Games Before the Digital Age

Having just acquired a rather nasty case of shingles, a reminder of my overly protected childhood (but clear evidence of not overly protected enough) when I contracted chicken pox, I find myself in a fair amount of pain. My effected area is my left leg, from knee to ankle, giving good portions of my leg an uncanny resemblance to a cooked Maine lobster tail.

A famous (but not famous enough for me to remember his name) 4th Century Nepalese monk developed the now renown distraction technique when dealing with pain issues. My preferred method of distraction would be to line up 3 beakers of gin, and down them in rapid succession. Regrettably, my medical people put the kibosh on that approach since it would be in conflict with some rather large and expensive pills I have been obligated to take.

Meanwhile, if I had followed my method I would probably be passed out still in my blue chair, completely oblivious to the pain. Instead I am fully awake, very much aware of the pain & burning in my leg (which if I didn’t tell you before, is my favorite leg), praying that these designer pills will fully kick-in before Candelmas Day.

As an alternate form of distraction, I decided to apply myself to looking at pre-digital games, and ranking them according to the length of time it took before outright boredom and irritation set in. I felt that this important task (I think of it as a public service) required the help of my personal think tank (a group of brainy retainers, including a Phd from Cornell, the person who has cut my hair since 1996 and Stew Leonard’s Cash Register Monitor) to develop the metrics necessary to create an accurate ranking. Once the results were tabulated, we turned the document over to an intern at Deloitte-Touche for authentication, and possible oversight.

I am pleased to present the results (as I look longingly at the brilliant dark green bottle of the Tanqueray, a mere 27’ from where I now sit).

1. Dreidel: 38 seconds (I wanted to put down 15 seconds, but was advised that a number that low would hint at anti-Semitism)
2. Parcheesi: 10 minutes
3. Chutes & Ladders: 20 minutes
4. Monopoly: ‘til 10 minutes before the game is actually concluded. Great game, but the end-play is borrrrrrrring!
5. Clue: ‘til the game is concluded
5. Risk: 20 minutes if played with two people; but doubled with each additional player.
6. Scrabble: Two hours, as long as dirty words and made-up words can be used (otherwise I don’t play).
7. Cribbage: ‘til the game is concluded. Must be played on a hand carved cribbage board in a room with at least two padded wing chairs and a large standing world globe.
8. Gin rummy: ‘til the deli and Dr. Brown’s soda runs out.
9. Chess: ‘til the game is concluded; but the game would reign supreme if the chess pieces were made out of chocolate or different flavors of licorice. Then if a person captured an opponent’s piece, he or she would get to eat it! And then consider this. Since the game is representative of war and battle, players should be encouraged to wear opposing military costumes. Ferinstance, one person dresses like a Hoplite and the other like a Don Cossack. And you not only get to eat your opponent’s Bishop, for example, but you get to punch him in the balls! And, and… if he captures your Rook, then he gets to light the torch and scorch your left leg!

Taking applications for those wanting to be added to my think tank.

n.b. Since my original writing, it turned out that I didn’t have shingles, but rather a raging skin infection.  The docs in the ER advised me that if the infection had been left untreated I would have developed a good case of gangrene.  And then, on a different tack, the pain I was feeling in my leg was a good “dress rehearsal” for the pain I would if should I get shingles.  Time to get the shingles vaccine! And/or increase the amount of Tanqueray Gin in my strategic reserve.

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