I have been playing games competitively since the age of 6 when my mom taught me chess. She lost her second game to me and never played me again. It was about the same time my aunts taught me a card game called Canasta. Two decks, melding, red threes, all kinds of card game goodness, I was hooked. I also learned War, Spades and Hearts fairly quickly. There were no Gin or Gin Rummy players in my family although I do remember playing some cribbage way back when. Could not explain the rules to you now of that card game. I learned bridge from a book and some early computer online software in my 20′s, finding 3 other people to play was hard until the Internet arrived. Then 24×7, all the bridge you wanted to play. I did not learn Euchre till moving to Michigan at the age of 32. No one in Virginia played that I knew of. But I have gotten ahead of myself.
I realized early that the “war” card game war was just luck. Whoever won a “war” with and won a covered ace or two first was much more likely to win. My sister and I played a lot and she was lucky! I found chess opponents at the local library at the age of 8 and lost a lot for a while but got better. I think my chess game probably peaked at 10 years old. Never played in tournaments but would regularly take down adults who knew the rules.
The next few years were various board games at Christmas and birthdays. Life, Monopoly, Mouse Trap, Operation, Risk and more card games including the card game that made you money…. Poker! I played some drunken hunters at my father’s hunting camp at 10 years old. My dad staked me five dollars. I walked away with $70.00. A lot of money for me in 1973….. most of it quarters…… Games were a part of our family life at home with my mother or aunts and uncles until……… 1976. I was living on my grandmothers farm in Denair, California for the 1976-1977 school year. The first year I lived outside of northern Virginia.
In the ninth grade I spied some of the more intelligent/geeky/creative classmates huddled over some graph paper at my school’s lunch room. I looked over a shoulder and I was told this was a map. A map to Dungeons and Dragons. It didn’t really register with me that year. I was playing High School soccer and acting and singing in musical drama and learning about “girls”. The next year I moved back to Virginia in the summer and fell into the geek click. In 1977 this was not really cool at all. But I learned what a 20 sided dice could do, all night Dungeon and Dragon’s games at sleep overs and other role playing games followed. I was also introduced to the Avalon Hill board games friends received for Christmas and birthdays. 18 hour Civilization Board games became common among my friends. Too common, these mega long games tested my patience and generally I lost early just to get out.
I discovered some bad game design while playing Civ the board game. Multi-player games, Civ and Risk are good examples, often had a “King Maker” aspect. Generally when there were three players left, the third player after deciding he could not win, could expend his resources on attacking one of the two remaining players and the player not targeted would generally win. So at the end of long games there would be a “popularity” contest where you would try to explain how much more dangerous the other opponent was compared to your position on the board, thereby baiting the player in third place to choose the king. I started playing king maker as third position a few times then got the other kind of “bored”. The problem with having really smart friends is they were often ahead in strategy. They were fun to play D&D with because they were imaginative yet strategy games meant real work. During that era I preferred role playing and I regularly played D&D until the age of 32 or so. I played with the same core of people from high school, college and work. I moved away from Virginia at 32 but many of those people still regularly play DnD or other RPGs with each other and I miss playing with them. The average age of that group is 49-50 now and have some are grand parents. Part II (the computer age begins) next time.