Wednesday, 9 December 2009

backgammon

i decided to waste my early start today by watching games britannia on iplayer, not solely because i was overcome by torpor but because it tapped into a long and recently defunct history of board gaming. i didn't find it the most engaging documentary - i wasn't convinced by his discussion around the alea evangelii, given that hnefatafl and its other more local variants didn't get a mention and mistaking a senet board for a chess board? that just won't do! - but its worth a watch, esp for the british museum games guy, who sports a proper beard and looks precisely how a games guy should look!

i love board games, always have. for years, mainly with my friend euan we played just about every board game we could get our hands on. true we had other players who came and went but the enjoyment for us was watching our gameplay evolve. euan won more that much is true but his observation was that he only won because i enjoyed playing too much, so that assuming he didn;t force me into a position where i had to win all he had to do was wait long enough in order to beat me so that we could play again. i loved all those games so there's never a time when i think about games when i don't think of him. if there's an afterlife he's waiting for me, dice at the ready!

i went thru a scrabble phase for a few years, mainly with my friend s. we had a thing for old games, played the roman tabula, the egyptian senet, variants of mankala, fanorona (which we could never get our heads round). s couldn't win at tabula, but the mankala/senet battles were legendary, mainly because she beat me silly on a regular basis and we had some spectacular fall outs as a result. but it was the scrabble we thrived on. we had no time for other players, it interfered too much with the game play as by then we'd moved well away from a simple word game into a fierce no holds barred territorial battle.

but it's backgammon that's sustained me thru the years. i learned it when i was wee, played my sister constantly on the board i still have. i practised like a mad thing and got good enough to know that i wasn't good enough when it came to playing for money. not because i couldn't play but because the money changes the dynamic. i kind of lost my way with it after the street gaming experience and the only time in recent years i've played in any way seriously was with my friend t, who beat me comprehensively and inexplicably the one time we played. i've never been beaten so consistently. sure i was out of practice but backgammon, whatever else it may appear, isn't a game of chance. i put it down to all that maths education she's got.

anyway, i'm watching this games programme and there's a scene where the narrator guy is in this cafe in london where the people are just playing and there instantly was the desire to play again, the notion to get on a train and go there right now. what i do instead is check what's around locally and it turns out there is a local backgammon club, even a league!

of course i could play online but who wants to do that? i can't be doing with computer games. they seem just so... pointless. euan and i used to talk around this all the time. the best thing about games is people. you can tell a lot about a person by the way they play, the strategies they employ, the ones they don't. or you can just set the board up and, back in the day, drink some coffee, smoke a (lot of) cigarettes and just pass the time. a machine can never substitute.

now, what about that nine man's morris....

6 comments:

strangepress said...

i would very much like to kick your arse i mean um uh you know have a friendly game wit ya ;-P sumtym

strangepress said...

hahahhahahahahaha it worked

strangepress said...

oh yeah and what shall i kick your arse at?! not biking not poetry and certainly not sobriety BUT backgammon yes! monopoly no, othello maybe, chess no, scrabble yes! and anything else you'd like to name i'll have a go heheheheh you better believe it. card games?! i'd have to have a few games wit ya to see if i even have a chance...but mostly... i'll win... texas hold'em yeah.. cribbage, yes... gin rummy...yes... flinch...yes...

swiss said...

card games? cribbage for definite. i haven't played that in years but used to love it. it was the big family holiday game when we were wee. then we got into bridge, which was even better, at least until my dad realised we were all better at it than him. which wasn't something any of us couldn't deal with, just him!

Dominic Rivron said...

My son,daughter and I have just spent an afternoon making a senet board and working out how to play it. We tried hard to make it exciting, but were a bit underwhelmed! We might be doing it wrong. Is it exciting when you get to know it? Are some sets of rules more fun than others?

(Favourite card game, here, by the way = "Find the Lady").

swiss said...

i had a look and no two sets of rules seem the same. i'll dig out my board and post a set of rules as i play them.

the fun in the game is in the tactics. using a block of three can frustrate your oponent if you keep them in the first rank. this allows you to take or block the safe squares before bearing off. and variations thereof....