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Subject: Janitor, an International Game rss

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You can forget chess as the game most known across the globe. The real winner? Janitor.

Janitor, you ask? In fact, dear reader, you may have not even heard of the game. The card game I grew up calling Janitor has been called Bum a town over, President a province over, and Asshole a country over. But never mind that. The point is that nearly everyone I have run into knows how to play the game. While your average person might not know how to move their horsie or prawn, everybody knows how to play Janitor. Erm, well, sort of. There is, of course, the inevitable bickering over house rules. Are we playing with jokers? How many twos do I have to play to trump a triple? How many cards does the President receive in a six player game. If only there was a standardized rule-set with a special deck... perhaps designed by someone like Richard Garfield!

Well, no matter. Last Saturday I was able partake in a truly international game of Janitor (or insert your favourite name here). One of my undergraduate courses had me fly from my native Alberta to the University of Toronto to partake in an open source code sprint for the weekend. Joining students from various other Canadian universities were undergraduates from Michigan and the Virgin Islands. Along comes Saturday night, where ten students including myself are relaxing in one hotel room. A raucous game of Euchre is being played on one bed, while a second is just finishing on the second. Since two new players have arrived, we begin thinking about what game we should play next. I cautiously suggest BANG!, but one of the British Colombians suggests a game of President. We Albertans and a second BCer quickly agree with her, once we figure out what game we're talking about (the Edson native only knew the game as 'Bum'). Then one of the Michiganians (do I have that right?) states he's never heard of the game.

Shock! Disbelief! Horror! The four veterans quickly launch into a haphazard explanation of the game to the two bemused residents of the States. After we decide on most of the house rules we'll be playing with, we launch into the first round, with yours truly taking the position of President. After the first round one of the Michiganians remembers that he had played the game before, under the title 'Asshole'. After the first learning round the two novices catch on, and once the cards passed from the Janitor to the President changed from three to two, the roles began to swap around.

Like any good game of Janitor, it quickly developed its own atmosphere. The leader's title soon became 'El Presidente'. Trump cards were played with great relish and an occasional "Bam!", especially when stopping 'El Presidente' from taking a trick. In retrospect, I'm very glad I didn't break out the Bang! cards. Bang! has a great atmosphere itself, but it only comes out once new players have played a few rounds. And even I had used just the simple cards, instruction time would have eaten away what little remained of the night.

Maybe next time I get to play a game of Janitor, I'll use hats.
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