I awoke on Saturday morning feeling as refreshed and energised as a car mounted on cinderblocks in front of a country home. I dragged myself into the living room and sat down for a moment to collect myself. Moments later, my six-year-old daughter bounded into the room with a smile on her face.
“Da ta da!” she exclaimed. She speaks perfectly well, but insists on making meaningless noises whenever words would communicate her message too clearly. My wife would say that our daughter got that from me.
“Good morning,” I returned unconvincingly.
“Let’s play a game!”
“Wha.... Hold on, I just need to relax a bit. We can play in a little while, OK?”
“We can play Battle Sheep,” she said enticingly. It was a sign of my state of mind that this proposition did not tempt me. Battle Sheep was my most recent purchase, and I had been bugging everyone around me, especially my daughter, to play it at every opportunity for the past couple of weeks.
“How about we have breakfast before we play anything?”
“Ba pa ta!”
I had no idea what that meant, but we went to get our cereal then. After eating, I sat at the table continuing my best zombie impression. Some amount of time passed -- what is time to the living dead? -- and then my daughter flew up to the table with Slamwich in her hands.
“Great,” I thought. “That’s the perfect game to play in my current state.”
She did not ask me if I wanted to play, which I found rather inconsiderate, but just pulled the cards out of the tin. She handed them to me, and I moved the cards around in my hands in a facsimile of shuffling. Then I dealt her one card, and set the rest of the deck in front of myself.
“OK, let’s play,” I said. The chance to engage in a little mischief had breathed a little life back into me.
“You can’t just keep all of the cards for yourself!”
“I’m not!” I protested, indicating the card I had given her.
“Daddy! Do it right!”
“OK, fine,” I replied in mock resignation. I split the deck evenly this time, and we began playing.
Back when I used to play Slamwich more regularly with my son, I would pull the munchers out of the deck, as I felt they pointlessly prolonged the game. However, this time, we kept them in. That would help even things out for the less agile player. Unfortunately, at that particular moment, I did not know which of us that was.
The munchers did pose a problem in the early going, though. She flipped a matching muncher on top of the one I had just played, and I slapped it.
“What?” my daughter objected.
“They match!” I said.
“But they’re eaters,” she complained.
I flipped two of my cards up, and she claimed the pile. As she went through the ordeal of placing her newly-won cards at the bottom of her stack with six-year-old hands, I checked the rules.
“Hey, it says here munchers can make slamwiches and double-deckers,” I said.
“What does that even mean?!?”
“It means we should have slapped.”
My daughter made a frustrated noise and looked down at her stack.
“Go ahead and keep those cards,” I said. “We’ll just remember to slap munchers in the future.”
The game continued. Matching cards came up, and I made a slow-motion slap that somehow managed to reach the table before my daughter’s.
A little while after that, the thief card with the dog on it came up.
“Stop thief!” I exclaimed, slapping the table with almost-lively reflexes.
“Ugh!” my daughter protested, fidgeting around in her seat to find a more effective pouting position.
With a sigh, I flipped my top card onto the table. I began to notice a pause in my daughter’s flipping motion, so that her cards stopped at just the point where they were visible to her but not me, before hitting the face-up stack.
“Don’t look at your cards before setting them down,” I said.
“I’m not meaning to.”
The pause became less pronounced for a few turns. Then, she began to flip a card, stopped, studied it, and finally set it down and slapped in a single motion.
“Don’t look at your cards before setting them down!”
“I’m not meaning to!” she said defensively, repeating the complicated process of adding the cards to the bottom of her pile. By this point, all of her cars were pointing in different directions, so that her stack took on a somewhat circular shape when viewed from the top.
We continued playing, and I won a few slaps in a row. She threw a little fit each time, accompanied by some assortment of wordless, angry sounds.
“Pumpkin, you can’t throw a fit every time, or we will just have to stop playing.”
“Don’t call me Pumpkin!”
At that point, I noticed that I had a majority of the cards. It was time for the tide to turn. The next time a slamwich came up, I put my hand in the air to telegraph a slapping motion. My daughter slapped the pile, and looked at me with a great, big smile on her face as she pulled the cards to her. We repeated this scenario a few more times, with me either telegraphing my motion, or just being sluggish when she noticed the slamwich or double-decker herself.
A couple of times, I amused myself by prying her hands off the pile and slipping one of my hands underneath.
“I slapped first!” I would say.
“No, Daddy,” she would respond, pushing my hand away and taking the cards.
There were a couple of instances where I forgot myself, and reflexively slapped as quickly as I could. For the most part, though, my daughter was winning the cards. Only a few pesky munchers were getting in the way.
Eventually, I was down to a handful of cards, but one of them was a number 1 muncher. That little guy was going to prolong the end game insufferably. So I waited until my daughter looked away for a moment, slipped the muncher out of my stack, and hid it underneath a nearby placemat. Shortly after that, I ran out of cards. In the thrill of victory, my daughter forgot about the pesky muncher. She ran off to tell Mommy that she had won, and I slipped the muncher back into the tin with the rest of the cards.
You have learned well, young padewan: always let the wookie win.