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Subject: Nostalgic Reflections on Utter Randomness rss

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Toby Harper
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Nostalgic Reflections on Utter Randomness: An Ambivalent Review Essay on Card Cricket


Recently I espied a second-hand copy of Card Cricket on a thrift store shelf. Immediately it brought back memories of lengthy battles with my brother during our childhoods. Our copy of the game had been long disused, and seems to have been lost – only a scorebook with the records of our games remains in our parent’s garage. In a fit of nostalgia, I looked up the old game on boardgamegeek. Despite the fond memories, upon thinking about the system, and with the hindsight of dozens of far better games, I resigned myself to the fact that Card Cricket’s low ranking is very much deserved.

Mechanically, Card Cricket is less than unimpressive. In fact, it involves no challenge or skill whatsoever. An ordinary deck of cards (or two) are shuffled and split into two equal piles. For each ball (in a normal one day international cricket game, a maximum of 600 legal (not counting wides and no balls) balls are bowled, although this can be abbreviated) the players draw two cards, one from each pile. The combination of cards corresponds to a square on a grid on the playing board, which tells the players what the result of that ball was. Extra flavour is provided by brief text on the board – a batsman does not merely hit a six or get out, they ‘hook’ over square leg, or are ‘bowled’. The producers balanced the various possible results in a way that means that a variety of probable results of a cricket game can be produced using this system, although large scores are rather difficult to produce due to the frequency of wickets.

This flavour does little to conceal the complete randomness of the system. During our many games in our youth, my brother and I were entirely aware that there was no skill involved. Furthermore, there was no distinction between the skill of top order batsmen and the lower and middle orders, nor was there any mechanic for simulating spin versus fast bowling, or bowlers tiring, or pitch conditions and so on. A player could quite conceivably use their two opening batsmen as their only bowlers, and get the same result as one who assiduously (and more realistically) used their bowlers to bowl and their batsmen to bat. Our imaginations had to fill in the gaps.

This, of course, they did. Looking back at the old score sheets, I can see that we created some bizarre teams. From groups of famous fictional characters, to ‘dream teams’ that drew from cricket’s rich history, to teams composed of characters that resided nowhere other than our own imaginations, we played a surprisingly large number of games (although I note that many are incomplete). It also did teach one skill – that of cricket scoring. It was through card cricket that I learned to keep an accurate and detailed score of a cricket match using a proper scorebook. It also helped reinforce my knowledge of the often rather esoteric vocabulary of the sport.

Of course, one hankers for cricket most in summer when the cicadas are buzzing and the new bright warmth of the southern sun embracing the suburbs of Auckland. Few feelings can compare with that desire for cricket that still descends on me at the beginning of summer. In such conditions it was always preferable to go outside onto our front driveway with tennis ball and cricket bat, and enact our sporting fantasies with a more substantial dose of reality and skill. Afterwards we would come inside, bodies (and sometimes tempers) warmed by the sun and exercise, and sprawl in the living room with glasses of icewater, and perhaps turn on the television to watch the New Zealand national side getting thumped once again. A random and abstract system could not compare with the bustling activity of real cricket, and it should not.

Yet Card Cricket retains a certain sentimental charm despite its utter failure to live up to the real thing. It taught us to score cricket, and it exercised our imaginations. I would not condemn this classic to the fate that its random nature would seem to deserve. It is not a game for adults or the remotely serious boardgamer, but I cannot forget or discount the fun that it can provide to child enthusiasts of this great sport. As a simulation of cricket, it is extremely limited, but in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s it was the only one we had, and we made the most of it.

Rating: D (4/10)
 
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Vinay Chandrasekhar
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Are there any good cricket games out there?
 
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Toby Harper
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Vinay, I can vaguely remember playing International Cricket briefly as a child. It was years ago, and my brother and I only played a couple of games (it was at a holiday home where we were staying) but I remember that it involved some skill and was able to simulate player ability in a relatively elegant fashion. It also came with various classic teams from the '80s and (I think) from earlier eras.

The BGG entry seems positive, and it looks as if it is still being sold. Actually, looking at it, I'm quite tempted myself, especially as it looks as if they provide updates and new teams from all eras and a variety of different countries.


And Aaron, the game that your brother and his friend devised sounds awesome. I suspect that if my brother and I had something like that Card Cricket would have lain dormant on our shelf!
 
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Ian Cooper
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vinay1276 wrote:
Are there any good cricket games out there?


The only one I've found that has a healthy amount of skill involved is QUICKSingle. It also 'feels' most like cricket to me, as the players have to make the same sorts of decisions that cricketers make when playing the real game.

Basically, apart from QUICKSingle there are two types of cricket games:

1. Random dice-based games which range from great simulations like 'International Cricket' to very poor ones like 'Owzthat' which are aimed at kids.

2. Skill-based games like 'Armchair Cricket' that may be fun to play, but which don't seem to have much cricket 'feel' - i.e. the theme seems a bit tacked-on.
 
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