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A Personal History of Naked Card Playing (Death to Sleeves)

What I remember:

As an adolescent, 1980s...

It's my father that I associate with card games. Also, my maternal grandfather. My fondest memory is of endless games of Uno during the days while on vacation in Florida (followed by rowdy evening plays of trivial pursuit in which the kids would "team up" with the adults). We also played a lot of Uno at home.

I just can't hate Uno after all of that play.

I also have a vivid memory of my father teaching us Rummy (and telling us youngsters why we should avoid rum and gin), but I don't remember actually playing a lot of rummy, so much as playing a lot of Rummikub, which replaced it in our house.

Beyond that, it was "kiddie stuff" most of the time with my younger sister (and also sometimes with parents and friends). War. Old Maid. Go Fish. More stuff like that that I've probably forgotten. The stupid clever feeling of tricking someone into playing "52 Pick-up".


As a teenager, 1990s...

Magic: The Gathering hit and became the obsession of many of us for a couple of years in the mid-90s. Looking back now, I'm glad to have found it when I did, before it became a "Pro" game and before sleeves became a requirement in any official play (truly crazy). I remember opening those first starter packs and playing out game after game with the worst deck with no synergies at all, having an awesome card that required a land card that wouldn't come for another 15 card draws or something. Whatever. It was an amazing feeling, of controlling this deck full of potential power. Back at the beginning, we always played for ante. We were young and stupid and having a blast. I played in multiplayer "Iron Man" formats in which we ripped up cards that left play, with the winner taking whatever cards managed to survive the game.

I tried a bunch of other CCGs, but the only other one that I played a lot was Wyvern. I have fond memories of it and would love to try it again now. I clearly remember giving away all of my MtG cards to a friend in '97. I have no idea what happened to my Wyvern cards.

I remember playing Lunch Money with friends, which was stupid "take that" fun at the time. And Groo: The Game, which we adored as Groo fans.

There was continued Uno playing on Florida vacations, but what I don't remember from this time is any games played with a traditional deck of playing cards (although part of this decade did see me and a few friends learning some card magic).


As a twentysomething, 2000s...

I don't remember any card games in the first half of the decade.

January 2006 was when I connected with other gamers in Buffalo. This meant learning all sorts of new board games. It also meant being introduced to new card games.

Confession: I've never played Poker. I vaguely know how to play. I'm somewhat confident that I know which hands beat which other hands, but I wouldn't bet my life (or even a dollar) on it.

Havoc: The Hundred Years War was my first real exposure to a "poker-style" game. It's been 13 years. I remember liking it. I'd like to try it again.

It was at this time that I was exposed to many of my favorite modern card games, all of which I own: Bohnanza, Lost Cities, Pick Picknic, You're Bluffing, Mamma Mia, Coloretto, 6 nimmt!, No Thanks!

A few of those are all-time favorites. All of them are solid games.

In 2008, I was introduced to two trick takers on the same day, Ziegen Kriegen and Too Many Cooks. I don't remember anything about Too Many Cooks. Ziegen Kriegen became an instant favorite.


As a thirtysomething, 2010s...

I mostly kept playing those games that I liked that I had discovered in the late 2000s, especially enjoying introducing them to my children as they grew old enough to play them.

But this was also the decade of Seiji Kanai for me. My kids love Love Letter. Our copy of BraveRats is in tatters. I like Chronicle and liked Cheaty Mages enough that I'm still considering picking up a copy.

Other card game hits for me, most of them discovered in the past few years, include: Hero Realms, The Mind, The Fox in the Forest, Parade, Abluxxen, Fantasy Realms, Pairs, Elements, Circle the Wagons, Fast Forward: Fear, Absolutely Aces, Tichu.

I'm still not a card play expert, but I've played enough to know that I like card games. I want to dig deeper.

And I've played just a few trick takers, but enough to know that I'm very interested in trying more out. This is spurred on by the fact that a bunch of people I like here on the 'geek are really into trick takers.

An advanced search on BGG for trick taking games that I've played reveals this meager list:

Frank's Zoo (1999) (It's been over a decade since I played this so I'm not sure, but I'm crossing it off this list because I think it's more "climbing game" than trick taker)

Chronicle (2009)
Five Cucumbers (2013)
The Fox in the Forest (2017)
Sticheln (1993)
Too Many Cooks (2002)
Ziegen Kriegen (2007)

This is my experience with trick taking games. Six games.

As noted above, I played Ziegen Kriegen and Too Many Cooks on the same day in April, 2008. Perhaps unfairly, I never played Too Many Cooks again. Ziegen Kriegen has become a favorite that will never leave my collection, but it's only been played 12 times in 10+ years.

Chronicle was played twice this year, once with my family and once at game night. I liked it a lot and can see further plays happening.

Fox in the Forest was played once in '18 with my friend Parthe. I liked it. I didn't love it. That was the morning after we played Five Cucumbers, which none of us really cared for. It was a big disappointment.

Sticheln was played once in '16 with Yams and Mike and a friend of theirs at Hoptron in Patchogue. I remember having fun, but I also remember that the friend was having trouble with the rules. I never returned to it.


As a fortysomething, 2020s...

That's it. I know that I do like card games. I'm pretty sure that I like trick taking games. I'm at the point where I'd consider myself some sort of "trick taking fan" but also still feel overwhelmingly inexperienced. I'd like to explore the genre more, but also don't want to keep playing modern riffs without having some sort of introduction to the best of what has come before that laid the foundation for these modern riffs.

And that's why I asked for help in the Deep Cuts guild (one of my favorite corners of the 'geek; it should be one of yours too).

Check out all of the excellent suggestions in the comments here:
Request - Deep Cats Trick Taker Primer
Seriously, the suggestions there are incredible. I'm excited to have an entirely new aspect of gaming open up to me.


If you've made it this far, it's probably because I tagged a game you love, which brought you here, and you're waiting for some sort of payoff. That Deep Cuts link to the excellent content provided by others was the payoff. Everything following is more rambling. But maybe you're a regular reader of my ramblings (thank you). If you're a regular reader, you probably know that I've struggled with finding a balance between playing the games that I know and love and playing new stuff.

It's tough, right?

I could have played no new games in 2019. But then I would have missed out on Pax Pamir 2e, Bus, and Irish Gauge, all of which have become all-time favorites that I believe will settle someplace in any Top 20 (possibly Top 10) that I make in the future. Finding new Great Games is probably the only argument for continuing to wade through the CotN sewer system.


(In '96, our LI cable company picked up MuchMusic for some reason. My friend Garrett watched a lifetime of bad music videos in the hopes of finding something great. This song, a MM find in '96, always reminds me of the search for gems in any trash heap.)

So, I would have missed a few gems and a handful of nice rocks. But I also would have missed out on the dozens of games that I didn't care about enough to play more than once, the constant rules learning, and the cost of the games that I purchased myself. Maybe that trade-off would be worth it.

I've been culling my collection for a decade now. The true crazy purchasing period probably lasted from about 2006-2011. Since then, I've still purchased too much, but there has been a slow refinement and understanding of what type of gamer I am, what type of games I really like, and, maybe most importantly, what type of games will actually get played in my personal life setting.

I've given away over a hundred games in the past couple of years. I've sold and traded others. I've continued to accumulate more. :-(

I've already made a "mindful spending" plan for 2019. I think I'm in a good mental space for tackling this properly.

I'm also determined to either play or get rid of all of the unplayed games I own. Yes, I've wanted to play Paths of Glory and Hannibal for a long time now, but do I really have a place in my life right now for 5+ hour 2-player wargames? I already know the answer to that question. I also know my own tastes well enough right now to suspect that I'll like both of these games, but not love them. The part of me that still wants to play them isn't looking for love, but another notch on the club, to be able to say that I've played something, but knowing that there's no way that I'm going to give either the repeated plays to really start to know the games beyond the superficial "having played once" level. Is this me giving myself permission to just let these go? I hope so.

Can I be disciplined enough to just let go of these games *gasp* unplayed?

All of these thoughts are related to Demetri's Cardboard Diogenes Club, of which I'm not a member, and wouldn't be, even if they changed their membership rules to let me in.

I am a member of the BGG Minimalist Guild, which I guess is close to a Diogenes Club (with less public defecation).

I've felt shame that my "K-Index" isn't anywhere close to being out of the negative. And my H-Index largely consists of quick-playing games that I haven't played in a long time.

So, I'm taking steps to get to some sort of balance. A perfectly curated "minimal" personal collection that "brings me joy" (Kondo might be all sorts of crazy, but *joy sparks* are real). But I'm still allowed to buy stuff within the limits of what I already know about myself. This includes the limits of time and place that I find myself in. Yes, I really enjoyed that ONE PLAY of 1846, but that does not mean that I need to buy ten 18xx titles this year. I did only play it ONCE. I'm still not even sure that 18xx is for me. Instead of buying more 18xx, I've already gone ahead and scheduled another session of '46 for later this month (and hopefully more throughout this year). If our group continues to enjoy '46, then maybe, maybe, maybe, it might make sense to buy a different 18xx title. Then again, and this is a real shocker, it might just make sense to keep playing '46 more and never even wade any further into those trainyards of yesteryear.

So, in 2020, I'll keep playing the games I love. I'll keep trying new games, but I won't be buying too many new games. I'll keep playing "heavy stuff" that Jake brings to game night. Maybe I'll become a Lacerda convert (doubtful). I'll keep playing new midweight Euros that Kevin brings. But the new stuff that I play at home and that I bring to game night will be the unplayed stuff in my basement or the few new releases that I do allow myself to buy because I'm actually excited about them and will play them as soon as I buy them (Ride the Rails, Oath, etc.).

All of which brings me back to card games, and particularly trick taking games.

Bootleby's blog is one of my favorites. Besides tipping his hat at the occasional train game, we all know that his blog is really about Sheepshead, Piquet, Schnapsen, etc.

He's almost convinced me at times to give up on any kind of chasing of new board games, to just settle down to half a dozen chosen traditional card games. A couple of $5 decks of cards will provide enough gaming satisfaction for the entire year. If you wear a deck out, you buy a new $5 deck.

I'm almost convinced.

I want to be convinced.

And I want to be firm in that convinction.

I'm not there yet, but maybe I'm on the road there.

After reading through the responses on the Deep Cuts thread, I spent a lot of time looking through David Parlett's website. I don't know how I didn't know his name before right now. I guess I was vaguely aware of him. I at least knew of Hare & Tortoise. But I didn't really have any sense of Parlett. Now I do, and now I think his name should be as widely known in gaming circles as Reiner Knizia, Richard Garfield, etc.

I do already own a decent $5 deck of cards. I'm probably going to order a few more nice (though still very affordable, about $5/piece) German, Swiss, French decks from TaroBear's Lair. It's possible that this is just my skuzzy self finding a way to buy new stuff when I've committed to not buying stuff, but I hope that it's really my better self making a small investment in actually buying less in the future.

I'm going to pick half a dozen card games from the recommendations in that Deep Cuts thread, introduce them to my family, and get them played often. I encourage you all to do the same.

From gallery of trawlerman

(me, about 100 pounds thinner, striking my best wannabe Diogenes pose, deck of cards hiding behind my bum, waiting for friends to come over and play)
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