — Kentucky Avenue, Indiana Avenue, Illinois Avenue — that you somehow manage to avoid for five straight circuits because your dice arm wouldn't quit.

...It's that five-card sequence in Blackjack where you keep screaming "hit me!", only to come up two points short of twenty-one.

...It's that little tile that you just know is going to knock the entire Jenga tower down, that you somehow manage to pull out anyway, leaving a rickety and unstable tower still standing after your miniscule transgression.

...It's that irritating guy who somehow manages to bogart two Triple-Letter Scores at once.

...It's that little airplane that nobody can ever seem to find on a Battleship chart... if only because you keep moving the darn thing around.


I suppose that if I look real hard for a reason as to why I play these sorts of things, I'll find it here. Hopefully it won't be too difficult to see.


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