Monday, February 19, 2007


It was a full-blown argument before I even noticed, with Stephen yelling, "I am not a cheater!"

Timothy, embarrassed that his private argument was now public, raised his voice just a little and accused again, "You looked at my cards."

We were playing Spoons, Timothy Variation 1:
  • X number of players (or "teams" for those brief moments when Sam was playing cards as opposed to jumping on the couch)
  • X-1 spoons, laid in a row on the table
  • 7 cards per player, player to the right of the dealer starts
  • On each turn, the player takes one card from his hand and passes it to his neighbor on the right
  • Once a player has 7 cards of one color, he can grab a spoon
  • Once the first person has grabbed a spoon, all other players may grab a spoon, regardless of the cards in his hand
  • The player without a spoon is the loser
The game is fast, and the cards seem to be a mere pretense and prelude for a mad dash of spoon-grabbing. With a group of 4 people, it is very likely that the game is at most 3 rounds from calamitous spoonery.

(I'm not fond of the single-loser aspect. It's a very elementary school game, very exclusionary. "We're the group and you're not in it," etc. Stephen lost every round as he watched us gobble up the spoons, and would have been very upset -- he doesn't like to lose at all -- except that Sam, who was on Stephen's "team", was walking around with a permanent spoon that they as a team claimed was their just reward.)

Then the fight broke out. Crap. What to do? Cheating is pretty serious, but so is a false charge of cheating. After getting the volume level dropped, Occam's Parental Razor came into effect.

"Stephen, did you look at his cards?"


"Timothy, this is a serious accusation. Did you see him look at your cards?"


"Then why do you think he saw your cards?"

"Because he kept giving me reds when he knew I was going for blacks! He kept smiling every time he gave me a card," and here Timothy gave a very good imitation of Stephen's triumphant evil genius face.

Without waiting for me, Stephen leapt to his own defense, "I gave you a red, and you looked all upset like this," and here Stephen made a pretty good imitation of Timothy's disappointed face, upping the ante with sound effects, "and so I knew you were going for black so I kept giving you red . . ."

Timothy blushed and looked embarrassed, and then apologized to Stephen, who accepted gracefully. Meanwhile, my wife and I stared at each other for a few seconds, until she said, "Well, I'm not going to play poker with him."

Spoons soon became tiresome, so we switched to Kings In The Corner. Timothy won 2 out of 3 hands of this game, and had the most spectacular plays. Then Kings also became tiresome (Sam, on my wife's "team", kept grabbing her cards and calling out the numbers).

So my wife taught them Blackjack. Unfortunately, the terminology of the game (which I prefer to call 21) was not properly suited for small boys. Phrases like "hit me" and "bust" elicited sound effects, running around the table to hit brothers, and explosions of cards. We ended the game when three of us hit 20 on the same hand.

So the boys like cards (except Jonah, who really liked his apple and this month's copy of Boys Life). I think this is good. I approve of pretty much any activity that involves sitting around a table and talking to real people. And so human interaction games are becoming more and more popular, especially when my "nothing with screens" rule comes into play.

We'll need to find our Uno set or buy another one. But I at least am looking forward to teaching the boys to play Spades, Hearts, Up And Down The River, Euker, Rummy, Phase 10, and lots of others. Probably even Poker, but I'm not playing against Stephen for real money.


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