Monday, October 27, 2008

On games we played...

HALLIE: When I was trying to finish writing NEVER TELL A LIE, I got totally stuck. I'd gotten my character locked in a windowless attic room and I could not for the life of me figure out a **believable** way of getting her out.

The answer came to me as I was driving and,for no particular reason, thinking about games I played as a kid. Candy Land--remember those amazing graphics of the gingerbread man and gumdrops? Clue, of course, with its real lead pipe in the days before toys were recalled for being toxic. Careers, a truly bizarre game where you pick a career based on how much money, fame, or happiness you want. (Turns out it was invented by a sociologist and one of its careers was "Uranium Prospecting".) And what about Go to the Head of the Class?

It was Chutes and Ladders that helped me get my character out of the attic, but I'm not telling whether it was a chute or a ladder that did it.

What were your favorite games?

RO: I remember the names of those games but don't remember playing them. Also Operation, Parcheesi, and Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. I played a couple of card games, Royalty and Uno, but two board games stand out from my childhood.

The first is RISK. It was about global domination, kind of like Monopoly for those who thought Atlantic City (Monopoly) too limiting. I played with an older male cousin so that's probably why I thought it was cool. For some reason I always wanted to own/invade Kamchatka - or something like that. It was green..I think you could see it from Alaska.

The other game, of course, was and still is Scrabble. I am one of those annoying people who can be 200 points ahead and still agonize over the next word, and more importantly, ruin something for the next player. My husband only agrees to play a few times a year because it's too demoralizing.

I've always wanted to really know how to play mah jongg. In high school,friends and I played with somebody's mother's set. I even had my own cards (there's an annual card with the official mah jongg hands, as I recall.) But I haven't played in years. I bought a gorgeous set on Ebay a few years back and haven't used it once. So, I also bought these nifty bracelets made of vintage mah jongg tiles - I had a feeling that was going to be as close to the game as I was going to get. I just rented the movie Lust...Caution and there was a lot of mah jongg in it. (Also some pretty steamy sex, but that's another blog.)

JAN: At my house, with three older brothers, we always LOST the pieces to the board games. The only games that stayed intact were Trouble, the game where you get to send your opponent (and older brother) back to square one. That was probably my favorite. And Monopoly, which my father kept track of. Mostly, we played card games, especially during rained out vacations down the shore, and next door at my aunt's house. Crazy Eight, Rummy 500, gin Rummy. and some poker. It taught me to be a cagey competitor (hah!)

To this day, when I play cards, I like to have a glass of Coke over ice in a squat "rocks" glass. It reminds me of being a kid who felt grown up, getting to play cards with the big kids.

ROBERTA: RISK! that's what I was going to mention, too. My older sister always won, though she doesn't remember it that way. We also loved Clue, Parcheesi, Mousetrap, Monopoly, Candyland, Chutes...When on vacation at the Outer Banks in NC with my extended family, big groups of both adults and kids used to play Pounce. this involves everyone having her own deck of cards and playing solitaire with them, but all playing to the center of the table. So you were constantly scanning the cards in the center and try to bang yours down before someone else got to what you needed. It was so much fun. I'm certain the grown-ups weren't sipping on Coke in their rocks glasses:).

Recently, we have developed a family tradition of playing Boggle. In my stepfamily, as the kids got stronger and bigger, it was the only game I could win. Even that's beginning to give way:(. I had a lot of fun putting a Boggle game in ASKING FOR MURDER. Rebecca Butterman was a tad annoying to her guests, insisting on using every rule properly, and then keeping score when it was clear she was ahead. Something like your description of playing Scrabble, Ro. Remind to decline if you ask--or make sure we give you a big handicap to begin:)

HANK: Yes, RISK! That's where I learned about Irkutsk (and right, Ro, I think you can also see it from Alaska) and that Italy always loses. We also played Yahtzee. And I adored Go to the Head of the Class. I haven't thought about it for years--but wasn't it pretty much Trivial Pursuit (also fun) with desks? Mille Bornes? We were big on Charades, too, and I'll admit I still love to play it. Another good after-dinner game is Celebrity--do you guys know it?

We also used to make up games as kids, the main goal of which was so that my little sister Nancy would lose. My sister Nina and I would say--hey, Nanc, want to play "Hawaii?" And she, dupe, who wanted to be with the big kids, would say yes.

Then we'd get out the card and proceed to pretend to be playing a game. And then just make up random rules. "Oh, we forgot to say 8's are wild, but only if they're red. You lose again."

We also tormented her in Scrabble. We'd put down any old word-looking combination of letters, and then tell her it was Russian, and Russian words were fair. (She's a very happy and successful person now, don't worry.)
I do adore Scrabble. Or I should say, I used to. When I used to win. But my husband is killer at Scrabble, and it's no fun when I'm making perfectly good words, and then he puts some triple-score word with z and x in it, a doozy that also uses two lines, and works across and down. I yell "Earthquake, earthquake!" and so much for the board.

Roberta, you could probably make something of this...

HALLIE: What is it you ladies had for world domination? I had an Annie Oakley rifle... And I know CELEBRITY. Still love charades. And am a pissy loser at Scrabble, too.

Roberta, loved the way you used BOGGLE in "Asking for Murder" which I just read on the plane back from the lovely Surrey International Writers Conference in Vancouver.

Please, let us know--what are the games you loved to play?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Lots of Monopoly at my house, and Clue -- hey, I didn't know about the pipe recall issue. Interesting!
    Have you seen Restoration Hardware's upscaled version of Clue, played on an elevated board (acrylic) over three-dimensional rooms? It's kinda nifty--one of those games you could leave out and drop down to play a game of over winter sherry, if you don't have cats (pawprints, scattered murder weapons) maybe.

    I liked Mousetrap, the 3-dimensional game--do we sense a theme here--you built in sections, and then at the end if you won got to activate, an elaborate contraption featuring a heavy silver ball that went down set of stairs and a coil of a slide and then caused other things to happen, like a trap falling down (humanely but inevitably) on your opponents' unfortunate mouse.

    As for the 'Premiere Edition' of Clue, yer tiz:

  3. Oh, hey -- I see the Premiere Edition of Clue has a glass top, not acrylic! Now that's a touch more stylish.


  4. You know, I'm not sure I've ever played Boggle. Huh.

  5. Oh Hank, at our Jungle Red writers Halloween party next year, we will all play Boggle! I'll practice with you ahead of time so Ro doesn't pound us, ok?

  6. Deal. Absolutely! Don't tell, though. We have to make it look ultra-casual. (Plus, we can make up new rules. It's worked for me in the past.)

    Susannah, will you bring your three-dimensional Clue?

  7. Sure, Hank, and I bet my two older sisters tell people I'm happy and successful. :-) The best part about being "the baby" is reminding them now that I'm the youngest one!

    Do any of you remember the game that had to do with dating? It's not The Dating Game, and I don't think it's the Mystery Date because the cover isn't the one I remember. I just searched for it and no luck finding it.

    Paula Matter

  8. I don't have the three-dimensional Clue ... yet. It's one of those "I wanna" things I can't really justify. I like looking down in the little tiny rooms!

    But ... since I hope to open a B&B in the next two years, maybe I can justify buying it for the guests. }:> And since it's looking like it may be in New England, host a JR sleepover. With games.

    (I've never played Boggle, either!)

    I realized yesterday after posting that my dad and I played Battleship! a lot. Three-dimensional. Again.


    On this game note -- I'm hosting a three-day writing conference for creative/narrative nonfiction types at a wonderful old Victorian B&B in McKinney, TX in about 10 days,and I'm thinking it might be fun to have a game to unwind with that would be fun and good at keeping the creative juices flowing. Any ideas?

    Does this justify purchasing the three-dimensional Clue, I wonder?

  9. A JR sleepover at Susannah's B&B...with games. Now there's a scary thought. NO SCRABBLE. I hate to lose.

    What, purchase 3-D CLUE? We can create it! How many bedrooms did you say you're going to have?

    We can each bring a murder weapon that was used in one of our books. ("in the Rose Bedroom with the Oxygen Tank")

  10. All of those listed. We also played a game called Five Stones--a lot like Jacks, but with smooth stones--that my mom learned in England when she was growing up.

    Hallie, we did play Mah Jong, only I think it was a sort of distorted version. My grandmother grew up in Germany and learned it there, but she always said, "oh, we never do the betting." I think we never did a lot of the other more complicated parts, either. I don't know if this was because my grandmother thought it was easier to keep it simple with kids, or because this was the kid-version she learned when she was growing up--I don't think she ever played with other adults.
    She also taught us Battleship, but on paper--again, how she learned it. We had to draw all the grids every time we sat down to play.

  11. Oh, Battleship. My uncle had a printing company, and he would print up millions of pads of Battleship for us on his left-over paper. We loved it! Often it had junk stuff on the back from old printing jobs.

    Now I'm thinking, that would be a good way some someone to find clues in a mystery.

    A slumber party? With games? I'm SO there.

  12. Clue, Monopoly, and Crazy 8s with cards were the games my brother & I played. In early married days, it was Scrabble with my neighbor on a daily basis. For a while, Aggravation was the "it" game, followed by Risk. These days, with friends and family (including the grandkids), it's Scrabble and Mah Jongg.

  13. Jody,
    I loved Crazy Eights, which was basically the same concept as the board game Trouble --with a little cruel strategy, you could send your opponent back to square one.

  14. All those listed, especially Monotony, oops I mean Monopoly. Did any of you ever read "girl" comic books? I grew up in the midwest and I adored Millie the Model and Katie Keene, but have never heard of them here.


  15. Oooo, great idea, Becky - let's talk about girl comic books. Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog.

  16. Oh, I just remembered another one.

    Hi-Ho Cherry-O with ::ahem:: three-dimensional cherries.

    We had a cat that would fetch the cherries if you threw them, which was actually more fun than the game. It was the only thing she'd fetch.

  17. Three dimensional cherries..? Mundo bizarro. This is fun...Irkutsk, yep, that was the other place. Don't remember the dating game, though.

    Wasn't there a book years back called Five Smooth Stones?

  18. You may be interested to know that prolific mystery writer Ed Hoch was also an avid player of board games.

  19. This is a splendid website! I"m extremely content with the remarks!.

  20. Are you the lucky owner of a PSP? If so, we thought it would be a good idea to write a quick guide about how to find free PSP game downloads. full version games